The Nest

It’s Friday evening and we know that Friday is the new Saturday in the Middle East. I had a beautiful afternoon by visiting an annual exhibition around Adliya; The Market 338.

Located in Block 338 as obvious as its name, Market 338 is organized by Al Riwaq Art Space, an art gallery and cafe in the neighborhood. They have different themes this year and decided to have “The Nest” as a theme for this year’s exhibition.

For 2014, Market 338’s theme is the “The Nest”; which focuses on the concept of regenerating life in the area by planting new roots and flourishing new blooms.

Three main areas as well as the “Park” constitute the structure for this year’s Market. “The Greenhouse” is allocated to incubating new businesses; “The Patch” will provide the ideal environment for established creative entrepreneurs, and “The Botanical Garden” will provide an exhibition space for artists.

“The Nest” also aims to highlight the concept of sustainability, permaculture and gardening in Block 338. In order to do so, Al Riwaq Art Space is currently working closely with a range of designers, artists and architects to create unique natural installations throughout the Market that reflect the theme in a creative manner by combining design with gardening and agriculture to create an inspirational and memorable experience for the public.

The Market will offer a series of workshops, a music program hosted by Boho Baha and various activities for children and youth in collaboration with Project 616.

http://www.alriwaqartspace.com/events/the-nest/

See some pictures I took as they literally turned the whole block 338 into “The Nest”

it’s called the nest for a reason

Many of local crafts, fashions, and unique collections are sold around the exhibition.

Al Riwaq Art Space & Cafe, the place where it all began

Children playground

Musics are usually performed during the night

I *heart* BH

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I Love Bahrain (That Day)!

Busy is such a super lame excuse but not showing you what I did during Eid-Al Adha in Bahrain is definitely a sin.

About 2 months ago, Moslems around the World celebrated one of the biggest religious holiday called Eid-Al Adha. It’s that time of the year when people around the world who can afford go to a pilgrimage in Mecca. For those who can’t afford it yet are not obligated to go.

The question is, where can you celebrate the holiday any better than the Mecca itself? As literally the country which is just right beside to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain can be on the top of the list. At least that’s what I thought.

The government of Bahrain had this pretty huge celebration all over the places during the holiday. We had 3 days of official public holiday while in Indonesia, it’s usually just one day. And as it happens every year, restaurants are full booked as the part of the culture that people like to dine outside rather than at home as Indonesian culture.

Bahrain has this beautiful big mosque called Al Fateh Grand Mosque located in the capital Manama. Instead of making it as the celebration for Muslim only, the committee had this brilliant idea of having an open house in the mosque special for expats and tourists in any beliefs for 2 days. Too awesome!

View from the street

The fountain just across the main street. The lighting is beautiful at night.

Standing magnificiently as the 6,500 square meters, The mosque was built by the late Sheikh Isa ibn Salman Al Khalifa in 1987 and was named after Ahmed Al Fateh, the conqueror of Bahrain. It is located next to the King Faisal Highway which is pretty much one of the main highways that can be easily accesed. It was actually pretty closed to my home so I just needed around 30 minutes of walking to get there.

The whole Mosque with a little bit Isa Cultural Centre in the background.

Al Fateh Grand Mosque

Once I arrived, all the visitors had to entered a giant tent where we had to do a registration. Many people from all over the World were there. There were a couple of Russians beside me as we had a little conversation while we were waiting for the tour guide. At first, as always, they thought that I was Filipino and asked me to wait for the Tagalog speaking tour guide, but since the only Tagalog that I know was all swearing words, I chose to tell them, again, as always, that I am an Indonesian. Despite of that, It was pretty organized that they have tour guides who spoke English, Arabic and also Hindi and Tagalog as the majority of expats who live in Bahrain are from those countries that speak both language. My first impression was really neat. They even provide an abbaya for women who came there wearing short pieces.

As our tour guide asked us to follow, we entered the Mosque through the main door. They gave us map and explained that there were around 16 booths that we could visit as we wish with some really interesting information all around the corners. The booths were various from General islamic knowledge like Hajj and Quran, scientific information like Science in Islam and of course some fun like photo booth and food corner.

Firstly, we were brought to the main praying area which was a really big square room with such a beautiful interior. Our tour gruide introduced himself that he was from Uzbekhistan and told us general information about the mosque. We were informed that the huge dome built on top of the Al-Fatih Mosque is constructed entirely of fiberglass. Weighing over 60,000 kg, the dome is currently the world’s largest fiberglass dome. The marble used in the floors is Italian and the chandelier is from Austria. The doors are made of teak wood from India. Throughout the mosque are calligraphy writings in a very old type of style called Kufic. It was surely such a fancy Mosque!

Look at that giant chandelier!

The main prayer area.

The Holy Quran.

Visitors were divided into groups and women should cover their body parts except face.

One of the tour guides were telling us some information about the Mosque history

My throne. Kinda.

People were praying Asr, the third prayer in the day. It goes from Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, Isha.

After several questions and answers, we were pleased to explore the Mosque as we like, visited the booths that we wanted. I found out that the committee were not just from Bahrain. People from all over the World all could volunteer. There was an american man became a speaker in Hajj booth, A Filipino boy my age were helping at the photo booth, I even met an Indonesian-Malaysian friend who was also volunteering the event.

Free finger foods for everyone!

A native is pouring an Arabic coffee to a visitor.

Fresh Arabic coffee, anyone?

The outdoor area was surrounded by some posters. Look at those beautiful marbles.

I don’t look fat, do I?

One of the posters with interesting paragraphs.

It doesn’t look good on me.

And this is even worse for me.

Relaxing booth. The fabric is Bahrain’s authentic.

As I get there pretty late and it ended at 4 PM, I just get to visit several booths. But to be honest it was a real fun. Everything was well organized. Everyone was really warm and welcome as they really respect diversity and people from other religions. This can totally be a great example of some big iconic Mosque in Indonesia.

The Isa Cultural Centre just 100 metres away

It was a pretty hot day, a t-shirt should save the day.

The main door

*******

As it was too late for the Mosque and too early to just went home, I decided to continue the adventure to Bab Al Bahrain. Once upon a time, the place which is also called as Manama Souq was the centre of Bahrain civilization, even maybe until now, as it is located right in the heart of Manama. I have had written about a really nice breakfast experience here, but this time I visited it evening time which gave kinda different vibe, especially since it was Eid time and more people visited the place.

Kingdom of Bahrain’s centre of civilization.

The buildings around

It was a quite busy night

The alley

One of the stores. Manama Souq was also famous for souvenir’s shopping

Some old pictures of The Souq

The gate from inside

I went there by Bus and took a cup of coffee right after I arrived. It turned out there was a folk band playing in the Souq so I was just there watching it with the rest of the people which was surprisingly a lot. The band was playing inside the big hall in the Souq. It was the first time ever I saw a traditional Arabic band playing in real life and it was pretty fun. Everyone was dancing happily as the music played. I finally felt like I was in a foreign country!

I believe it must be such a heavy door

The hall inside the Souq

People are watching the Folk Band

Overall, that was actually one of my best days in Bahrain. I really explored the local iconic place and experienced the native culture. I give my thumbs up as the whole thing was organized by the Ministry of Tourism. There were actually more things going on like Leona Lewis concert and another concert in Tree of Life which was quite far. But hey, I was trully satisfied with the day so yeah, I loved Bahrain (that day)!

I *heart* BH

A Year To Remember

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It seemed so long ago yet feel like yesterday, always the same classic thing about time for me. I still remember clearly that Friday night, September 25th, 2013. My family drove me to the airport and bunch of my best friends, people who actually cared about me waited there already just to give me goodbye hugs and kisses before my departure from a hometown for quite a long time, the place that I’ve been living for exactly a year this month.

So here’s the thing with having a lot of friends everywhere: you know that there will be a lot of people who are there for you when you need them, but once you need to go or come back from a really long travel, there are a lot of people that you need to meet as well, but I love it anyway. My flight to Bahrain was actually on the October 1st but I had things going on in Jakarta, the place that I called a second home. Besides meeting with some friends, I managed myself to attend the Pre Departure Training for the Indonesian volunteers of CWY, the program that kinda had a big role of both my social life and career.  Exactly on D-Day, several besties from the program accompanied me to the airport. I called my mom the second before I got to the plane and there I flew with big dreams, all the way to Middle East.

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With the Pontianak’s gang at the airport

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Pre Departure Training of Indonesia – Canada Youth Exchange Program 2013. Stopped by here first before Bahrain. It was the day when most of the cool committees wore yellow coincidentally.

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The minute before I headed to the airport. Glad to be able to catch up with some pals.

OK, despite of the really crappy service and food in Sri Lanka Airlines that I flew with, I think we’re all agree that our excitement of getting to a new place will tolerate any crazy things that happened before hand. I was even too excited to realize that people at the airport’s arrival were kinda *sorry*messy*cough*, you know, some people even were grouping and sat in circle, not necessarily at the corner, but literally anywhere they could find big enough space for them to sit on. That was pretty tacky. But whatever though, the company’s driver was waiting for me outside and in a second, I’ll just step me bare foot for the first time on the Arab land. Fancy!

The travel from the airport to my flat was pretty fun. The city looked tidy and neat but of course, it was pretty hot. I had a little bit of a jet lag because Bahrain is 4 hours behind of Western Indonesia time and went to bed right after. Yes it was a year ago. I repeat, a year ago. A year is the longest time that I didn’t see my family and best friends in person. A year is the longest time that I worked with the same company. A year is the longest time that I stay in a place without any travelling by Plane. When I woke up this morning, a year after I arrived here, there were way more new memories created that I need to share to the readers of this blog, well, if there are any, anyway. But yeah, it’s a 10 hours flight from Indonesia so of course there are way few significant difference between the cultures, the weather, the nature, and any other things that might be predictable or even can surprise you. So here we go again with the breakdown below.

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Al Fateh Grand Mosque. One of Bahrain’s landmarks.

1. Sunday Is The New Monday

The first thing that surprised me from the first day of work was the fact that the weekend in Bahrain, and all Middle Eastern countries are Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Friday. This happens because Friday is a big day of Moslem, it’s like the Moslem version of Christian’s Sunday or Jewish’ Saturday and there will be a prayer at a noon time which is a compulsory to be done by males at the mosque. Friday is also the day of hospitality, to connect and greet each other, so that’s why several stores are also closed on Friday. Saudi Arabia even used to have their weekend on Thursday and Friday but changed to the same day as Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, and other Arabs now. So yeah, my week starts on Sunday.

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Bahrain WTC Tower

2. It Does Have Winter!

One of the most famous stereotypes of Middle East is of course that it’s all desert and hot. It might be my own mistake for not being thoughtful and stupidly thought that it would be a forever summer in  Middle East, just like in Borneo where I’m from. But you know what, it’s completely wrong! It started in November and you can’t just go out without any long sleeve on. We have rainy season in Indonesia in the months that ended with “er” (September-December) but the cold is tolerable. Going out with tees and short in those months won’t be a fashion crime. I have way too many of winter clothes that I brought from Canada which could have been nice if only I brought here with me for the Middle Eastern winter. Well, lesson learned though, it’s just another excuse to shop more.

The first rain in November 2013. Bahrain only has rain in November and December in throughout the year.

3. Multicultural (?)

You will be surprised of how plenty of locals that you can meet in the street. Seriously, when you eat in the restaurant, your waiters will be Indian or Filipino. most of other nations who live here are maybe Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and people from other neighboring countries like Persian or Lebanese. If you think that you’ll master Arabic pretty soon, you’re kinda wrong. Everyone speaks English. Bahrain is a really small Island with only 1.234.571 inhabitants and 54% of it are interestingly non Bahraini. As an Indonesian, people always mistakenly think that I’m Filipino which is sometimes really annoying. If I eat in the restaurant and the waiter is Filipino they will just talk in Filipino without any double checking. When I said I’m not Filipino they’ll always say: “Ohh, you look like Filipino.” I used to answer nicely like “Yeah, we’re both from South East Asia” or “You look like Indonesian too” but the more I got that, my answer would be like: “Well yeah, and Korean looks like Japanese, American looks like Canadian, and Kenyan looks like Nigerian.” which most of them might not really understand the sarcasm as well. Duh. I mean, it’s not a bad thing for them to think I’m not Indonesian. But yeah, I’m just too proud of my own Nation and wish that people should ask first, it will be much more polite. The other thing is that here, the word ‘oriental’ means related to Indian things, not like in any other place of the World where it refers to Chinese thing. Interesting, eh?

Some people who still prayed in the middle of a cultural festival located in Prince Salman Bin Khalifa Park

4. The New Vegas

Alcohol is forbidden in most of Arab countries but Bahrain took that as an advantage. They legalize alcohol, even with strict permission, so that it attracts people from neighbor countries. I call Thursday, Friday, and Saturday as the Arab Weekend where many people visit Bahrain especially from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait because they are the closest and to just have some fun. Going to the bar and club or just enjoying fancy restaurants with the best wines. These people spend lots of money for the entertainment and fashion. It’s no secret that Arabics are really wealthy. So yeah, this is kinda like The Vegas of Middle East.

5. Closet and Bidet

In western culture, people use closet and clean their genitalia and inner buttocks with toilet paper when they are done. It is also common in several countries in Europe to have bidet in their lavatory so that they can clean with water. In Indonesia, we used to have squat closet which had been changed to seat toilet in more modern houses. But all seat toilets are always accompanied by a water hose because we’re just not used to clean only with toilet paper and so that we don’t need bidet anymore. Here in Bahrain. I notice that in every single house that I’ve been, they have both seat toilet with water hose and bidet side by side. If they can clean with water from the hose, why do they need bidet anymore then? I just assume myself that it might be for washing their feet if we wanna take wudhu (washing your body parts before you pray in Islam) which I have the function to myself. So I wash other body parts in the sink and wash my feet in the bidet so that the floor will still be dry.

 

Those are pretty much some major highlights. Other than that are maybe just some minor details that most of us know already. But anyway, I want to mention also that the locals here are really kind and friendly. Despite of their own clashes with two religious groups, they treat expats and tourist, whether moslem or not really nicely. I have to raise two of my thumbs for their amazing hospitality.

Above all of these, this past year had been a really valuable learning and experience for me. As a person who love to see the new places and their cultures, Bahrain has contributed many things that I’m sure will be affecting my future socially and professionally. I’ve been to some cool places as well so why don’t we take a look of some pictures I’ve been in.

Behind the Ramadhan & Eid Mubarak

It has been day 7 after Ramadhan. It might be a little bit late but I would like to say Happy Eid Mubarak for those who celebrate it. I believe most of you had a really happy celebration back then. And by most of you means not all of you. We all know that some of our brothers and sisters all over the World had to have a quite hard times during Ramadhan & Eid, if you know what I mean. Let’s have a moment together to pray of the World peace and can’t we all just be normal friends that doesn’t involve any murder for God’s sake! Mind my temper.

Anyway, speaking about Ramadhan & Eid, I didn’t had the best time either this year. I know, I know you’re all gonna be saying “Wait, aren’t you in an Arabic country? The experience must be more real over there!”

First of all let me explain to you that Arab and Islam is a two total different think. Arab is what people call some Countries around Middle East with ruling governments and their people. But Islam, is a religion that every single one in any corner of the World can believe in, not only for people in Arab Countries can be Islam. Ramadhan & Eid, is an Islamic celebration, not Arabic celebration. So make no mistake just because you don’t live in Arab countries, doesn’t mean that you can’t have what you call as the real Ramadhan & Eid experience. What’s that real experience supposed to mean, anyway? Duhhhh.

Back again to my story, this year’s Ramadhan and Eid was the very First time in my 23 years of life to be away from home. Separated 6931 Kilometers away, I felt like there were some socially different ways between Ramadhan & Eid in Bahrain and Indonesia as I will describe below.

1. Restaurants & Cafes policy

If you own a restaurant, or you work in a restaurant in Indonesia, Ramadhan will be one of the busiest time of the year, especially after Iftar. As a country which is not ruled by the syariah law and recognize some other religions other than Islam, restaurants, cafes, and any other public place to eat are legally open during the day time when Moslems are fasting, and everybody are just fine. Ramadhan is usually used as the time for gathering. It’s either family gathering, office, school, tons of reunions from your elementary until college friends. I remember I had more than a half time of Ramadhan for tons of iftar invitations out of home that made my mom a little bit mad. #SorryMama. This whole thing, causes the restaurant business to be on top of their games. Imagine, wherever you go, restaurant will be busy and full booked in most of cities in Indonesia. This is the culture that I really miss. To meet some old friends while spilling some old secrets and jokes. Especially for me and my close friends, going Karaoke after iftar feast is a must!

But then in Bahrain, think later if you want to open your restaurant during daytime. Even if you just hold a bottle of water, man you’re gonna be in some serious business. Zero place to eat is open during the daytime (So stock your food if you are not fasting!). Iftar? Well, not really either. Apparently Ramadhan is the least busy time of the year in Bahrain. People here do not really have a culture that they will go out for outside iftar with their friends and relatives. Thus, some restaurants are even closed for the whole month. Many of them use this least busy “opportunity” to do some renovations to their restaurants so they will have a kinda new look for after Ramadhan. Most people are going out outside after tarawih (a special preayer that we just do in Ramadhan). Malls and Parks will be busy as they’re open until just before sahur. Interesting, eh?

Eventough the Malls were open from morning, the restaurants were closed and started to open on iftar time

Eventough the Malls were open from morning, the restaurants were closed and started to open on iftar time

2. Alcohol Banning

As a country who legalize Alcohol to be sold in permitted places, Ramadhan is an exception in Bahrain. It is extremely illegal to sell any Alcohol or anything that contains alcohol at all. This year’s Ramadhan was somehow a coincidence with the kids’ summer holiday. No alcohol, a god damn hot weather, not really much business happening, most expats chose to leave the country for a moment to escape, and maybe have some champagne 😉

3. Timing

Geographically, Indonesia is located right in the middle part of the Equator line (And I don’t understand why aren’t we called as the Middle Eastern instead). So in terms of timing, there is no significant time different throughout the years. It makes us always have the same time every year to do fasting and having prayer. Indonesian fasting is usually done from the sunrise around 4 AM until sunset before 5.45 PM. In the middle of summer heat, we actually had to fast longer here. The sun raised earlier around 3.15 AM and set later 6.35 PM with a hotter weather.

Also for the Eid prayer. Indonesians usually do it around 7 AM but since the Sun raised earlier in summer, they do it around 5 AM. Way too Early for the Indonesians. LOL. Luckily the Indonesian Embassy also held the Eid prayer and thank God it followed the Indonesian time at 7 AM. We were also treated some Indonesian Eid-special food by the embassy as their way to make us feel like home. Thank you Indonesian Embassy!

4. Eid Tradition

For Moslems in Indonesia, Eid is probably the most anticipated day in a year. It’s a big celebration day after a full month of fasting in Ramadhan when the whole family are gathering together. As it is most associated as a holly day and people are supposed to have zero sin (start again from the beginning as like we’re reborn), We have to make it socially too instead of just to God. People are supposed to apologize and forgive each other, especially the ones they no most so there won’t be anymore hurt inside their feeling if there was any. This moment makes Indonesian family have this tradition where they go to their family’s relatives’, and neighbors’ houses and have a nice chit chat or doing things they like together. The hype of Indonesian Eid can last to 3-4 days, can be so much more in smaller towns due to their big culture.

In Bahrain, I don’t really know exactly but as I heard, they also go to their family’s house but maybe not as intense as in Indonesia. You know how I know? Restaurants are super busy on the day of Eid! The official public holiday was 3 days and all the seats in any restaurants were full booked. It was maybe some kind of a revenge of the past month where people barely eat in the restaurant. Many restaurants were interestingly had some DJs to entertain the guests on Eid night. It is so interesting that we don’t really have those things going on. Indonesians Eid is more cultural, religious, and intimate. The province capitals will be less crowded as people will go home just for Eid in their hometown (What I understand is that Bahrain is such a small country that you can just travel the whole country in just 2 hours, so the whole land is hometown). It was a totally different feeling of having the two Eids in two different Countries. I would for sure chose to spend it home but it was also interesting to discover more tradition.

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Malls and Restaurants were the most crowded place during Eid

Overall, the experience had been just fine. It was sad that I could not make it home but you know, this heart of mine is made to travel the World. I enjoy getting a new experience in a new place and who knows in which place will I spend my Ramadhan and Eid next year (and oh yeah, I am open for any invitations. haha).