Daily Archives: October 26, 2019

Baby photos

We live in an era where everyone has a camera at their fingertips in the form of a mobile phone. Every burp and fart is photographed and uploaded to social media to be admired by all and sundry. It was not always so. It is not all that long ago that photography required a bulky object called a camera that needed to be loaded with film. Once taken the photo had to be processed and printed which took time and cost money. There are not a lot of photos from when I was a baby but one that has always stood out for me has me in my mother’s arms at age 6 months with a sign that says “Bahrain” behind her. We were en route to Australia accepted as refugees after the 1956 Hungarian revolution. My parents fled with almost nothing, it has only occurred to me now to wonder how come dad actually had a camera and film in those days.

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As an older child I looked up Bahrain in our atlas (remember those also) and it all seemed so exotic. Well here I am 62 years later as a day tripper to have a quick look around this tiny island nation. For a variety of logistic reasons I organise a day trip with a tour company to get me around to see all of Bahrain as I am only here for 20 hours. Imagine my surprise when an empty bus rolls up to pick me up. Today there is only one booking, me! Bahrain turns out to be a surprise packet. In antiquity this was a verdant fertile land abundant with animals. The locals here were not nomadic Bedouins and actually settled and established cities with sophisticated infrastructure for its time. There are archaeological sites here that go back 5000 years. Mixed in there is a bit of Portuguese occupation, pearling and since the 1930s “black gold”, oil

Al Fateh Grand mosque

Al Fateh Grand mosque

Bahrain national library

Bahrain national library

Arabian Sea

Arabian Sea

Archaelogical dig, 2000 years old

Archaelogical dig, 2000 years old

Qalat al Bahrain, 16th century Portuguese fort

Qalat al Bahrain, 16th century Portuguese fort

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Manama Souq

Manama Souq

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Camel Farm

Camel Farm

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Grand Prix venue

Grand Prix venue

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

Oil field

Oil field

Dilmun Royal Tomb, about 3000 years old

Dilmun Royal Tomb, about 3000 years old

Petra

About 5 years ago Suzanne and I had booked and paid for a couple of weeks holiday in the Middle East including 3 days in Petra. Her mother’s unexpected illness and protracted time in ICU resulted in cancellation of that trip. Now that I have been here it’s a blessing in disguise. Due partly to foot problems Suzanne is not actually able to walk any distance without significant pain. This is a venue for keen, moderately fit walkers and the distances and steepness of the terrain are a surprise. Had we have come here together with me wanting to walk everywhere it may have resulted in divorce proceedings.

Around 300 BC an obscure Arab tribe called the Nabateans controlled most of what is now southern Jordan. This was a prominent trading route and they grew wealthy catering too and taxing the caravans that passed through. They carved the magnificent buildings here out of the mountain faces and it is every bit as impressive as the pictures portray. The approach is in through a narrow impressive canyon named Al Siq.  The mountains soar above you on either side for a kilometre and then suddenly it is there! Named the Treasury for legends of hidden wealth it is actually a royal tomb carved 50 metres high into the solid rock and there is no treasure. The columns are ornately decorated and it defies comprehension that this could be achieved with the rudimentary technology of over 2 millenia ago.

The best time to visit is at opening which is 6:30 am before the rays of the sun actually hit the façade. It glows a soft pastel pink rose colour, which becomes sandstone yellow later in the day. Coming early also means that you almost have the place to yourself. It is peaceful as well as magnificent. Later in the day when buses have disgorged literally thousands of people it loses its magic. The whole area becomes a veritable zoo, noisy crowded and people posing outlandishly for photos.

From the Treasury the rest of what was a major trading city stretches 8 km with temples, theatres and tombs. Beyond that it’s another steep and arduous 90 minutes out to the similarly impressive but built later Byzantine monastery. That is the bare minimum here and that is only one way. There are multiple other walks, inevitably all steep and uphill that are worth doing. Suddenly it is 4pm and I have walked solidly for around 9 hours with a break for lunch. Exhausted but happy I head back up the hill to my hotel.

 

Siq

Siq

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Treasury at dawn

Treasury at dawn

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Nice pussy!

Nice pussy!

Tombs

Tombs

Theatre

Theatre

Street of Facades

Street of Facades

Colonnaded street

Colonnaded street

Gate

Gate

Qasr al Bint

Qasr al Bint

Mountains

Mountains

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Ad Deir monastery

Ad Deir monastery

Main track of Petra

Main track of Petra

Theatre

Theatre

Treasury from Al Kubtha trail

Treasury from Al Kubtha trail

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Royal tombs

Royal tombs

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Street of Facades

Street of Facades

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Treasury late afternoon

Treasury late afternoon