I didn’t know what to recommend to the bearded one: there just isn’t much to do to pass time as a visitor to Bahrain. It’s a small island, and very few reasons for tourists to come. He had already seen the Royal Tombs at ‘Ali. He described them as lorry tips, which isn’t very respectful for 3,000 year old monuments. Its true they are just mud bumps with smooth sides and cut-off tops, 20 or so of them in a residential area. There are thousands more up in the north of the island. We Bahrainis think our island is the Garden of Eden, and these, and other, ancient remains tell us we are right. The foundations of our castle mound are nearly 5,000 years old.
I invited him out for the evening. Being out with a local isn’t always a Westerner’s idea of an evening out. There’s no alcohol. There’s having to dip into a communal bowl with your right hand to eat the food. There’s hours spent just sitting on sofas, talking. There’s the strangeness of being only with men. And there’s also the language issue, though his Arabic was adequate. And the working day starts early, often by 7am, so might he worry about the protocol for asking to be excused if he was tired?
Anyway, when he appeared in my office the next day he told me he had had a really really nice evening. Shokran jazilan. Thank you so much. Unique. Never done it before. Best fun ever. Shokran, shokran.... It hadn’t been that exciting, had it? He had joined me for what I do every Sunday evening: we had gone to play British bingo.