One of the "traumas" of traveling in one country for a lengthy period of time is that visas may expire. This can be a real nightmare. If, however, you're in Kuwait researching for 6 weeks and they only give 4 week tourist visas for free, but you're able to afford a flight to another Gulf country...this dilemma becomes a rather lovely excuse to go visit a beloved friend.
Hello, Bahrain! I met Ghadeer through AMENDS, at the same conference I first
encountered the Kuwait Dive Team. She's an architect and environmentalist in
one of the Gulf's smallest countries. This weekend, I had the opportunity to
tour her island nation with her. We crammed quite a lot in - meeting her two
project teams (the first, a student-driven initiative promoting recycling; the
second, an artist-focused project drawing attention to issues of urban planning
and space politics), touring museums and historical sites, and dining with her
family and in-laws.
Hand-feeding a baby camel at a sheikh's farm (oh my word cuteness factor of
Drinking from a freshwater spring in the middle of the saltwater Gulf; and
Praying in a Hindu temple for the first time.
Bahrain has an incredible diversity packed in - (tense) Sunni and Shi'i Muslim
sect politics, significant Indian and Pakistani migrant populations, a large
American segment thanks to military presence, and regular flows of tourists
from other Gulf countries. It makes for quite a colourful scene. Given the
climate, architecture, and community spaces, I honestly felt like I was in the
US, Middle East, and Asia separately within 30 minutes of driving.
It was a valuable weekend research-wise, as it provided the opportunity to
compare Kuwait with another Gulf country (incredibly different - think how
dissimilar the US and Mexico are even though they're immediate neighbours!). I
also met a variety of Bahraini artists and architects focused on environmental
issues, several of whom are beginning projects that may well qualify as
"environmental peacebuilding". It was great to gather their
perspectives informally and know I could get several more formal interviews if
I decide they'd be valuable for my PhD or in the future.
A rather fabulous weekend, all in all!