From Oman, to Saudi Arabia, to Qatar, Bahrain, to Saudi Arabia

After we passed “no-man’s land” between the border posts of Oman and Saudi Arabia, we reached the first fences and watch towers of the Saudi Arabian border post. Where the approach of the Omani border looks much more friendly, the high fences with barbwire, armored vehicles and pantser watch towers, looked scary. How friendly is Saudi? Will they be difficult to us in order to enter the country? We stopped at each gate house (even the un-manned ones) to make sure not to upset anybody. However, all soldiers we saw, showed big smiles and were very friendly. Also the Saudi border post compound was huge, anticipating for future growth of border traffic We had to pass different stages and at the customs check (which I feared the most), an older Saudi man with a baseball cap and plain clothes (Arabian style), approached us. He spoke fluently English, was very nice, well travelled (even many times to The Netherlands). We had a nice chat and I had the feeling he was checking us out. Mind you, there is a long list of items you cannot bring into Saudi Arabia officially (like medicines without a doctors subscription or binoculars for example). I also didn’t look forward to an extensive search of the truck as this would take a lot of time (also to put everything back in place). However, they just took a quick look in the camper unit and we were ok. Bought additional vehicle insurance at the border and we were now officially in Saudi Arabia. The first time (like in Oman) that a Sint Maarten vehicle entered this country.

The large (almost unused) border post on the Omani side
Welcome to Saudi Arabia, with many large fences and barb wire

We wanted to get fuel just after the border post, but there was a long line of trucks waiting to get fuel. Fuel (especially diesel), is almost the cheapest in the world in Saudi, so coming from the border with less in the tanks, they all first fill up at this fuel station. We still had enough to make it to the next one, which was about 300km further in the middle of the desert. Yes, we re-entered the Empty Quarter desert again, but now the part situated in Saudi Arabia. From the border post untill the first town or village, it would be a long drive over a marvelous piece of engineering, the 800 km tar road through the Empty Quarter, connecting Oman and Saudi Arabia, the only land border connection between these two countries. The road runs over high soft sand dunes, salt flats and quicksand areas. The area the road crosses, holds the largest proven oil reserves in the world (hence the Empty Quarter is not so empty anymore). On many sections of the road, left and right, high fences are placed and there is a high presence of military patrolling the area. Drones fly day and night controlling the movement of people and cameras are placed above the road to check if you do not “disappear” from the road. At an unfenced section of the road we found the only unpaved road so far, which we took to find a camp spot. A sandy road through the dunes, with little excavated areas where the salty ground water was just below the surface of the plains (which shows us how dangerous the driving is, and that you really should stay on the tracks), brought us to a nice wide section of the road, between some dune hill tops, with wonderful views. The road was most probably an oil company road, witnessing the parked old rusty water- and fuel tanker trailers. We were happy, back in the beloved, beautiful and quiet Empty Quarter desert. (Though we started to feel sorry for her, being so terribly abused). At night a drone flew over us. They found us (probably with heat detecting sensors) and we expected a patrol coming to us to send us away, but they never came. We were probably a “no-risk”.

The new tar road between Oman and Saudi Arabia through the Empty Quarter.
Back in the Empty Quarter on the Saudi side
The murky salty water which hides under the surface of the salt plains, shown when the top layer is removed

Next morning we drove back to the main road and enjoyed the ride over the amazing road over the sand dunes, until we reached the “Bagdad Cafe” gas station. Hundreds of kilometers away from civilization, a Syrian family started this gas station a few years ago and it became like an oasis., A large number of trucks, carrying cargo between the 2 countries, fuel up here, take a rest, do maintenance or come to pray (there is even a little mosque on the side). Most drivers are from Pakistan or Bangladesh and are moslim. There is a restaurant, tire shop and a mini supermarket. It’s here where we fueled up and experienced the joy a lot of first timers have when the pump attendant gives you the bill. Euro 0,17 for a liter of diesel! What a contradiction with the Euro 2,68 we had to pay as the highest liter price in Europe this year. We were waiting in line, when the pump attendances suddenly walked away. Just when we were second in line! I thought the diesel was finished, however, it was praying time and then time stands still. So we had to wait a small half hour, while the line behind us was getting longer. But none of the drivers got impatient. Some also went to the small mosque near the gas station. Nearly all gas stations in Oman or Saudi Arabia have mosques on the premises to facilitate the workers and by-passers.

At the most remote gas station of Saudi Arabia with the Pakistani truck drivers
Our lonely pigeon, camping on our door for the night

It’s a long and lonely road. As we already noticed at the border posts, its not frequently used (yet). The road opened in 2015, but political issues due to the Yemen situation and the Covid hampered trade between countries in the Middle East. Though prospects are increasing and with a new wind blowing through the Middle East, for sure the road will get more busy in the near future. About 150 km before we would reach the first town in Saudi, we made one more night stop in the desert. We had in the meantime left the red/orange sand-dunes and were now in the white sand desert of the Empty Quarter. Vast plains of white sands, with no dunes or hills. Again we took an oil road and drove a long way in to find a good spot. A flattened piece near a huge loader was the spot for the night. We had our sun-downer on the roof of the cabin, when a lone pigeon flew towards us, circled around and landed behind us on one of the solar panels. Totally not afraid of us, it walked around the unit roof for while, to look for a nice spot to “camp” for the night. He eventually jumped on top of the open door of the unit and squeezed himself against the outside of the unit. His “bed” for the night, meant that we had to keep the door open for the night. But in a safe country like Saudi, that is not a problem and on top of that we were so remote again, that we didn’t expect anybody to pass by. With pleasure we accommodated the friendly pigeon!

Next day was Islamic Sunday (Saturday in the Western world), and we expected a quiet start of the day. However, around 6 am, an army of trucks and pick-ups passed by, going to the exploration areas. Also, the operator of the loader nearby started his machine to continue grading the road. So, no sleeping in, but instead an early breakfast. Also our guest, the pigeon, was awake and was doing his stretching exercises to get ready for another day of flying around.

Along the way we stopped to look at a large herd of camels, which was moving towards a mobile Bedouin camp. The “modern” Bedouins have a small fleet of vehicles

Now for a week we were trying to get organized to go to Qatar to see the World Cup soccer festivities in general (and all what has been built for that event, in and around Doha) and the match The Netherlands against Qatar. It took a while and a lot of frustration to get tickets from a re-seller through the FIFA web-site, but at the end we got them. Next, we would try to get into Qatar with the truck, but that at the end seemed almost impossible. After this we had to get a special pass to enter into Qatar (an genious system by the way, the Hayya pass). This pass is linked to the tickets of a a match and a booked accommodation. So, since we couldn’t get into Qatar with the truck, we had to find and book an hotel. Well, first of all, the hotels were fully booked (or actually, they were reserved by the FIFA) and were also very expensive. At the end Marja managed to book a hotel via the FIFA, so we would be 3 nights in Doha. Now we were also able to get an entry pass into Qatar. It all happened the day before we would go to Qatar, when we arrived at the border town of Salwa. We didn’t realize that day that Saudi Arabia was playing, so all parkings were filled to the max. There was a huge police and army presence everywhere. A little bit out of town, there was a public beach, where we parked the truck for the rest of the day and night. Marja finished the last paperwork for the Qatar visit and prepared a bag to carry into Qatar. Several police, army and border guard vehicles passed by to check on us. We were actually facing Qatar from the beach and could even get there with our new inflatable kayaks if we wanted, we were sure of that. Not too long ago, Saudi and Qatar were not so friendly with each other, resulting in a total boycot and closure of the border between these countries. However, things have started to change in the Middle East and also an event like the World Cup Soccer plays a crucial part in uniting countries and people.

The packed parking at the border of Saudi Arabia/Qatar

During our happy hour on the beach, two Saudi men passed by in their car and stopped. They stepped out, came with their coffee cans and sweets and started talking and asking questions. They just came back from the match (which Saudi lost this time). I organized some extra chairs and we had a fun time together. At a certain moment, one walked back to his car, got a carpet, rolled it out next to the truck and took his compass for directions. I thought, what? are they going to sleep here now? The other guy went to him and suddenly they started to sing. They were doing the evening prayer, as is normal in the islamic countries. It was a bit strange for us to experience. One moment you drink coffee and have fun with two total strangers, moments later they are on their knees next to you, praying. We are just not used to it (yet). After they were finished, they packed up and left as sudden as they had come. Our first encounter with Saudis, it was a good one. The night was not so good, since a lot of police cars were driving around, using their intercoms directing other drivers around.

Our first Saudi friends

Next morning two Coast Guard trucks were next to us and they advised us to leave (since we had that intention already, it was not a problem). We drove to the big parking where there was a lot more space now. The police escorted us to a nice location, near where the buses leave towards the border post. The parking area where we parked now, was almost empty (I’ll get back to that later). We jumped in the bus and drove towards the Saudi border post. There we jumped out, to get our passports stamped out and back in the bus. That went smooth. From there we followed the heavily guarded cause way towards the Qatar border (it’s unbelievable, but every 500 meters there is a police car or army truck). In Qatar, we had to leave the Saudi bus and go into one of the two huge temporary terminals made for the immigration and custom services of Qatar. These facilities were made specially for the World Cup. Huge parking lots were made as well, but are largely unused, since most visitors either fly to Qatar or park their car on the Saudi side. Also here, all went very smooth. The Hayya pass is linked to everything and can be seen as a pre-checked documents. It’s your visa, pass for public transport, entry to activities and stadiums. It even replaces the visa document to travel through Saudi Arabia during the World Cup.

The Saudi Coat Guard chasing us away
The large temporary immigration terminals at the Qatar border

Hundreds of brand new luxury touring buses have been purchased by Qatar to transport the thousands of football fans from the two land border posts and the airport to the taxi and metro hubs in Doha. It was all very well organized. From the border you cross a bare desert landscape with many bedouin settlements who keep camels and goats. The brand new state of the art 6 lane highway rolls into Doha and everything reminds you about the World Cup. Flags, huge posters, signs etc, everything is about the World Cup in Qatar. Reaching Doha you get overwhelmed by the enormous but also futuristic sky-scrapers. We were in Doha 11 years ago and its unbelievable to see the transformation this small country has made in a relative short time. Every mayor hotel brand has multiple hotel locations in town, some of them opened just in time for the tournament. Even the staff at our hotel were just starting their jobs. Our hotel was the hotel for team Wales, so the hotel was surrounded by police and entry to the hotel was only possible through scanners and body search. Safety first!

The hundreds of brand new touring cars to transport the football fans
It was all about football in Qatar

Doha has a wonderful long boardwalk (The Cornish), which was transformed into a 4 kilometer long event place, with music, food and drink stalls, activities for kids, life open air studios for TV etc. A very lively place, especially in the evenings. There was also the Fan Festival, a huge enclosure with large screens, podiums and food and drink places, where the fans could go to collectively watch the games (if they were not in the stadiums.) Again, all was so perfectly organized with lots of security. Large fireworks and drone light shows were displayed above the bay facing the boardwalk. Besides visiting the country itself, we were also in Doha to see the match between Holland and Qatar. So much is being said about the the World Cup in Qatar, that we wanted to see everything with our own eyes and visiting a match in one of the well spoken about stadiums is then a must.

Lots of activities at the Cornich in Doha
Roads were closed along the Cornich to allow for fans to roam around
Doha in all its glory, with spectacular air illuminated sky scrapers lighting up the Cornich and the bay

We didn’t really have visiting the “Oranje” match in the planning, so we didn’t bring any orange outfits along (which is the Dutch “thing” when Dutch national sports teams play somewhere in the world). So we jumped in the gigantic shopping mall in Doha, where luckily there was plenty of “football-stuff” to get, also the orange. So we were set for that. The game was about an hour out of town in this amazing stadium, which looked like a gigantic bedouin tent. We arrived a little late to jump and dance behind the Orange Dutch bus. An old double decker bus, painted orange, which travels to every world cup of the Dutch football team. It was nice to see the couple of hundred Dutch fans, in sometimes extravagant orange customs. It makes them unique between all the other supporters.

Even in the Doha shopping mall, they were aware of the Dutch Orange
The huge Bedouin style Bayt Stadium
Jumping and dancing behind the Dutch Oranje double decker bus

The stadium is enormous, with over 70.000 seats, one of the biggest football stadiums in the Middle East. The Dutch supporters (at least the ones wearing orange), were by far a minority. We were the only two in our block, between all the Arabic speaking supporters. People from different countries with different flags, were surrounding us (Even from Palestine and Syria, countries not participating in the World Cup). The atmosphere was great, some people had Qatari as well as Dutch flags with them. Many people were from Pakistan, India or Bangladesh, given me the feeling that they were just sent to fill up the stadium (but don’t quote me on that). During and after the match, many people wanted to make selfies with us, we were now the “exotic” ones in the crowd.

With fans from Qatar
In the Bayt stadium
Between all the other fans

After the match we hung around outside the stadium grounds, were a DJ was blasting music and where Qatari fans and others were dancing and singing. We and two other Dutch guys joined the group (all other Dutch fans had left the area already). We had a such a great time and found ourselves being in the middle of many people making photos and videos of us. Maybe they had not seen Dutch fans dancing before or was it Marja as a western woman making here moves, could be….. But we had fun all together.

The whole Qatar/World Cup experience was a unique one. Not just because of the World Cup, but to see that a small Arab country was able to organize and able to held such a huge event. It shows the progress made in Arab countries in modernizing themselves and even passing the western countries in that respect. Controversial in the eyes of the west, but is it really controversial? Certain things are done differently and sometimes in a different time frame. We were very impressed with the whole organization, that’s for sure.

After we returned to Saudi Arabia with the buses and via the border posts, we found our truck completely parked in and blocked by thousands of cars on the parking lot which was almost empty when we parked the truck a few days beforfe. We did not realize that Saudi was playing again, so a: a lot of Saudi fans had crossed the border into Qatar and parked their car on the Saudi side (where we had parked) and b: it was a long weekend. So it seemed I could not drive the truck out without driving over parked cars. So the only option was to stay. Luckily we had just enough space to open the unit door and get the steps out. Not far from us there was a fair ground where a large screen was placed, so that those who stayed behind could watch the match here. It was all green (the color of Saudi Arabia and Saudi’s football team), with people carrying the Saudi flag. Many little coffee and food stands and………plentfy carpets with pillows on the floor to sit and watch the screen. What we noticed, is that if someone was standing in your view, you just asked the person to move a little bit. We saw that happening the whole evening, and nobody made a problem. In one way or another, there is so much respect among the Arab people. Also in traffic – it could be chaotic especially in the big towns – and people use their horns (but only to warn you that they are near you), but I have not seen any aggressive behavior at all. Although the Saudi team lost, there was no crying, no signs of sadness. People juist went home. The Saudi team lost, because thats what God (Allah) wanted, no ifs or buts, Insha’Allah…

We were totally parked in and blocked when we returned from Qatar
At the fair ground in Saudi, watching the Saudi team playing, among the Saudi fans

Next morning, there was no change in the parking situation, so we gave it a try. I had only a few centimeters to play with and was on uneven ground. With Marja and two by-standers as my extra eyes on every corner of the truck, I went back and forth many times and eventually got the truck out of an almost impossible situation (and without damage or making damage). We were back on the road and were now on our way to Bahrain. This part of the world is where most of the oil exploration is done and it is visible everywhere. Aramco (the big state oil company of Saudi Arabia and the most valuable company in the world), is the magical word here. Large swats of land (desert and coastal areas) are fenced off and guarded by the military. A labyrinth of pipes is seen crisscrossing through the flat and mud plains. If we thought of camping or even having a coffee break on one of the beaches, within moments, a green Toyota Pick-Up from the military would show up, asking from where we came, what we were up to and then we were told that we had to leave (as if our nationality was the mean reason). It was also getting dark, so it became more difficult to see any little side roads or open spots, suitable for camping. On the map we noticed an area with a large peninsula where a large public beach was located (Uqair beach) and …………..an official camper van camping/parking.

The first real official camper camping
The public beach of Uqair (one of the very few in Saudi)

While driving towards that area, we drove – in the dark – on a long elevated road through the mud plains. We stopped when we saw a military jeep parked along the road (watching if people secretly would drive in areas not allowed). We asked them for directions and while one of the two soldiers was very friendly, the other was very suspicious about our presence here at night in this area with a military looking truck. He walked around, jumped on the steps of the truck cabine to look inside and even wanted Marja to step out. His collegue now (which based on the number of stripes on his shoulders, was his superior), said it was enough. We got the directions and we reached a real looking camper van parking, with dedicated numbered spots (which even had water taps and waste disposal pipes). And it was right on the beach!! There were a number of big American style campers and trailer caravans already on the “camping”, which, by the way, was free of charge. This time nobody to send us away. Instead many people from the nearby town of Hofuf on the beach with families having bbq’s. It’s a common sight to see big families eating and drinking together close to their SUV’s on the beach with carpets on the ground and often an awning attached to their vehicle.

We woke up early the next morning. The beach was clear of visitors except for some people in tents nearby and the occupants of the campers and trailers. Our direct neighbor was a retired Saudi with a selfmade camper van (made out of an old schoolbus). Nice job and he was very proud of it. He gave me a tour and we discussed all kind of technical details and issues. And of course, I didn’t leave empty handed! We took the bikes out that day and cycled left and right along the beach over the peninsula. Although, there are similarities with beach going, things are different here, if we talk about beach life. First, in Saudi, people love to drive around with their cars and like to get close to things (blame it the heat!). So the beach is so compacted by all the car traffic, that it was no problem for us to ride on it with our bikes. Cars were driving left and right, all over and they were totally not used to encounter bicycles on the beach. There are the so called car compounds. Family and friends cluster together with their cars close to the water front. The women all together in their black jihabs on the carpet, the men walking around and cooking, and children playing and running under the watch full eyes of their mothers. No lounge chairs and parasols, no bikinis and coolers with beer. However, people are enjoying their time on the beach like we do in the west as well, like enjoying going to the beach. As in Oman, here the government also made many big sheltered areas where large groups can stay in the shade. These shelters are also often equipped with fixed (big) bbq’s.

Driving on the beach like the Saudis do with their cars

At night our neighbor, of which we thought he was a lonely man, received his entire family for a gathering. About 60 people were in and around his selfmade camper. Women on one side and the guys on the other side singing and dancing. The last visitors left around 3.00 at night, so we had a short night sleep!

The plan was going to the city of Hofuf. According to information we got, there was to be a nice mountain area and a national park. When we arrived, however, there was indeed a mountain (actually more a combination of some high hills), which were covered with Disney Park style attractions for children. The area around the mountain was enormously polluted. Actually, where there is habitation, we see lots and lots, and even more, of garbage. In that respect we were are disappointed in Saudi. People don’t care about their environment, it seems, they throw garbage everywhere and only in some areas, municipality workers clean the area. The national park, was not what we expected. It was an artificial park, with trees and covered areas where people can have picnics. So we left Hofuf asap. In the middle of town a police car stopped in front of us. The officer stepped out, put his uniform straight and put up his barret. So I was expecting the worst and was wondering what I did wrong. He came to the side of the truck with a big smile and I opened my window. He said: “welcome, welcome to Saudi Arabia”. He turned around and went back to his patrol car. Scratching my head about this unexpected – but very kind – action, we moved on. The entire coast towards Bahrain is built up. Not much nature or empty spots for camping. The entire area depends on the oil and gas industry and that also counts for the country of Bahrain which we were closely approaching. Opposite the island state of Bahrain are the Saudi cities of Al Khobar, Dammam and Al Qatif. From Al Khobar there is a 25km long causeway connecting Bahrain with mainland Saudi Arabia (built by the Dutch!). In the middle (which is also the maritime border) there is a large artificial island, solely for customs and immigration facilities of both countries.

The causeway towards Bahrain

The causeway was and is a symbol of the good relationship between the 2 countries. Saudi’s and Bahraini’s can relatively easy travel between the two countries. When we arrived we were not sure if we should go through the truck or regular car gate. To avoid stepping on the Saudi customs or immigration officers toes, we went through the truck gate, where we got in line of a long line of cargo trucks. Knowing how long it could take for cargo trucks to clear customs, I asked the custom officers if I was in the right lane. Not used to truck campers the officers looked confused, but started to call colleagues and superiors. After half an hour it was finally determined that we were not a cargo truck and that we should go through the other line. That was easier said than done. Barriers had to be removed since driving back was not an option. Between the two gates where buildings and a small alley through where we were directed by the officers. Then we had to cross a number of lines with approaching cars. It was a spectacle, since with our size, we hardly fit in the lane and under the roof of the customs and immigration booths (we even touched the roof!). Since we were not “regular” we caused confusion with the officers in the booths (still Saudi). At the end we got it all sorted out and were able to leave Saudi and cross to the other side of the island. There we were welcomed by bright smiling officers of the Bahrain customs services in white uniforms (a different feeling when being welcomed by the army style uniforms on the Saudi side). After obtaining the visa and the vehicle declaration, the officers even offered tea!

Arriving at the Saudi border post on the causeway

We were now officially in Bahrain. We had to go fast since we wanted to see the next football match of the Dutch team. Marja in the meantime had checked where there would be a big screen to see the match. In the heart of Manama – capital of Bahrain – between sky scrapers we parked at a large empty piece of construction land. Nearby was a Shisha lounge with a big outdoor screen. Just 5 minutes before the start of the match, we entered the place. Our first night in Bahrain and we were watching the World Cup in a Shisha lounge and camped between sky-scrapers on an empty building lot! Can imagine people have different ideas when visiting a small Arabic Kingdom for the first time.

Watching the match at the Shisha lounge
Our first camp spot in Manama between the sky scrapers

Next day we woke up with the sounds of construction around us. Bahrain is – again – enduring a construction boom (thanks also to the high prices of oil and gas). Huge fancy sky scrapers are popping up in town and many housing projects are being developed on the island. We decided to tour around the island (its not that big, only 767km2). Since it is so small and so densely populated (one of the most densely populated countries in the world) it would not take too long to go around, we thought. However, most of the people live on the north side of the  island and they go to work, school or do shopping. So the roads are jammed with traffic. Half of the island is completely built up with houses, offices and shops. While driving around you see that most of the other half of the island is built up with factories, a huge airforce base and lots of oil installations. Nearly all of Bahrain.s wealth comes from oil and gas exploration, which wealth is in the hands of the ruling Royal family. There is no single m2 not being utilized on the island. It’s feven so that annually more land is added to the country by land acclamation, to keep up with the ever growing need for housing and economic development. Bahrain is also home to the first official Formula 1 race track in the Middle East.

The crowded north side of Bahrain

Finding a private remote camping spot on the island is impossible. There is one developed public beach with ammenities, but its not for free and you have to leave before 10 in the evening. Looking for such we stumbled upon another expedition truck with a German family of five. We had a nice chat with them and they also encountered the problem of finding nice camp spots on the island. Later in the day they messaged us to inform us that they found a camp spot on the beach on the other side of the island. Crawling though heavy commuter traffic, passing large aluminium factories, oil pumping installations and open pit mines. It was hard to imagine that we were going to a nice camp spot on a beach. It was dark already when we arrived at the beach where the German family already had set up camp and was waiting for us. It was indeed a nice location (although the beach was polluted with a lot of plastic garbage).

Fellow overlanders with their expedition truck
The second night in Bahrain on the polluted beach
Heavy industry in Bahrain

The waters around Bahrain (Persian or Arabic Gulf) are shallow (hence it’s easy to add land to the country), and that means a lot of (migrating) birds are around looking for food. We woke up with a sunrise and a flog of Flamingos was having breakfast by sifting the low water in front of us. A large low flying American army helicopter, popped our romantic peaceful scenery with its noise. The Flamingos took off, looking for another peaceful place to eat and rest. We also said goodbye to our German friends and drove towards the southern part of the island, which on the map looked more undeveloped. A large brand new high way (with a lot less traffic) brought us to the most southern part we could reach by truck. A small fishing village once known as a famous pearl fishing center, was now a large town as well and in a heavily militarized zone. (The huge air force base). An enormous medical city was under construction nearby as well. The southern point of the island is home to Bahrain’s “Palm Island” a cluster on man made islands with modern villas. We were not able to see it closer, since it was a gated community, closed for strangers. Driving back, we made a turn into the island’s southern interior. There we saw thousands of meters of above ground oil and gas pipes, and there was one of Bahrain’s famous attractions, the “Tree of Life”. A single, lonely tree of over 400 years old, the sole survivor of a forested area, now home to the gates of Bahrain’s wealth, the oil wells. Well protected (there is 24 hour guarded protection), the tree is an inspiring piece of nature.

The Tree of Life

The last night in Bahrain we spent in the capital. The old town is interesting with its zouk (market) area, a famous street food kind of restaurant was nearby, with a simple menu, and simple table ware (A large piece of plastic is put on your table and when you are done with your diner, the waiter lifts the plastic with all disposable plates, cups and cutlery on it, folds it together and done. No dishes to clean) Like most of the stores and restaurants on the Arab peninsula, also here the restaurant was managed and worked by Pakistani or Indians. The Bahraini (male) customers were clearly showing who are the bosses in this country and were shouting their orders to the servants and screamed for attention, and to speed up their orders. It was more entertaining than annoying and it even looked liked the Pakistani were not even impressed. On the Garmin we saw a camp spot in the middle of town (the I-Overlander app). We drove up there and just behind a large sky scraper, there was a construction lot, like a peninsula, slivering into the mouth of waters around another artificial island. Towering sky scrapers in the most bizar shapes and lighting, surrounded the peninsula, of which the World Trade Center, is the most iconic one. The waterfront of the peninsula was occupied by many Bahrainis who parked their cars and pic-nicked with friends and family. It was a magical feeling to camp between all these people and colossal structures. It was so beautiful! Maybe it was not what we all expected from Bahrain, but actually this is how Bahrain is. A small former pearl and fishing island, winning the jackpot with its resources, of which a ruling elite controls the entire economy, who has transformed this desert island in a regional powerhouse, complete with all what modern societies have to offer.

The eye catching architecture of Manama’s sky-scrapers
The stunning World Trade Center in Manama with its wind turbines

We did our stock up shopping at the Carrefour the next morning before heading back to the border (my least favorite part during traveling). Getting out Bahrain was supposed to be easy, however a mistake of our Bahrain vehicle insurance registration (a mistake made by the official, when entering the country and obtaining the insurance), caused an almost 2 hour delay. (And we were leaving the country, so we didn’t even need the insurance anymore). After clearing up, we suddenly were out of Bahrain and entered the Saudi Customs area (so technically we could have been out of Bahrain in minutes). The Saudi Customs were not that easy this time. Since its known that especially alcoholic drinks are easy to get in Bahrain, most vehicles are stopped for a quick search. Well, we were treated on a more extensive search by three officers, who were crawling through our camper, opening all compartments and even crawled over our bed. One officer in particular, was really on a mission and hoping on a career move. However, the officer in charge (a nice guy) found it enough. The search ended and we were allowed to enter Saudi again. Another 20 minutes drive over the causeway and we were back on the mainland.

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