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Drinking coffee in Bahrain …

Normally, when going to a new country, it’s pretty easy to find stuff to do … but when one has to condense a visit into 23 hours, you really have to prioritize your options and know your customs.

Hey Trinis … here is some information about Bahrain, that you might not have known…aside that we beat them up in a football match!

  • The only island-state in the Arab world, Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands with a combined area about the size of Singapore. The main island lies in the Arabian Gulf about halfway between Saudi Arabia to the west and Qatar to the east. Iran is about 200km (125mi) north-east across the Gulf.
  • Bahrain Island is the largest of the archipelago, around 50km (30mi) north to south and 16km (10mi) east to west. The main island is pretty flat, with Jabal Ad-Dukhan, the highest point, only 130m (426ft) above sea level. Most development is concentrated on the northern third of the island.
  • Bahrain’s history goes back to the roots of human civilisation. The main island is thought to have broken away from the Arabian mainland sometime around 6000 BC and has almost certainly been inhabited since prehistoric times. The archipelago first emerged into world history in the 3rd millennium BC as the seat of the Dilmun trading empire. Dilmun, a Bronze Age culture that lasted some 2000 years, benefited from the islands’ strategic position along the trade routes linking Mesopotamia with the Indus Valley. In the midst of a region rapidly becoming arid, Dilmun’s lush spring-fed greenery gave it the image of a holy island in the mythology of Sumeria, one of the world’s earliest civilisations, which flourished in what is today southern Iraq. Dilmun had a similar cachet with the Babylonians, whose Epic of Gilgamesh mentions the islands as a paradise where heroes enjoy eternal life. Some scholars have suggested that Bahrain may be the site of the biblical Garden of Eden.
  • Though an inexpensive stopover, Bahrain isn’t a cheap destination. If you want to travel comfortably, rent a car and load up on artifacts, expect to spend around US$150-200 or more per day. Taking the bus and bargaining will bring your costs down closer to US$50-100 a day. If you walk a lot and have no huge appetite for food or booze, it’s possible to get by on around US$25 a day.

For me … I’m going to be drinking coffee during the day. Why?

Well, I think every place in the world has their own drinking customs and also since I’m not going to bother drinking alcohol while I’m there … it’s just not worth the bother, plus if some police man comes by, I don’t think that I’ll get the benefit of the doubt, if they smell alcohol on me. In that part of the world, Indians or people who look Indian don’t get the benefit of the doubt. Travelling is about learning, awareness as much as it is to see a new place. I’ve even met Indian taxi cab drivers in Moncton, NB who told me about being wary when in Bahrain … although I’m not a migrant labourer … one always has to be aware of the simmering underbelly anywhere. There’s even an “unauthorized” tour of Bahrain … but I’m not going to attempt this tour while there for one day.

Know your coffee etiquette Serving or partaking of Arabic coffee in this region has its own customs and knowing them can be helpful.

Arabic coffee is always served in special small cups and traditionally the quantity poured should be enough for two to three sips. Part of the tradition is to drink it immediately.
To have more, the cup is handed back normally and this automatically indicates to the server that you wish to have a refill. But if you’ve had enough, then you gently swivel the empty cup from side to side while returning the cup to the server thereby indicating server that you don’t want any more.

Another very old custom that is not practiced anymore, is when coffee was first served, the guest might place the cup on the floor. This would tell the host that the guest had come with a request and hoped that the host could fulfill it. Once that matter had been concluded, the guest was expected to finish drinking his coffee, otherwise it would be regarded as a form of insult.

As for tipping when drinking my coffee

  • It’s appropriate in restaurants and cafes, 10-15% depending on how well you’ve been served. There is also a “service charge” added to the bill, but that normally just gets gobbled up by the owners, so it’s meaningless.
  • In conjunction with the 10-15% rule, it is generally acceptable to round up the bill amount and consider the change involved as tip. (i.e. 3.700 BD >> Pay 4.000 and ask that change be kept)

Here are some other tips on drinking coffee in Bahrain …

If you are served traditional Arabic coffee, receive the “finjan” (small cup which coffee is poured to) with the right hand (using your right thumb and index finger only). Place your thumb close to your chin and drink the coffee in short sips. Do not make any slurping sounds. If the coffee is hot, gently blow on the coffee. Once the finjan is empty:

  • Return it to the host/person whom poured coffee for an instant refill
  • Hold the finjan using thumb/index finger. Extend arm forward. Tilt wrist slightly to right and left a couple of times to indicate that you have had enough.

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at [email protected]

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