following the assembly directions for a "made in china" target desk poses as much of a challenge as navigating betty crocker's "just add two eggs" brownies. i am also pretty useless at map reading, and while i did not find ty pennington or jamie oliver stuffed in my christmas stocking this year, i did get something a little more useful (although not as sexy in a pair of board shorts).
an internal GPS system is as relevant to the middle east as a string bikini made of bacon rashers. bahrain has zero "no child left behind" friendly, numbered or alphabetized street signs-- not even the locals can identify shaikh isa highway from abdul jassim avenue. and while the western hemisphere may suggest: "go past the petrol station on the left, take a second right, and it's at the bottom of the hill", directions to find the little hole-in-the wall tailor in the souq can only be located from these coordinates: "go out the back of the yateem centre, follow the road past al zaineh plaza, take a left at the road that comes up from the bab (for translation, refer to paragraph 4 and accompanying image), walk in the direction of the gold souq, when you come to the intersection with the perfume shop on one corner and the indian guy who wants to sell you "real fake rolex/camel/mosque clock", take a left. keep going past the gold shops, and when you get to a cold store (this is equivalent to a 7/11 in the US, except with more sacks of rice), it will be across the street, on your right, next to the shoemakers." these are guaranteed directions-- unless you are accompanied by a guide dog with no receptive language skills.
during the first round of 'growing up' years, i remember all party invitations coming with a rudimentary map, supplemented with an extensive, descriptive novella beneath. in more recent years, however, the topography of the island has changed due to vigorous land reclamation efforts in order to support the development of a "financial harbour", 8 shopping malls, and associated highways to manage the increasing volume of traffic on its' way to debenhams, the gap and virgin megastore. many locations are still sentimentally referred to by their original landmarks. "pipeline road" (large, above ground oil pipes coming from saudi); "shwarma alley" (as with the close geographical proximity of starbucks' in the US, it's a basic human right to be able to choose which of the 15 establishments crammed within half a block are going to make your 50 cent beef, chicken or lamb gyro); "the irish embassy" (not an actual embassy, but a small mosque with an abundance of green lights); "coffee pot roundabout" (sadly the powers-that-be had the giant arabic coffee pots replaced a few years back, but "clock roundabout" just doesn't sound as catchy).
"dairy queen roundabout- the one by that really colourful mosque"; although the roundabout has since been bulldozed and replaced by a 6 way traffic light system to 'decrease accidents and better manage the flow of traffic' (i was recently told by a terminal expat that red lights were to be ignored, as status and degree of importance was determined by how many traffic laws one could break, with no consequences being meted out by public security).
"the bab (al bahrain)" ("bab" meaning: "gateway"); a popular meeting spot for parents to collect their shaggy haired, funereally attired teenagers that have spent the morning trawling the souq for shi-sha pipes and fruity tobacco, to then collapse, from the exertion, in hardees.
"egg cup mosque"; a personally christened landmark by father and daughter.
now, back in the states, i am looking forward to GPS dependency-- as soon as i am able to decipher the installation and operation directions.