السلام عليكم | Assalamu alaikum from Manama, Bahrain!
This took me awhile to write this. Life got way too real once we got back underway from Bahrain. If you didn’t know already from Instagram (@cam_arilla) or Facebook (facebook.com/camarillacomplex), port #2 on our “around the world,” deployment was Bahrain!
By the way, “around the world,” is a bit of a misnomer since we’re not really going all the way around the globe, my ship is just relocating from Norfolk, Va., to San Diego, Calif. But I digress…
I promised myself that at each port I’d do something tourist-like to get a peek into the culture of every country.
With that being said, we pulled into Naval Station Activity Bahrain and went directly to what is called the “Freedom Souq.” A souq is a marketplace and the Freedom Souq is where the Naval Exchange and food court are located. In the immediate vicinity, there’s a courtyard where you can eat during the day and where a band or DJ plays at night. Probably when ships have pulled into port.
Public intoxication is illegal in Bahrain so most Sailors spend their time on base to have a wind down with a few drinks. That’s where we went every night we were in port. Most places in town didn’t sell alcohol and we didn’t want to risk running into any issues with the strict laws. We weren’t even allowed to take pictures of most things. I did get to go to a museum though! That was super awesome.
Bahrain National Museum
I learned that Bahrain was a main exporter of pearls for a very long time. Men would swim to the bottom of the ocean from wooden ships (or boats rather) without any gear to collect the prized jewels.
After the museum we went to the Gold Souq to search for gold to buy. We got lost and had no luck but it was pretty cool to go out into town. Even getting a taxi proved to be quite the experience considering that there are taxis… and female-friendly taxis.
While at the shopping mall
There was a call to prayer.
It was pretty remarkable to see how devoted people are to their religion. The whole mall stopped what they were doing to show their respect. It could be most closely compared to being on a military base when reveille or colors take place – except on a nation-wide scale.
The Sand Pit
They call the courtyard area on base, “the sand pit,” and it was super turnt.
Are you guys still saying that in the states? “Turnt?”
Being out to sea is like being trapped in a time capsule. I don’t even know who the latest Vine stars are.
Anyway, that place was so live. It was kind of weird though because as people were living their lives, taking shots of jager and fist pumping, there were a group of master-at-arms (security or the military equivalent to police) standing on the stage with military-issued rifles just in case the crowd got too rowdy or a security breach took place. It seemed quite ironic but only proved to be a reminder of the reason we’re here. Not to mention, NAS Bahrain is crawling with master-at-arms. There are TONS stationed there.
I met up with two people I know that are stationed in Bahrain and that was pretty cool. One guy was stationed with me at my last command in Monterey, Calif., and I went to college with the other. It really just proves how small our world is. I wish I would have taken pictures with both but I saw them after the drinks had already been flowing so that wasn’t at the forefront of my mind.
I wish I had much more to share about the place but to be honest, the strict rules proved to be quite off-putting.
I bought a gerber knife before I went on deployment to ward off any creeps but was unable to bring it off the ship with me due to national laws in the country. Concealed weapons, especially for women, are grounds for jail time and America doesn’t have a Standards of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Bahrain so I’d be at mercy to their laws. That wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.
However, let me follow that with saying that the people were extremely nice and cordial. The host nations are not usually my concern to begin with. I’m out to sea with people I’ve only known for a few months so I don’t take anything for granted.
Who knew! Either way, I’ve had such a good time with everyone I work with and port #3 is just on the horizon. We’re well into deployment and it’s starting to feel all the more real but I’m still excited and motivated to be here with an incredible group of people that I’ll cherish for a lifetime (fast forward six months from now to see if I’m still singing the same tune – jk jk).
Until next time … wa-alaikum-salaam.