Silence of the Imams

“This, therefore, is a faded dream of the time when I went down into the dust and noise of the Eastern market-place and with my brain and muscles, with sweat and constant thinking, made others see my visions coming true. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.”



There’s a small change in pressure as the aircraft door closes. It’s a British Airways Boeing 777 and I’m happy to settle-back in to my comfortable sleeper seat and type for a while, as I wait for the engines to spool-up at a little after 2am this morning. I’m looking forward to sleeping most of the way back to Heathrow after three days here in Bahrain.

Walking through the exhibition part of the conference today, I was struck by the truly multi-cultural nature of the environment. Arabs, Indians, Asians, Europeans all working together in a transparent ‘Star-trek’ like manner with a single purpose. English is the common language but you’ll frequently hear it interspersed with a second language, a burst of Arabic of Chinese perhaps. The point I’m making I suppose, is that this conference and exhibition is an example of a working multi-cultural meritocracy, with no visible ‘us’ or ‘them’ distinction between the ethnic groups, just a comfortable sense of ‘We’, which is at odds with the present situation we are presently experiencing in Europe.

In this dusty corner of the Arab world, there’s no evidence of religion or even cartoons being on the agenda either other than news coverage of the riots in Pakistan and Gaza. Here, along the Gulf coast there’s an easy tolerance and a sense of prevailing politeness almost an ‘Englishness’ that we may have lost at home. A firm handshake and a smile are important here. As a result, it’s not hard to understand why so many Europeans are looking for opportunities to live and work out here along what I’ve nicknamed the “Silicon Seaside’. It’s not all roses of course and you can’t beat the splendour of the Kent countryside in summer but with nearly unlimited public funds, no tax and almost no crime to speak of – I left my laptop lying unsupervised in a public place all day long - it’s amazing what people will exchange for a life in an autocracy

One funny thing I observed this week was in the elevator of my hotel. As I was on the way down to reception, it paused to collect a Saudi couple. The man in the traditional beard, white ‘thobe’ and head-dress and the woman, completely draped in her black ‘abaya’ from head to foot, complete with veil and gloves. Not an unusual sight here, because Saudi Arabia is just across the causeway from Bahrain but overhearing their quiet conversation in English, it was obvious that the woman was English or perhaps American. Who was she I wondered and how did she get here? It’s a mystery as one could never ask directly in this society.

Bahrain is setting itself up for the arrival of the Formula One racing circus next month. Already, my hotel was being prepared in advance, the pool area closed for re-painting and you can see the big team truck transporters parked outside the airport. This small island, the fabled home of ‘Dilmun’ and the Garden of Eden’ in biblical times. will become one of the most noisy, frantic and overcrowded spots on earth, with no hotel space left for love or money in race week.

Time to put my PC away, make sure that my seat is upright, my seatbelt is fastened and wait for the aircraft to launch itself through the night towards Heathrow and home to a very different climate and sea view. I wonder how many hours on type the first officer has? More than 150 I hope!

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