Oh yes, I’m back ON THE ROAD! After saying my final farewell to the delectable Kassie I bundled myself on the 9am bus to Bahrain via Dammam in Saudi Arabia. Panicking over all the horror stories I’ve been told about Saudi customs, I wiped all the TV shows and Hollywood movies off my hard drives (lest they contain kisses, witchcraft or a picture of a cross) and made sure I didn’t have a single used videotape on me (remembering Iran and Congo).
In the event, they didn’t even open my bag. Hilarious.
I had my photo taken and my fingerprints scanned and that was it. Easy as pie. I arrived in the wholly unremarkable town of Dammam in the early afternoon and it wasn’t long before I was excitedly crossing the MASSIVE causeway to Nation 156, Bahrain – the Las Vegas of the Middle East.
Oh yes, Bahrain – Bands, Broads and Booze on tap and the parties don’t even get started until after midnight. I met with Tim, my CS host and one US Navy Lieutenant. His apartment was so kick ass it made me wonder why I never went to officer school. Oh yeah and then there was the fridge – stocked to the gills with beer, lovely cold refreshing beer.
After a few we hit the streets, grabbing some authentic Bahraini KFC on the way to the Irish pub (there’s always an Irish pub). There we watched a band that were so-so before pushing on to a Pilipino joint with a much better band who actually put some pizzazz into their cover versions. From that point on my recollection of the night kind of falls apart. I remember meeting some girls from Ethiopia and asking why they wouldn’t let me open the windows on the bus. I don’t think I did any Karaoke, but it’s a possibility.
How on Earth Tim dragged himself into work in the morning is a mystery I’ll probably never fathom.
Urgh me drinkie too muchie. I’ve seriously put on a stone in the last six weeks, what with all my Dominos pizzas and KFC. I need to get moving and get grooving before I turn into a big fat Jabba slug. I found out that the bus for Qatar (only 40km across the sea from the island of Bahrain) would be leaving from Dammam in Saudi at 5pm. As the next bus to Dammam was leaving at 3pm, this was going to make things awkward – Dammam is only an hour away, but it’s a bit of a risk as if the Saudi border guys wanted to make the bus wait, there wasn’t a lot I could have done about it – I could very well miss the bus to Qatar. I therefore elected to take a taxi (at great expense – fifty quid’s worth of expense) because I was damned if I was going to spend the night in Dammam.
Getting back into Saudi was even easier the second time. Seriously – they didn’t even look at my bags and in I went. I was in Dammam within the hour and had my ticket for Nation 157 – Qatar.
The bus was supposed to get in at 10pm. I had arranged with Tracy, my CS host in Qatar, to meet here when I arrived, although the fact it was now pushing midnight and we were still not at the border compounded my discontent. But what I was not expecting was for it to take TWO HOURS to cross the border into Qatar. What the hell would you smuggle OUT of Saudi? A camel?
But then I discovered the root of the problem. The border guards were denying access not to us passengers, but to the bus driver. They had changed the rules TODAY (seriously!) and he needed a letter of employment of SAPTCO to say he worked for them. His uniform and the fact HE WAS DRIVING THE DAMN BUS wasn’t enough proof for them.
I guess in their twisted little heads this was all an elaborate plan for the driver to sneak into Qatar (with a busload of passengers) and stay there illegally. The hundreds of Qatar entry and EXIT stamps in his passport were similarly not seen as proof that he didn’t intent Qatar several layers of harm.
I’ll get you Butler!
So the bus was stuck, it was now 2am. Oh, and to cap it all, my phone had stopped working. I didn’t know this at the time, it seemed that my texts were going through, but then I sent a test text to my mum and since a reply didn’t come back I knew trouble was afoot. There was no way I was going to be able to stay at Tracey’s tonight. I teamed up with Saleh and we trekked across the border together on foot. Once in Qatar, we flagged down a passing car and hitched a ride to Doha from a fantastically friendly chap called Mohammed.
And so I wound up in the cheapest, nastiest little hotel in town. Filthy dirty, luke warm shower, a broken television… the price? Fifty quid. Straight up. Take it or leave it.
Damn you Qatar.