Wednesday, September 18, 2013

100 Days in KSA: Day 96

Hello again!

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm a little behind in catching up with the first 10 days of this fun little countdown so I was intending to post a few photos a day to get caught up. That plan quickly flew out the window when I started writing this post and realized that I had to dedicate its entirety to Day 96's photo - the causeway into Bahrain - in order to give proper justice to this stretch of roadway that I've come to love and loath so much. 

Day 96: The King Fahd Causeway

Oh the causeway. How to explain the causeway? We are lucky in that we live near the eastern coast of Saudi which means we have easy, well easy enough, access to the neighboring Kingdom of Bahrain. I say that this is lucky because Bahrain allows us access to some of the freedoms that we can start to miss a bit over here like movie theaters, alcohol, pork products, and not having to wear an abaya when leaving the house (although that last one is much less of an issue for Ion). So needless to say we enjoy crossing over to Bahrain fairly often to enjoy these finer things in life. But sometimes getting to Bahrain can be an adventure in itself.

Since the Kingdom of Bahrain is an island, getting there involves crossing the King Fahd Causeway. The causeway is a series of bridges connecting the two kingdoms with a small island in the center where you drive through a series of immigration and customs booths. Sounds pretty simple right? Well sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. While it's only about 35 miles between our compound in Saudi to main area we like to visit in Manama, Bahrain, this trip can take anywhere from 45 minutes to upwards of 6 hours. Yes. 6 hours. 

The simple explanation for this is traffic. You can sometimes plan ahead for traffic based on the time of day or day of the week but other times it's completely unpredictable. For example, we went across last Thursday, which is the start of the weekend over here (weekends = Friday and Saturday) so traffic was heavy, as expected. Generally if we are traveling to Bahrain on a Thursday we have to try and leave as fast as possible after work to make it across in anything less than 2 hours and this trip took us just about two and a half hours. Then when we went across again on Monday expecting lighter traffic since it wasn't the weekend but we still ended up sitting on the causeway for over two hours going into Bahrain. On the bright side, customs only took us 15 minutes on the way home. Basically you never know what you're going to see until you get there. In the photo below you can see the that line is continuous between immigration booths - this was a heavy traffic day.

You may be thinking that this has been a long post about bridges and lines, which is true, and while long lines aren't my favorite thing in the world they aren't what makes the causeway experience so crazy. While the photo above looks very orderly it is incredibly deceiving. When we are on the causeway I am often thankful that I'm not driving because it can be pure chaos. Some lines move quickly, some lines don't move at all. Some cars get searched thoroughly at customs and some cars just get waved through. If lines aren't moving quickly enough, drivers will lay on their horns and it becomes a musical of sorts. You have to stay on your toes because if there is even the tiniest gap between you and the car ahead of you, someone will quickly attempt to cut you off. And sometimes there aren't lines at all, just a huge cluster of cars all 'pushing' their way to the front. Imagine Wal-Mart on Black Friday but with cars. 

A coworker of Ion's found this video that illustrates the causeway experience much better than I could ever explain it. Although steering wheels aren't on the right side of cars here like they are in the video. 

The causeway can be a frustrating and sometimes hilarious experience but it just makes that celebratory drink on the other side that much more worth it. And as crazy as the drive can be, being able to cross an international border on a Monday night for dinner and a drink is a pretty unique experience (at least for us) and we've certainly enjoyed racking up the passport stamps going back and forth.

Cheers and safe driving!

No comments:

Post a Comment