Sunday, September 20, 2009


We had our first Eid in Bahrain. There are two Eids in the Islamic calendar - Eid ul Fitr (the Eid that follows the fasting month of Ramadan) and Eid ul Adha (roughly falling two months and ten days after Eid ul Fitr). Last Eid ul Fitr we spent with extended family in London, after a bit of travel in Europe. This year it's just the three of us. Aaaaah yes, just the three of us... nice and cosy...what more could we want, right? Especially considering that back in Melb, Eid day was a carefully orchestrated series of visits interspersed with lunch and dinner. Back home, we never had time to ourselves.

I hate to say it - but, the grass is always greener isn't it?

This being the first time in a very long time (since uni years) that we've spent Eid away from family, we did a few things to compensate... eg, recreated our mothers' best dishes. We came close enough, but our imitations will only ever be just that...And now, here I am, sitting at the computer (in my Eid best). I've had a little spare time to write this entry... spare time on Eid day? That's definitely a first.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Not besht kwality. Mango man's offering was extremely average this time round (this conclusion reached after trying just one - it wasn't aromatic enough, or flavorsome enough - suffice it to say I don't have high expectations for the rest of the crate). I had faith in you mango man! Why did you lure me in with false hope and then let me down? I guess I knew the season was over. I just hadn't accepted it.

(To my mate J with whom I shared today's order, sorry if you were disappointed too)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Welcome back mango man

Mango man has re-entered my life! Yes - he's back, and these days sacks of lemons are his thing. I had to buy some, for old time's sake.

The exciting news is that he's sourced more mangoes and he reckons they're good. Have ordered a couple of yet to find out whether they are indeed "besht kwality". Hope he comes through with the goods.

Welcome back mango-walla. I've missed you mate.


Monday, September 14, 2009

GDN Gem #2: Cows overboard

Today's GDN Gem:

"Two cows had to be rescued by the Coastguard after swimming out to sea when they escaped from an abattoir in Sitra. They were spotted about a mile out by sailor Paul Truscott and his wife Janet, who immediately alerted the Coastguard. The Australian cattle escaped from the Bahrain Livestock Company abattoir with 13 others on Saturday after someone apparently left the gate open. The herd of fugitives headed towards the Bahrain Yacht Club, but two broke off at Al Bander and went into the water...Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) which operates at the Bahrain Livestock Company, said the cows returned to the abattoir with 'little stress.'"

Lately, I've been feeling a little out of sorts in Bahrain, so I know a thing or two about the homesickness and longing that led those cows to jump into the sea. Sometimes I feel like diving into the water myself and swimming all the way back home (I would surely be intercepted by border protection - I can just see myself now on an episode of Australia's fave TV show, Border Security).

(Note to my husband - don't worry, I'm fine...I'm not planning to jump off the Saudi causeway or anything. I am simply venting :-P)

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Big Barhi

I'm not really partial to dates. In their traditional form, they're not the most attractive fruit around are they? Not that I should be holding their appearance against them, but they are kind of unimpressive looking, all shriveled-up and prune-like (sorry prune, but you're not so hot either). Sure, they're sweet, but so is every other fruit on the market.

Regardless of my tastes, the humble date is and always will be an Islamic icon. It has monopoly over the entire Muslim-market, world-over and at no time is this more visible than during Ramadan (especially as Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed preferred to break his fast with a date).

Right now, dates are everywhere in Bahrain, plain dates, nut-filled dates, chocolate coated dates (white/milk/dark - take your pick) and the other day I also saw some coffee filled ones. As dates go, these spruced-up dates (from what I've tasted) are certainly good. But to be honest, I've usually eaten dates more out of a sense of tradition than enjoyment. This has changed since I discovered the Barhi variety. These dates are crisp in texture and as un-shriveled and un-prune-like as you can get. Now, I'm eating dates because I love them. The Barhi seems to be really popular in the Middle East, you buy them on the stalk and they kind of look like a bunch of grapes. Delicious, and with their high nutritional value, how can I go wrong with this indulgence? So this entry is my shout out to the humble date...the Barhi date to be precise. (Hmmm, Perhaps I should start lobbying for a 'Big-Pineapple' inspired 'Big-Barhi' in Bahrain, I think it could be a winner with the locals ;) )

Gargaon update: I didn't witness any Gargaon action, I did however have a little Gargaon surprise waiting for me when I got to work the next day. A box full box of goodies – chocolates, nuts and dry fruit, a little oil lamp and a doll. There was no card attached but it didn't take me long to figure out that the mystery gift-giver was my Bahraini friend - the one who educated me on Gargaon to begin with. When I went to thank her for her thoughtfulness, she said she wanted to share some Gargaon treats with my daughter and I. Nice:) )

My Bahraini friend is actually the main receptionist at the office I work at. She speaks English relatively well, not perfectly - but she gets by. She greets everyone each morning with a huge smile and a "Sabah hal Khair" (Good morning). Even through recent, brief bouts of adversity (a tooth infection and sprained ankle) she's kept smiling. She's a gem.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Trick or treat, Bahrain style

Halloween: Pagan festival of ghosts, ghouls, goblins and witches.

Ramadan: Muslim festival concentrating on themes of devotion, prayer, goodwill and charity.

Ummm...where's the link?

OK, I'm certainly not trying to be irreverent. I think I can explain this. We're over half-way through Ramadan and I've just learnt about "Gargaon". In my experience of Ramadan, there's a month of fasting followed by Eid ul-Fitr (celebration that marks the end of the Ramadan season). Apparently the way it works in Bahrain is that within the festival of Ramadan, there's a mini festival called Gargaon.

So, what is Gargaon?

Celebrated on the 15th day of Ramadan, the word Gargaon means "mixture of sweets, dates and dried nuts." On the evening of the 15th (after the Iftar - breaking of fast) children in traditional arabic dress, carrying drums and beautifully decorated bags, go around to the houses in their neighbourhood asking for gargaon (local kids must really like dates and dried nuts huh?). It's sort of like a local version of 'trick or treat' - without the tricks. A Bahraini colleague of mine has told me that sometimes people hold Gargoan parties for children and goody bags are beautifully decorated and distributed. There is also a kind or role play that goes on where someone performs the role of a knight on a wooden horse, called a 'Feraisa' who moves to the beat of a drum. I can't find any information on the origins of this story, might try and pop outside tonight to see if I can catch a glimpse of some action.

Above: Arabic bakery preparing for the pre-Iftar rush during Ramadan.