Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where the streets have no name

I wish Bahrain had a Melway... or a Manaway... it would make sooo much sense! If you need to go anywhere in Bahrain, you usually need directions. Receiving directions here can be convoluted and any set of directions received is likely to include the following phrases:

"You'll pass a beige building" - ummm...not really helpful as pretty much all the architecture in Bahrain could be described as, well, beige (OK to be fair some of the building are an equally blah shade of grey and brown).

"Turn left after the cold store" - Cold store: Bahraini for milk bar - you'll find one on every street corner (at least). With so many around, they are not necessarily the most obvious landmarks.

"You'll see a big mosque" - Hello?! Muslim country! There are more mosques here than..well...than there are churches in Adelaide!!

By the time you've heard all that, you're not sure you can even be bothered.

Hand-drawn maps can be helpful, but let's face it, most people are not cartographers and one person's perception of distance and proportion can differ significantly from another's. That was the lesson I learnt today when I ventured out to a new neighborhood to run an errand, using a map drawn by a friend. I should have known the map wasn't to scale and what looked like three millimeters on paper was in reality half a kilometer. My mistake, perhaps I should have tried Google maps first.

But honestly, the whole process just confuses me - especially when I don't have the best sense of direction to begin with (I'm the type who has to keep muttering "King William, Queen Elizabeth" to myself just to remember the Melbourne CBD grid). 

To be fair, There is some (slight) method to the madness. The main/major roads do have names which is nice and helpful, but the smaller streets do not. No street names - just street numbers (and luckily local sat nav devices - not to mention the pizza delivery people, recognise this system). It's not the most user-friendly system, but at least it's a system. We live on road 3119. Sounds promising. You'd think that our street would be sandwiched somewhere between road 3118 and 3120. Not the case, from what I can gather - 3118 is the street behind us... fine...but I've looked around for road 3120 - not quite sure where it is. My guess is that it's about 3 blocks away... past two cold stores, a beige building and a big mosque.

For a satellite map of Bahrain:


  1. Using a gps is also a bit of challenge, seeing as not many know the names of the streets.

  2. I have been chuckling over this for a week, but my techological failings have prevented me from telling the world!

    Denver had the best system I've seen for street numbers (interesting names but easy to follow as opposed to Manhattan's boring numbers): most of the city is laid out in roughly a North-South/East-West grid, streets never (rarely?) change name (unlike Melbourne!!), and in a lot of parts the street names are alphabetically ordered: Ash, Birch, Cherry, Dahlia.... (and there were a series of numbered streets) And Avenues run E-W, Streets N-S. And at each block the street number went up 100, so 201 Locust Street was 4 blocks south of 601 Locust etc.