Bahrain: An Expat Minister of Labour?

The first topic of conversation in Bahrain these days seems to be the weather. Summer has just arrived in full force, with the temperature currently at 44°C (110°F). TechZ is enjoying what little unpredictability he can find in the weather:

…today was a surprising day… It was dark out at 7AM today morning…it had drizzled lightly the prior night and all throughout the night as well. It was a tad dusty, but the cooler atmosphere was very welcome. Humidity is a killer though, and it reared its ugly head in our island desert, making working for those of us who don’t do a typical office/desk job, rather cumbersome.

Eventually, it got sunny, but didn’t turn 50°C/120°F hot during the day, a day's reprieve then for many of us, but I’m sure it’ll be back to blistering heat ASAP.

LuLu, on the other hand, has decided that she personally is at fault for Bahrain's power problems:

Here is my issue these days: I need my electricity. I need it so I don't melt during the day. I need it so I can get on the internet and blog. I need it so I don't read books in candle light. Unfortunately, I haven't been getting much electricity since I got back to Bahrain. In fact, now I'm being told by the Minister of Electricity that it's my fault! Or at least, I am 90% of the problem!

Under the influence of the heat, I actually started to believe that it's my fault. In fact, since the miracle of electricity finally came back to our house (after two days of lighting candles, harassing the ministry, and invoking souls of ancestors), I have been thinking of how it is my, LuLu's, own fault that our government can't provide us with electricity.

Mahmood also has something to say on the topic of electricity usage. But forget lights and air-conditioning, Farah Mattar is preoccupied with a rather more important home comfort:

When one has a large dependence on an everyday object, it is very difficult to have to deal with the sudden malfunction of this thing. Many of you might be familiar with the feeling of having your car break down for the first time, after years of safely delivering you to and from your destinations. You feel betrayed. “Hey, I thought we were friends…” you may mumble at your engine, through the smoke as passing vehicles smugly looked over at your misery, glad that it wasn’t them.

Well, there are degrees of importance in the roles of our daily inanimate partners. For example, your AC, your shower, your hairdryer, your car, your telephone, your microwave…and last but not least your bed, they all have different percentages of love, dependence, whatever. I mean, you can pie-chart it and the biggest chunk always goes to Mr. Bed.

Farah may need her bed over everything else, but the Bedouin of the region retain a culture with different priorities. Hasan Hujairi, watching TV in Japan, has found himself nostalgic for a culture that is not his own:

I was watching a segment on television today about Bedouins in the Hijaz region in Saudi Arabia. Even though Bahrain does not have a Bedouin identity, there is this untouchable something about this identity that I can strongly identify with; shedding light on a collective (and possibly more noble) previous self of us as human beings.

He was reminded of a family visit to some Bedouin in Kuwait:

After being treated to a genuine walima (feast), we talked to the patriarch of the family (who still has vivid memories of life in the deserts of Arabia). I was a spoilt kid when it came to eating; I refused to eat with my hands – as traditionally done in the Middle East. That is, until that day. … The patriarch of that Bedouin family told in Arabic, “Ya Waladi, lat koon badawi bil kaamil, wala Hadhari bil kamil.” (which translates to, “My son, don’t be a complete Bedouin and don’t be a complete urbanite). Years later, thinking back over that small meeting, I realize what the old man was trying to say; move on in life but never forget where you come from.

Experiencing more than nostalgia, Cradle of Humanity is lamenting a great loss:

I can see it through the glass walls of my office. There it lies, still blue, nonetheless. Every other day, I also track any visible changes to some of Bahrain’s biggest forthcoming projects: Bahrain Financial Harbour through the left wall, Bahrain Bay through the right.

Admiring eyes surround the Financial Harbour, anticipating businessmen, clients who envy us the privileged view. Once and again I looked at the massive structure by the shore, fixing my gaze I tried to so hard to admire it. I never could. … Maybe I could have had some passion towards our new skyscrapers; maybe I could have seen them as national symbols, if only they did not despoil the sea, if only they did not exterminate precious fish species. … Fighting tears in my eyes I hear the concerned voice of a colleague: “Why do you look, if it bothers you so much?”.

I do not know. Maybe look because I care. I look because for years when I was away I dreamed of when the moment comes and I can once again see those very shores and inhale the sea breeze. I look because like a lover, passion drives me to visit, once again, the beloved.

Nido also has something to say about Bahrain's relationship to the sea:

Protection of our sea resources, not to mention other natural resources such as agricultural land and the atmosphere, even if it magically happens overnight tomorrow, is obviously unfortunately too little too late. A lot of the coasts and the coral reefs have already been destroyed, and once these resources are destroyed it is pretty much impossible to recover them. However, trying to salvage what remains is better than nothing. This is especially crucial in a small island that has for all its history depended on the sea as its primary source of income.

Just like Cradle of Humanity and Nido, Mahmood loves his country, but he wonders if the government has the right approach to instilling this love in all its citizens, judging from the apparently excessive response by the security forces to some opposition gatherings:

I’m not sure what the Ministry of the Interior wants to achieve by its continuous excessive use of force.

If this is their idea of instilling love for the country, they failed; if it is their intention to protect public and private property, they failed, their habitual use of tear gas and rubber bullets and other “crowd control” measures probably damage more properties than demonstrators do; if they want to live up to the “security” label in their name, they failed, you do not provide security by adopting terror tactics; if they want to cow people and dissuade them from talking about or participating in political activities, they failed.

Silly Bahraini Girl has a silly question for the Minister of Labour, who has criticised young Bahrainis, alleging they are too lazy for the workplace:

Since Bahrainis are under qualified to do the jobs of expats and since it takes three to four Bahrainis to do the job of one foreigner (four to do the job of an American and three to do the job of a European to be more precise and to quote our esteemed minister more accurately) why shouldn't we hire a foreign Labour Minister to replace Mr Al Alawi?

Concerned Citizen X also has a question for the authorities. He wonders why there is no enforcement of some laws such as for wearing seatbelts, and against using a handheld mobile when driving, except for the last ten days of every month:

… These are ‘cash cows’, and they have been milking them for such a loooooooong time, its pure profit being harvested at their discretion; income generated through non-application of existing Traffic laws which generate lots of income for the Traffic Directorate. … the cows are allowed to graze and every so often, they are herded back into the barn, plugged into the suction gizmos and the white gold just flows, milked till they quench their thirst, always leaving more for later.

Our final post is another on politicians by Mahmood, who is less than impressed by the zeal of an MP, apparently taking his role as a guardian of the public services extremely seriously:

And we thought that parliamentary work, and being elected, is simple. Hah! No way José! Look at what is expected of you:

You get calls at all hours of the night, even when a concerned citizen spies a drunk public sector worker and expects you to take care of the situation, as you should. So into that brandspankynewlexus you get – with a Don Quixote refrain playing at the back of your mind and race – not stopping at those frivolous red lights, you’re an MP, a representative of the people now – to get to the scene of the crime and have a proper foot-stomping-fist-banging-lung-gutting fit and demand – as is your complete and full right – that the accused submit a blood sample for analysis to determine the quantity he has purportedly imbibed and thus, determine there and then, as a judge, jury and executioner that he be thrown out and as a head of a committee tasked with finding out the transgressions of that public sector, you can now allay any self-guilt and not suffer any insomnia for executing your job as best you could.

Phew! Better get some rest – more from Bahrain in a week!


  • Hmm, so it’s LuLu’s fault we lost power this week and last ;)

    It’s so humid out right now…I just got home..and I’m sweating, off to the showers!

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