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Bahrain: Divided By Dialect

In Bahrain this week: the disappearing sea, culture shock in the UK, Ramadan drama serials, a diagnosis of leukaemia – and speaking ‘Shia'!

Declamation against reclamation
Hussain is lamenting the changes in Bahrain's coastline due to development and land ‘reclamation’, though part of a special view remains:

في فترة امتناع البحر عن الشاطىء احسست وقتها ان البحر لن يعود ولن يكون لنا بحر نسميه بحر بل اطلال بحر .. واسم ساحل ابو صبح… لكن الحمد لله بعد هذا التذمر واليأس سمح الدفانون بعودة الماء من جديد الى البحر فعاد له جزء من منظره الجميل الذي كان يسحر الناس وقت الغروب ..
After a period the sea being pushed away from the coast I felt then that the sea would not return and would not be what we call a sea, but just the residue of a sea – and the name ‘Coast of Abu Subh'… But thank God, after this destruction and hopelessness, those filling it in allowed the return of the water to the sea, and restored part of the beautiful view which enchants people at sunset…

As well as a blogger, Hussain is an excellent photographer; here is a photo of the sea where he used to swim and fish as a child:

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Photo credit: Hussain

Unfamiliar politeness
Sayyid Mahmood Al Aali recently arrived in the UK to attend university, and he has written an account of his first impressions:

بعد الإسبوع الثاني في بريطانيا، يجب أن أشير لأمر رهيب في هذا الشعب ومن يعيش ضمن هذا الشعب..
– شكراً (Thanks – Thank you).
من المستحيل أن تمر عليك ساعة و أنت في هذا البلد دون أن تسمع كلمة الشكر!!، لدرجة أنني أصبحت مدمناً عليها الآن.
– آسف (Sorry)

في بعض الأحيان أصطدم بشخص ما في الطريق دون قصد ليبادرني بكلمة آسف (Sorry)!! و كأنه هو المخطئ، بينما في بلادنا يبادرك المخطئ بالسب واللعنات قبل أن تتمكن من أخذ تلاميم نفسك والهرب!
– الطوابير (Queues)
في كل الأماكن تجد الطوابير، أثناء ذهابك للتسجيل في الجامعة، أو في السوبر ماركت أو حتى عند الATM. يبدو أن هذا الشعب مهووس بالنظام لدرجة أن نكتة تقول بأن الشعب البريطاني عندما يجد إثنان خلف بعضهما البعض، يعتقدون بأن هنالك طابوراً فيبادروا بالوقوف بعد هذين الإثنين.
– الكلام والمعاملة الحسنة
خلال إسبوعين و لحد الآن لم أجد أي مضايقة من أي شخص لا في الشارع و لا في الجامعة بأي طريقة كانت، عندما تسأل أي شخص عن أي معلومة يحاول مساعدتك بأي طريقة. كما أن الإبتسامة هي الغالبة عند التحدث معهم ..
أعتقد بأن هذه الأمور وجب علينا نحن المسلمين أن نبادر بها قبل الآخرين و لكن ؟!!

After the second week in Britain, I have to comment on a serious matter with these people, and those that live among them…

Thanks / Thank you!
It's impossible to spend an hour in this country without hearing the phrase ‘thank you’, to the extent that I have become addicted to it now.

Sometimes I bump into a person in the street without meaning to and he reacts by saying ‘sorry’, as if he were at fault – whereas in our country he would respond to you (whose fault it was) with abuse and curses, before you can gather yourself and get away!

You find queues everywhere: going to register at university, or in the supermarket, or even at the ATM. It seems these people are obsessed with order, to the extent that a joke says that the British, when they find two people one behind another, think there is a queue and start to stand behind these two.

Good manners
For the last two weeks, until now, I have not had any trouble from any person, whether in the street or at university, in whatever form. When you ask someone for any information he or she tries to help you any way possible, just as people usually smile when you talk to them.

I think there are things that we as Muslims should be the first to do, but…

Feasting on television
Kawthar thinks the focus is wrong during Ramadan these days:

في كل عام يطل علينا شهر رمضان، شهر البركة والخير والمغفرة والطاعة والعبادة … هذا كان قديماً، أما اليوم فيطل علينا شهر رمضان شهر المسلسلات والأفلام والبرامج السخيفة التي تجهد المحطات التلفزيونية والإذاعية في عرضها هذا لأن المشاهد (الصائم) تعب من الصيام (حرام) وهذه المحطات العظيمة تشعر معه بجوعه وعطشه (حنونة) فتقد له ما يخفف عنه تعبه وآلام الجوع والعطش.
Every year the month of Ramadan arrives upon us, the month of blessings, charity, forgiveness, obedience and worship… That was before, but today Ramadan brings silly serials, films and programmes which the radio and television stations take pains to show because the viewer (who is fasting) is tired from fasting (poor thing), and these great stations feel his hunger and thirst (how kind) and provide him with whatever relieves his tiredness and hunger pangs and thirst.

Dialects of division
Silly Bahraini Girl reports on the how accent still plays a big part in people's perceptions of others:

Inter marriages are a good way to bridge the sectarian rift in our society and I have always been all for it. We are, after all, the new generation and it's best that girls do get married to who their heart desires, rather than end locked up in loveless barren same-faith marriages!

But what happens when they get children? What do the children do? In liberal families, it isn't a big deal and freedom of choice and common sense reigns, as the young brood is exposed to the cultures and traditions of both faiths. But what happens when people get married to others who seemingly look progressive, but hide racist sentiments deep inside. What does a woman do when she hears her husband whispering in her ears: I don't want our child to speak Shia?

Speak what? People roll their eyes in bewilderment when I explain to them that it is easy to make out the difference between sects by simply hearing them speak. They are shell shocked when they realise that the distinction between Shias and Sunnis is detected by dialect!

I blog, therefore…
Qassim asks ‘Why do I blog?':

أنا ادون… أنا موجود…
أنا اكتب… أنا ادون…
أنا أفكر… أنا أكتب…
أنا لدي مخ… أنا افكر…
أنا انسان… أنا لدي مخ…
أنا أدون… إذاً أنا انسان!
I blog… I exist…
I write… I blog…
I think…. I write…
I have a mind… I think…
I'm human… I have a mind….
I blog…. Therefore I'm human!

Voice of an angel
H. describes how he fell in love with Arabic music:

I’ve never been a big fan of Arabic music, not the hideous stuff that gets produced these days anyway. Perhaps the fact that writers, singers, and composers themselves can’t escape their limited scope of lame topics which range from snobbish unreasoned pride and ego to the slumps of sexually provocative outtakes.
And since I fell in love with the English language from an early age, my music taste found its match in western music (mainly within singer/songwriter genre). A few years back I was invited to a Marcel Khalifa concert here in Bahrain, and that was when I found my Arabic fix (apart from the legendary Fairoz and Co). Marcel introduce this divine looking lady, with an angelic voice, and a graceful humane presence. It was Omaymah Alkhalil.
Her performance was absolutely stripped from any form of indecency, unlike other the usual act from the contemporary mainstream bimbo. I knew then, that there was still a chance for Arabic music to have a special place in my heart.

Testing experience
Cookie has a shock when she visits the doctor:

Every time I go to the hospital, they ask me to check my blood ph. not cause I have a problem just cause of my yellow skin. So I went to the lab and as usual they took a drop from the finger and then to the machine then write the number and go. I saw the number it was 13 so it is good.
The woman from the lab gave me two papers the one on the top was the number and the other hmm I thought it comes with the first one !
anyways, I went back to the doc and gave her the papers, she saw the first one and said good and then she was like …. sit down !?!?! I sat and she said you have leukemia! I was like me ! .. she said it is written on this result! I felt that my world collapsed for a second. but I got my mind back and said: but I just checked the ph !!! she replied with a very upsetting voice : sorry wrong result !!!!!!!!!!!

We end with another of Hussain's beautiful photos, this time of a seagull on a local beach:

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Photo credit: Hussain


  • What a facinating blog! I’ve learned so much! I am a fifty-year-old American whose birthday gift to myself this year is reading more international blogs.

    In America, we also have a cultural/educational divide in regards to dialect. The southern dialect in our country has historically been the dialect of the uneducated, poor outsider. Interestingly, George Bush has used this to his advantage in the presidential elections by pretending to have a southern accent. His natural tendency is to mangle the English language but he purposely uses archaic expressions and an exagerated accent to appeal to the American’s love of an “outsider”…very ironic since he’s the ultimate insider.
    Your photography is also quite good.

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