Shop Like a Bahraini, Worship the Sun Like a European

We’re in Bahrain in spring and the weather is perfect. Not too hot, not too humid, and certainly a whole lot more pleasant than the freezing, snowy weather conditions back home. After a long lazy breakfast we head to the pool to soak up some rays of morning sun. We know we have to be careful though, because in a couple of hours the temperature will peak at 35ºC and the sun’s rays will be too strong for our European skin.

Bahrainis never sit in the sun – instead, they look forward to the rare rainy days, which they consider a treat. When it’s sunny, they seek shelter inside – much like we do when it rains and snows back home.

We ask our hotel concierge Ali where people go to get away from the heat, especially in summertime. “For business, people meet in the lobbies of major hotels,” he says. “For entertainment, they go to one of the cafés in the mall. Bahrainis love shopping.”

As the poolside temperature hits 35ºC, we decide to go local and check out Bahrain City Centre, a giant shopping and leisure complex with an indoor water park which is also where the future Kempinski Hotel Bahrain City Centre will be.

At the main entrance we stop to look at the mall’s floor plan: a giant Carrefour to the right; Virgin Megastore to the left; Starbucks is straight ahead, beside H&M and Zara. It’s like being in a mall in Paris or London – the only difference is the AC. We have a coffee at Paul, a French café chain, and watch people walking by. This is bizarre: the only thing that reminds us that we are in the Middle East is the people wearing dishdashas and abayas. Otherwise we could be anywhere…

We sit back and reflect on the evils of globalisation for a moment. “The world is turning into a sea of sameness,” I say in a wistful tone. “Not really,” says Anouk, “because however global we go, on a sunny day, Bahrainis will pick the shopping mall and we will pick the pool!” And with that, we make our way back to the pool, where we get our friend Najib to set up an umbrella and bring us a cool drink. Even if those sunrays are harmful, we Europeans will always appreciate some heat in winter!

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