National Day Celebrations: Growing Up In Bahrain

by Safia Dawani

Wed, 14 December 2022

National Day Celebrations: Growing Up In Bahrain

For this National Day Bahrain, Safia Dawani opens up about growing up in the Kingdom and why she chooses to live here.

You could grow up anywhere in the world and not nearly be as sheltered or as safe (a parent’s dream), because violence? Violence was a comedy show here as there was no such thing as gun or knife violence, fights here consisted of wannabe “all talk kids” meeting in the Saar Cinema parking lot.

The reality was a bunch of girls eating popcorn and watching ‘boys be boys”. Schools were their own cultural experience entirely as each school had their reputations (you know what those were) and the halls were filled with Bahrainis, nuggets and expats. Education consisted of the American, English or IB systems for the most part, but the reality of the matter was everyone wanted to get their degree and get the hell out of dodge.

After school was divided to the “bus kids” or those who had drivers & nannies and the very few whose parents would pick them up, but we always ended our school day with a neon apple ice cream and Chips Oman (we should’ve questioned the artificial colouring but what did we know we were just kids). 

Weekends in Bahrain depended on the weather, but then again hot is about 90% of the time; we as kids didn’t care that the weather was scorching and found ourselves in back dirt fields with handmade football posts playing all sorts of games and meeting stray dogs.

The outside world was our haven up until the street lights came on, because those were not a suggestion that was a get home before mama pulls off her slipper. At home recommendations for dinner were made and sometimes a quick trip to the local khabas (baker) was necessary for some khubz ma3 jibin (which translates to bread with cheese; trust me it's worth the 100 fills or 300 fills for extra cheese and a side of the orange juice box); FYI the bread never made it all the way home.

Weekends! Weekends consisted of trying to convince your mom that you wanted to sleep over at your friend’s house and getting the “you can play there, but you sleep at home”. What was it about the culture of our parents that they were so against sleepovers? Do we even know now? Weekends were about so much more than attempted sleepovers. Birthday party weekends were spent at the ultimate the amazing Kids World, which has now been converted into Al Ayam, but in its prime Kids’ World was a magical place filled with tubes, slides, ball pits, and celebrations of kids throughout Bahrain. You were cool if your birthday party was at Kids’ World.

Fridays were always a day for family lunches at different hotel buffets or at the family house. I can’t tell you how much food I engulfed on a Friday but I can tell you that it landed me a nap in the car all the way to Adhari park where we would walk around stare at the lights and go on the rides.

Winter time, if you could call it winter anywhere else, nevertheless it was to us warm blooded desert people were spent glamping in Sakhir. We would spend our afternoons playing on quad bikes, riding camels or horses and exploring the vast rocky terrain and climbing Jabal Dukhan (which is now not allowed; scraped a knee or two plenty of times).  Evenings consisted of the parents preparing the grills for dinner and warming up by the fire. If you weren’t a camper well it was no worry as restroom facilities were provided and most tents had TVs and chandeliers. Glamping in Bahrain was the furthest thing from roughing it was nonetheless an amazing childhood memory we all remember growing up in Bahrain.

Growing up here there were several times that I said “I’m bored”, “I hate it here”, but when college came around overseas, I was the first to insist on my parents bringing me home for the holidays because that is what Bahrain is, it’s a safe bundle of healthy childhood outdoor memories that culturally have forever changed us as Bahrainis, nuggets or expats and then the adult in me did the unthinkable and surprised my childhood self by saying “I’m moving here permanently”.

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