Wandering aimlessly has its advantages: you never know what you'll see, and sometimes you don't know what it is when you see it. Last year, when I left Doha and spent a night in London, I simply grabbed the first double decker bus I found, assuming it would do a loop through various charming British neighborhoods (what what!) and return me to my place of origin. But it didn't, and dropped me off at the end of the line. So I caught the next bus, and so forth. Eventually, it all worked out, as it usually seems to.
Today when I arrived in Bahrain I hopped into my rental Corolla and headed off in what I thought was the direction of my hotel, the Riveria Palace. Given its distinctive look, I was sure I could find it, or find someone who knew where it was. Wrong, scout. A first warning sign was that no other local hotelier seemed even to know about it, and when I found one who did he gave me detailed directions....to the wrong place. I was looking for "HoJo's" and he sent me to "HoJoe's".
I followed my bread crumbs back to the airport and started over. The main problem with my map is that no roads were labeled -- a rather curious omission, don't you think? -- nor were directions, or much else in the way of things that one might consider essential on a map. I did find the hotel's phone number (oh, right, go ahead and say I was foolish for not having it with me in the first place. Go ahead. I'm sorry. You're right.) and asked for help. I found her directions inscrutable. Her: "Look for the Awadhi on your left." Me: "What's an Awadhi? Just point me to some landmark..." I suggested, and eventually she gave me something to look for.
[Damn: I finished my best post ever and the internet ate it, so I abandoned my room and went to the restaurant downstairs and had a huge honking sheesha (hookah). Because my body is a temple, I smoked apple-flavored tobacco...that must be healthy, right? A reconstruction of the post follows.....]
Soon, I was there, viewing this lovely mosque from the parking lot. Then, it started singing to me. Loudly. A call to worship, I assume. Then another mosque, just across the way, also started broadcasting a plaintive chant. It was a Battle of the Bands (of Brothers). What were they chanting? Were the chants part of a sectarian competition of differing theological principles (Hates great! v. Less killing!)?
[I seem to remember that the Daily Show had something similar recently; I hope I'm not plagiarizing, which I guess I'm not, as I'm giving the Show credit, but only if it deserves it.]
The chants did pack the DQ parking lot. Yes, the international landmark was the Dairy Queen. You can get a sheik (I mean a shake!) before or after the service.
I'll confess, but not in a confessional, that I have seen a similar sign outside of a Baptist church: "Grill with Satan or Chill with the Saints. The Choice is Yours!"
A hotel clerk met me at the DQ and guided me the rest of the way to the Versailles of the Desert, which felt more like the Palace after the Republicans (no, no, not our Republicans, but the ones who executed Louis XVI during the French Revolution). It was pretty much surrounded by a wasteland except for the neon lights across from my window. Almost no guests are here. The elevator didn't work, but the clerk did ask if I minded walking up four flights to my room. It was part classy (the wrapper on my toilet noted that it was "Cleaned Specially..."), part trashy ("4 U") as if it were txting a Britney.
My kind of place. And the sheesha was really, really good.