In recent days I’ve been on a whirlwind of festive fun. I very much doubt any place on earth puts on a brighter or better celebration of togetherness and happiness than the Kingdom of Bahrain.
It started with the Manama Singers carol singing at the Dilmun Club and then the five star properties joined the party in what appears to be quite a competitive round of dazzling displays.
It’s fabulous to watch as staff members from each hotel pull out all the stops with carol singing, dancing and musicianship, watched and supported by senior management, and fully appreciated by enthusiastic crowds of onlookers.
I love ‘people watching’ and it’s an absolute joy to study the faces of families, of all races and religions, gathering together in a spirit of harmony so unique to this kingdom.
And why not? Who doesn’t love a fat man, with a white beard, pot belly and a cheerful ho, ho, ho?
I recall the first time I stepped on to Bahraini soil, exactly 13 years ago at this time of year, for that all important recce before starting the job proper in the New Year.
Like most Europeans, I had little true understanding of the Arab world apart from the research I had done for the first interview and the decades of misconceived stereotypical prejudices I had soaked up by being brought up in the West.
I was nervous and it didn’t help matters that Heathrow Airport was soulless, horrible and nasty (it’s a lot better now that Terminal 5 has opened). The people working there, from the coffee shop assistants to the security personnel, were miserable and unwelcoming.
As I joined a queue of passengers herded towards the luggage check-in I spotted only one skinny, pathetic-looking excuse for a Christmas tree on display, hidden round one of the corners. There was nothing to mark the season of goodwill on the roads leading up to the airport or at its entrance.
The bright lights of Bahrain were breathtaking in comparison. OK, they might have been put up to mark National Day, but who cares. I remember thinking, ‘wow, what a place!’
I stayed at the Gulf Hotel and also visited the Ritz-Carlton and could not believe my eyes. I still can’t when I attend the annual lights switching on ceremonies at these properties and all the others I have recently been invited to.
When I set off from Bahrain International Airport (and I hope it keeps its friendly intimacy when the big expanded facility opens next year) there was also a stunning display in Departures, with a Father Christmas on a train and delightful displays of festive fun.
I couldn’t wait to come back.
And, although I’ll soon be making a flying visit home to embrace family and friends in the UK, I know a piece of my heart will remain here in Bahrain, even for the few days I’m away … and it will forever more.
Santa Claus is the epitome of a good person. Even if everything about him is unrealistic, there's something about Santa that we would like to see in every person. His kindness and generosity knows no bounds, and let's not forget that he lives in the happiest place there is … Bahrain.
I know, I’ve personally seen him on at least a dozen occasions in recent days.
May Christmas warm your heart the whole year long and to quote award-winning author Louis Sachar: ‘Whenever you give someone a present or sing a holiday song, you're helping Santa Claus. To me, that's what Christmas is all about. Helping Santa Claus!’
GDNonline's ace videographer Ahmed Jaber Fardan had a double celebration ... he completed his first ever Ironman and then raced to the hospital after being told on the finishing line that his pregnant wife, Eman Sabah AlHaddad, was about to give birth.
Ahmed, 29, from Bani Jamra, completed the run, swim and cycle challenge in eight hours, 10 minutes and 22 seconds and despite being exhausted he managed to perform a baby swinging jiggle before collecting his medal and setting off to Salmaniya Medical Complex still wearing his sweaty tri-suit.
"I was so excited," he said. "As soon as I crossed the finishing line I got the call from my mother-in-law to hot-foot it to the hospital as Eman was just being taken into the delivery suite."
The couple's beautiful baby daughter, Sara, weighing 2.7kilos, was born on Saturday at 5.47pm, a brother to two-year-old, Adam, around three hours after the race finish.
"Mother and baby are doing just fine and Adam loves having a little sister," added Ahmed.
As for dad, he says he just needs a rest ... in between rocking the newborn!
The votes are in and the Laureus Academy will now choose the winners from the six nominees in each category that you have decided. The winners will be announced at our 20th anniversary Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin on Monday 17 February 2020.
Thank you so much for taking the time and being part of the Awards – we genuinely couldn’t do it without you. I hope the Academy agrees with your choices! Please keep an eye out for the shortlists which will be announced in January – when once again, we would love you to become an active part of the wider debate around who in the sporting world had a 2019 to remember!
LAUREUS WORLD SPORTS ACADEMY
Thomas Edison's expat mother: 'Of course I'm proud you invented the light bulb, son. Now turn it off, it's costing us a fortune.'
As a man who struggles to put an IKEA single bed frame together, I’ve always had a deep admiration for craftsmen, in fact anyone who can create things with their hands.
On my morning jog around Sanabis I recently watched with great admiration as labourers toiled to lay brick pavements around the area surrounding the exhibition centre.
They were true artisans. It would probably have been quicker just to tarmac the area but placing a single brick at a time in place, sometimes in a neat pattern, was time consuming but pretty effective.
It added a touch of class to the area which attracts thousands of visitors, particularly to big events like Jewellery Arabia, and empty waste land is opened up for the thousands of additional cars that descend on the area. People can simply step out of their cars and walk safely on the nicely paved sidewalks all the way to the centre.
It seemed like a logical and a wise investment by the municipality.
Unfortunately, everyone forgot about the pavement parkers. You’ve probably met them around the malls and in most built-up areas. When they’re not parking on roundabouts or blocking your company entrance, they’re parking on pavements.
Do they care if their 4 x 4 monsters crush the pavements recently laid? Nope.
These people don’t want to walk any distance or bother parking in allocated spaces.
Now is the time for the authorities in Bahrain to wage war on the inconsiderate drivers who simply do not care about the damage they leave behind, or the cost of the repairs that may, if budgets allow, have to be carried out.
Bring in the wheel clamp with a hefty fine for its removal. The fines will fill the coffers to carry out the necessary footpath repairs … and there might be enough left in the kitty to pay a bonus to the workmen getting down on their hands and knees to make good the damage.
THOUSANDS of music fans will once again trek down to the Bahrain Rugby Football Club for another dose of nostalgia at the latest edition of TribFest on Friday.
Lookalike acts flown in from the UK will mimic bands and performers of yesteryear and some more recent chart-toppers to the delight of the young and old alike on the grass pitch at Janabiya.
“This is the tenth edition,” said rugby club GM Derek McKenzie. “It now has a bit of a cult following, an event for people to meet up and soak up the atmosphere. The music is good and it allows people to reminisce the olden days! Each TribFest is getting bigger and bet-ter!”
Side attractions include rides for children, clowns and street entertainers mingling amid the crowds, with food and refreshment stalls, alongside families picnicking on blankets and under erected gazebos during the sunshine hours.
When dusk descends the serious party-goers take over close to the stage and the music gets rockier with acts delivering classics from Queen, the Artic Monkeys and David Bowie.
The rugby club is not the only expat club or five star hotel outlet reaping the rewards of mu-sical trips down memory lane. The recent Friday brunch at the Gulf Hotel & Convention Centre’s Sherlock Holmes featuring Bon Giovi, the ‘most authentic tribute to rock legends Bon Jovi’ sold out.
The venue is experiencing a similar stampede for places for the coming Halloween edition with a concert and brunch next Thursday and Friday featuring Abba tribute act Revival.
And the Dilmun Club in Saar will be staging the much-awaited ‘DilStock - Rock the 80s’ on Friday, November 8, with acts playing U2 and Rolling Stones classics among others.
Jamie Moore, a member of award-winning Madness tribute act Badness, who call them-selves the ‘most entertaining ska revival show’, told GDNonline: “Our success may be down to the ‘tribute’ thing although we prefer to look at it more as a nostalgia trip.
“Most tributes try to look like the act but we don’t and never have. It’s just six blokes from the north of England playing Madness and Bad Manners and ska music as close to the original recordings as we can.
“Our act is a show involving plenty of audience participation and it’s a bit like pantomime where there is room for improvisation, plus the main thing is we are all playing ‘live’, songs can be extended and random stuff can happen, so it keeps it fresh and a laugh on stage.
“What troubles me about the tribute scene is the fact that some acts actually believe they are the real thing! It’s scary ... the ego arrives before they do!
“But for me, very near my 60th birthday, to still be playing and performing in front of sell-out crowds, I feel very lucky. Badness have now been on the road for 25 years. The bottom line is … it’s probably nice to revisit your teenage days, well, so our audiences keep telling us!”
CHURCH LEADERS and environmental campaigners believe a unique ‘round-table’ discussion in Bahrain has helped them to unite and work together in a bid to help the community live in a more sustainable fashion.
Joel Kelling, the Anglican Alliance’s ‘facilitator for the Middle East’, travelled from his base in Amman, the capital city of Jordan, to address the recent inaugural gathering at St Christopher’s Junior School in Saar.
The round-table session was hosted by The Very Reverend and Venerable Dr Bill Schwartz, Dean of St Christopher’s Cathedral, who said: “The discussion was very helpful both for learning what kinds of environmental initiatives are taking place in Bahrain and identifying other ways that the community can contribute to sustainability of the environment.
“We discussed ways we can cooperate together and agreed to develop some new initiatives. We hope to meet again soon to give substance to the ideas we bounced back and forth.
“It’s important that you know it wasn’t the kind of meeting where there were proposals and resolutions and such. It was more of a fact-finding conversation and getting to know one another.”
Those present at the gathering also included Fr Xavier D’Souza – Sacred Heart Church, Pastor Isaac Inayat – National Evangelical Church, Mona Al Alawi – Bahrain Women’s Association, Esra Al Sabah – Manama Shapers, Kai Miethig – Bahrain Clean Up and David Axtell – Bahrain Anglican Church Council.
“I felt that the round-table went really well – with a lot of interest and participation across the parties represented, with a willingness to stay on and continue the conversation beyond the pre-arranged time,” said Mr Kelling.
“It was great that the need to collaborate to have the greatest impact was demonstrated by those present. There were several proposals for joint efforts on working on education, recycling, food waste and redistribution, as well as sharing ways to ‘green’ our religious spaces and practices, across the diverse faith communities in Bahrain.
“I was really encouraged by the event, and believe it is just the first of what I hope becomes a regular place of exchange between faith communities and civil society organisations to work together to respond to climate change and care for the environment.”
The round-table is set to be staged again in January, possibly with a wider base of attendees.
“The next steps are for us to continue talking, both to each other and our own groups, in order to help each other and aim to unify an approach and priorities that work for all,” added Mr Axtell.
By Stanley Szecowka
Disappointed sports-loving friends from Bahrain, all set to fly off on a Rugby World Cup adventure to Japan, decided to cancel their flights early today after their plans were dashed by Typhoon Hagibis.
British expats Paul Cockerill, Steve Holland, Martin Birch, Gareth Brown and Neil Lewis had their hearts set on watching England play France on Saturday and Scotland play Japan on Sunday - and were all set to make a 20-hour journey.
Mr Cockerill said: “We are obviously all gutted having to cancel. We made the final decision this morning at 6.30am after the announcement that World Rugby had confirmed the cancellation.”
It is the first time in the competition’s 32-year history matches have been called off prior to kick-off. As well as the England-France clash, the New Zealand versus Italy game was also kicked into touch.
A decision on Scotland against Japan will be taken on Sunday, the day it is scheduled to take place, with Rugby World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin saying that game will also be cancelled if conditions are still bad.
He said: “We won’t treat that match any differently if it can’t be played.
“Hagibis is predicted to be the biggest typhoon of the 2019 season and is highly likely to cause considerable disruption in the Tokyo, Yokohama and City of Toyota areas throughout Saturday, including likely public transport shutdown or disruption.
“It is an exceptional, complex and rapidly evolving situation and team and public safety is the number one priority. All fans with tickets for a cancelled match will receive a full refund for the face value of their match tickets.”
The Bahrain party had splashed out BD320 each on tickets for the two games they were hoping to watch. They will also receive a refund for their Cathay Pacific flights, which would have included a transit in Hong Kong.
“I would obviously want the Scotland game to play out to conclusion as it has all the signs to be a great game,” said Mr Cockerill, managing director, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, at Altrad.
“But no-one can predict the weather and every team signed up to the rules.”
On the weather front, Typhoon Hagibis is bringing 160mph violent winds, gusting to nearly 200mph (hurricane equivalent of a Category 5), and it is forecast to make landfall near Tokyo on Saturday evening.
On the rugby front, the cancellation means the games will go down as 0-0 draws and tens of thousands of fans will miss out watching either live, at home or in sports lounges across the world.
In Pool C, France will be denied the chance to win the group by beating England, though the latter were favourites to win the game.
It also means New Zealand win Pool B and Italy are out of the World Cup. Italy could theoretically still have qualified for the quarter finals by beating New Zealand, as improbable as this was.
And it means we now have a clearer picture of the quarter final line-ups, barring some extremely unlikely results.
Wales will play France, unless they inconceivably lose to Uruguay, and England will play Australia.
New Zealand and South Africa will each play one of Japan, Scotland and Ireland. Ireland’s match against Samoa will go ahead as scheduled.
Stanley Louis Szecowka
Editor/Journalist & Blogger, Restaurant & Motors Reviewer, FinTech Writer, Manager, Trainer.
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