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Nowadays I encourage people visiting Bahrain to make a point of going to the Museum where actual burial mounds can be seen as well as rooms full of wonderful examples of life in Bahrain over the years. In my opinion, the rooms featuring the history, archaeology, pearl fishing, flora and fauna, and the lifestyle all sum up Bahrain beautifully. I always say to people who do not know the country that if they are there for just a day or two, a visit to the museum is a must since it encapsulates and captures the flavour of the best of Bahrain.
Awali was a small town, populated mostly by expats from around the world whose skills were employed in the setting up and running of the refinery. All the manual skilled trades were represented in Awali, as were doctors, dentists, nurses, secretaries, accountants and schoolteachers. From as early as the late Forties, all the homes and offices within Awali were fully air conditioned and it was a magical place to spend formative years. I have heard in recent times that Awali was the very first totally air conditioned town in the world.
Sport was important at Awali School and swimming, cricket, football, hockey, tennis, badminton and squash were available to all Awali residents. Films were shown in the outdoor cinema, which of course meant after dark, and I remember taking blankets and hot water bottles in order to keep warm at the cinema on cold winter nights.
To go shopping in Manama my friends and I would take the bus from Awali. The bus stop in Manama was on the edge of the sea opposite Bab Al Bahrain. This was where the fleet of fishing dhows were anchored. This area is now part of the land reclaimed from the sea and where we used to see dhows bobbing up and down now there is the post office and car park.
At even as young as eight years old, we were perfectly safe to wander around the souk, spending our pocket money in the small hole-in-the-wall shops. We shopped and bartered for sweets, toys, nuts, hair clips, ribbons and the like. Many of the stores I remember from then, such as Jashanmals, Novelty Stores, Moon Stores, Lucky Stores, Bastaki, Koshabi and Ashrafs, are still very much part of the Bahrain scene.
One of my earliest memories is going with my mother fairly soon after we arrived in Bahrain to choose a carpet from Jashanmals and I also remember saving my pocket money to buy my first camera, a much coveted Brownie 125 from Ashrafs.
In the back of the Ashrafs store on Bab Al Bahrain road there was a small, air conditioned drinks area along the lines of an American soda fountain which had some booths and a counter with high stools where we would have a cold drink before it was time to take the bus back to Awali. My drink of choice then was cherryade and on the very rare occasions I have a drink of cherryade nowadays, I am, in my mind, transported back to Ashrafs in Manama circa 1950s.