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By Sarah Clarke » One gorgeous morning, as I walked along the beach and watched a new day dawn in Bahrain, it struck me how in a very short space of time the island had got under my skin and it already felt like home.
Who would have thought three months ago I’d be enjoying the beautiful spectacle of the sun casting its golden rays on the buildings of the new Bahrain Financial Centre, listening to the gentle lapping of the waters of the Gulf against the fishing boats drifting along the shore line and watching Bahrainis taking their horses for exercise in the sea? Not something you see everyday in the leafy suburb of London I’ve left behind.
The latest chapter of my “trailing spouse” existence began nine months ago with a telephone call from my husband describing Bahrain: “It’s smaller than Singapore, it’s hot, there’s lots of sand, the houses are big and you can buy everything here.” Short, to the point but omitting all the little essentials I’ve discovered in the process of building a new life for us here.
With five international moves under my belt, I’ve learnt preparation is the key to a smooth relocation. So it was off to the local store for books on Bahrain and the Gulf region and onto the internet to trawl for information: Just what was I going to need to survive? [See ‘Useful Info’ spread over the rest of this section].
Arriving on a hot, sultry night in late May, with the prospect of a long, hot summer looming, I quickly realized that my biggest challenge was going to be adjusting to the heat – nothing quite prepares you for 45oC or more than 95% humidity.
On that first night, I was whisked through all the entry formalities at the airport by a “Meet and Greet Service”. This was lucky as I’d forgotten the five Bahrain dinars I needed to pay for my initial three month entry visa. (For full details of visa requirements check the Ministry of Immigration’s website www.evisa.gov.bh. A quick overview of the various visas can be found at www.bahraintourism.com/visa.htm).
By the end of my second week in Bahrain my temporary visa was changed into a two-year residence visa by the extremely helpful staff at the company where my husband works. They filled in and submitted all the paperwork: All I had to do was provide my passport and lots of photographs.
After my visa the most important document I have is my CPR (Central Population Registry) card. I carry it with me at all times as I’m asked for it almost every where I go. You need it, and copies of it, in just about every situation – from opening a bank account and renting a house, to joining a club or getting medical treatment. Again my husband’s employer took care of the formalities. This left me with nothing to do but… explore!
I’ve found that the best way to learn about a place is to hit the pavements. Unfortunately, this is not an option in Bahrain as it’s too hot three months of the year, places are spread out and major highways crisscross the island. So I took to the road in a rental car, driving on an international license pending getting a local one, which turned out to be very straightforward. (Go to the Traffic Department in Isa Town, first thing in the morning if you don’t want a long wait).