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Around the island in 24 hours
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When leading British travel photographer James Davis decided to go on a round-the-clock tour of Bahrain, he wanted to capture a true flavour of the country on film. We join him on his odyssey that took him to places few tourists even know about.


In my 35 years as a travel photographer, I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit many countries around the world - more than 80 at last count. Few countries, though, come even close to matching Bahrain for its warmth and friendliness, and I was delighted at my most recent opportunity to visit this island nation, my third trip here.

In the course of my visit, I met up with an expatriate couple from Australia who were winding down in Bahrain after three years in the country. They, like me, were keen on visiting both the well-known attractions as well as Bahrain's more unusual sites to add to their scrapbook of memories before they headed home. It was then that the idea of a round-the-clock island tour was born.

And so it was that I found myself setting my alarm for 3am, an early start for our 24-hour tour. My line of work means that I have to be prepared to get the shots I need, no matter what time of day or night. Even so, I must say that Bahrain is one of the few island countries where it is worthwhile being up at that hour.

A 'Bacha' breakfast: The reason for the early start is to visit Bahrain's fish market, and witness the fresh catch being brought in. On our way we pass the Pearl Monument, subtly lit against the dark night sky - indeed I thought it lived up to its name better seeing it this way than the more usual way in daylight.

Despite our early start, by the time we arrive at the fish market, the bringing in of the catch is already well under way. It is amazing to witness the variety of shapes, sizes and multitude of colours of the fish. The sight and smell of the fresh catch somehow invigorates the senses.

What makes it more interesting for a photographer is the fact that Bahraini people, in the main, love having their photographs taken. I had already learnt this on my previous visits, and the fish market, even at 4am, is no exception. As usual on asking the fishermen to hold up a fine specimen or two for more interesting shots they are only too pleased, encouraged as they were with the amusement and good humour of their colleagues.

We cannot stay too long as it is time to move on for an early breakfast. This is not, however, the usual breakfast of cereal or muesli ... In fact this is a very special Bahraini style traditional breakfast known as Bacha.

What makes it unusual is that it is only available before 5am! There cannot be many places in the world with a traditional breakfast at his hour; in fact there are only a few places in Bahrain where Bacha is available. The restaurant we are dining at is in Jidhafs village, and believe it or not, the place is quite full even at 4.30am. Yes, Bacha is certainly popular - one local has been heard to say that if he didn't have it at least once every three days he comes down with a headache!

So, doing as the Bahrainis did, we break up a quantity of the local flat bread into a bowl and join the queue at a very large urn of what appears to be heated meat soup. This is then dispensed onto our bowl of bread and mixed in deftly and thoroughly to a good consistency. One can eat it in the traditional way with the fingers although I prefer using a fork. The Bacha tasted fine, warm and was spiced just enough for that time of the morning. (Only later did I learn that the major ingredients of Bacha are sheep's head and legs boiled in a special way for hours - something that could put off some Western visitors though I have to say it would be missing a unique experience).





 
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