Every 30 days or less, a standard Saudi business visa runs out. This means you must leave the country or risk a big fine (£5000) and a few years ban (5 years – some would say a good reason to do it) just for overstaying your welcome.
The simple way to renew is to get a 700 SAR (around £150) U turn to Bahrain in a local taxi out of Saudi into Bahrain and immediately back.
My friend Pete came up with another cunning plan. He drives, we get the visa and spend some time in Bahrain for a similar amount of money inc partake of some of the items missing from normal every day life in Saudi Arabia. Beer Bacon and women drivers.
This is the shortened version of what happened. The long version will probably become the start of some epic novel some day.
We set off on Friday Morning around nine (Friday is Saudi’s Saturday), still a little worse for wear from the night before. Least said the better.
The journey to the island of Bahrain is across a 26Km = 14 mile Causeway built by King Fahad (or some of his workers) in the mid 80’s which to be honest is a magnificent piece of engineering.
Pete has a beautiful classic Ford Mustang with a roaring engine so it was a delight apart from it being black and attracting the heat from the high 40’s or more temperatures the moment the air con was off.
The black steering wheel is also hot and untouchable for a while before it can be driven.
As we turned onto the Causeway road Queue 1 was the toll booth
After a few miles and bridges etc we arrived at the midway Border island station which has both borders and a McDonalds and a few supermarkets. It also looks like it is expanding like a lot of middle east islands – who knows what it will become – maybe a nother midway country.
Queue 2 was the Saudi Passport (they stamp you out)
Queue 3 was the Saudi Customs
Queue 4 was the Bahrain Passport where I had to buy a visa for 50 whatevers (I think I paid in SAR and it was about £10 but I declined the hot walk to the office to get a receipt).
Queue 5 was Bahrain customs with a sweet little dog sniffing bumpers.
Yippee we made it out of Saudi and I had an exit stamp to prove it.
Next we drove to one of the towns of Bahrain and found the hotel. It had been selected for it’s reasonable price and good location and the Friday afternoon Brunch from 12.00 – 16.00 where all food and drink (inc beer and wine) was included. Now this was good as Saudi Arabia totally bans alcohol so we hadn’t seen real commercial alcohol for some time…
We even both got upgraded for free to a suite with sitting room and kitchen
After a quick dip in the roof top pool we tried out all the food including the Prawn LED Prick.
There was something like a dozen main course with starters and deserts in the desert
Eventually; some time after four thirty we were persuaded there was no more food or drink and we should leave and Pete was crowned King (Lushious but Smooth).Fetzer Merlot.
The rest of the evening was spent recovering and exploring Starbucks and buying some collectable mugs and visiting some other outlets down American Alley. One which advertised they had a big range of Tesco Finest (but sadly no value lager).
Saturday morning we were up – not early but up – and headed for the British club where I was sadly turned away (prob not British enough or because I was not a member). There was an old British post box though.
The post box still seemed to have some collection information in arabic. Now I think of it I remember in my stamp collecting days that I had some QE2 stamps overprinted with Bahrain. There were also some other throwbacks to British links. It became a British protectorate back in 1892 when they opened a post office and only became independant in 1971.
We did manage to get a full Irish breakfast with bacon, pork sausages and Guinness in Bennigan’s Irish American bar. Now this was good because Saudi Arabia totally bans pork.I have to say things which are banned do tend to taste better when you get them early on a Saturday (your Sunday).
Next Pete took me to a beach for a paddle. We were the only ones stupid enough to be out in the sun and the water was bath temperature so we didnt stay long.
We also had a quick look at a fort but it was too hot to walk about so declined payng for the priveledge of being cooked alive and retreated to the car again.
One thing to watch out for is the appearance of women drivers in Bahrain – Now Saudi Arabia totally bans women drivers in fact they are not usually allowed in the front seats even. We did find this ancient mode of transport lurking beside a car park.
Next was the Novelty pork shop. In a supermarket there was a hidden away corner with pork of all kinds. If one was to buy some you could have it “Wrapped for Saudi.” Which includes removing bar codes and rebadgeing it as turkey slices or veal bacon – nothing with pork in anyway
Then it was off to the Rugby club where I was turned away again (sorry Pete either for not looking like a rugby player or not being a member.) LOOK THOUGH – That is real grass and continually watered to keep it green.
From here we headed to the F1 circuit and managed to slide in for a few selfies before thrashing the Mustang round the track at top speed with some handbrake turn doughnuts (in our dreams)
Next stop was another Aladins cave pork shop with a larger range of scratchings and pork things I had never dreamed of in tins, chilled or frozen. Of course it even means things like Hawaiin Pizzas are banned in Saudi. Some of the difficulty is actually transporting the pork without it being cooked on the way or confiscated. Many have cool boxes just for this reason. Of course we stayed well clear of all things pork for the journey home.
Now was time to complete our initial main mission. To head back across the causeway to Saudi for my new entry visa.
We collected the paper proving we had nothing of contraband from Bahrain and queued again at every checkpoint Bahrain Passport, Saudi Passport, Saudi customs where there was a thorough inspection by a very hot officer of the contents of the boot. No dog could smell any bacon cooking anywhere in our engine compartment so we were sent on our way with my Shiny new visa.so I can head back that way unimpeded in a week or so.
Apparently there are a lot of accidents on the way back as people unfamiarly tanked and topped up from Bahrain attempt to run the causeway.
All in all Bahrain really does mean all the B’s Beer and Bacon – Thanks King Fetzer for a wonderful insight into the more creative elements of the visa run and here is to all those who choose to join in the fun of the run.
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