As the weather heats up and the family heads north for the summer, Murray Garrard gives you 13 great ways to play while the tribe is away
Summer in the Gulf can be a long, hot and dusty affair, not least if your family has decamped to cooler climes and left you to hold the fort (and hold down a job) in the 45 degree heat. But, here’s a thought: rather than seeing the summer as socially stagnant, something to be stoic about it, why not see the departure of the controlling wife and the screaming brats for what it really is – freedom. In case you needed any help filling those vacant hours with fun, fun, fun, we give you 13 great ways to turn up the heat when you’re home alone.
1 All night disco: They no longer play the Bee Gees on a night out. And most people in the clubs these days know you best as their classmate’s father. Fortunately, clubbing is a bit like riding a bike: if you’ve wobbled around the dance floor before then chances are you’ll have no problem wobbling across it again. And since all modern music is rubbish and sounds the same, it’s not as though you need to spend months listening to Top of the Pops in preparation for your big return. The best thing about being an old fogey in a young person’s game is that you no longer have to care about what make your jeans are or how you have your hair cut – no one will be sizing you up as competition because you are so far out of their league.
You wear the mask of experience, and earn more in a day than most of the young guys make in pocket money in a lifetime. And since you have the cash to make a splash, you’ll find yourself swarming with new friends. Coral Beach Club (Al Fateh Highway, 17 312 700) has the best parties on the island, while Bushido (Seef, 17 583 555) remains a good launch pad for the rest of the night. But to prove age is no impediment to stamina, you’ll want to head to Ground Zero (Phonecia Tower Hotel, 17 311 666), which parties hard till six in the morning.
2 Thrill chaser: What’s the difference between marriage and a padded cell? Anyone who’s been married for more than a week will tell you: very little. A year in, your wife starts sounding like your mother (or, worse, hers); a decade later and you realise you’ve bred little bouncers. First you are forced to wear a seat belt even when reversing. Next you’re wearing kneepads and a helmet to mow the lawn. Doesn’t it all sometimes make you want to kill yourself? Except, not. Bahrain might not be the world hub of extreme sports, but if you want to get behind the wheel and break-neck it like Button, then there are few better places. The BIC (Sakhir, 17 450 000) holds regular open track days where you can belt round in your own car, or be driven by a professional racer. If it is the ocean you’re after, hit the Bahrain Yacht Club (Sitra, 17 700 677) for a spot of power boating.
3 Bachelors Abroad: The term family holiday is an oxymoron. Not least if your definition of holiday is a relaxing and enjoyable break. Thanks to the fact that most holidays don’t involve an office, your exposure to the tribe and their tantrums is practically unavoidable. What most people don’t realise is that real holidays don’t involve relatives at all: they involve mates. The Middle East might not offer the biggest party destinations on the planet, but if you have a long weekend and are looking for a bachelor bash, then there are a range of options that you can get to with ease from Bahrain.
Rome: The Eternal City is one of the most culturally significant centres of human civilisation on the planet. If you’re not left dumb-struck by the Colosseum, then you are guaranteed to be blown away by the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. YAWN. Why ruin a good holiday by spending it listening to a tour guide wittering on in bad English? The Italians know how to party – just look at their president. Now if he doesn’t set the precedent for a wild weekend, nobody does. Fly Gulf Air direct to Rome.
Ayia Napa: They don’t call Ayia Napa the Holy Valley for nothing. With one of the highest concentrations of party animals in the Mediterranean, this Cypriot resort is heaven for anyone looking to relive their youth. Clubs that never close, beaches almost as stunning as the crowd lying on them, and some of the best music in Europe (not that you’ll notice it), attracts swarms of young people every summer. Fly Gulf Air direct to Larnaca; Aiya Napa is roughly a 50km drive from the airport.
Beirut: It might have taken a beating in recent years, but the Lebanese capital is bouncing back. Teeming with some of the best bars in the world, brand new boutique hotels and the beautiful Beirutis, the city is back on the map as the destination of Europe’s jet set. Fly Gulf Air direct to Beirut.
Berlin: You didn’t ‘do’ Berlin when you were younger because, at the time you were ready to strike off the city, there was an almighty wall slicing it in two. Fortunately the wall’s since been knocked down and the club scene is coming in from the cold. Sure, it is stacked with history, but it also has that blend of Eastern European vulgarity about it that you have always found so appealing in the youth. Fly Lufthansa via Frankfurt to Berlin.
4 Bloke shops: Strange how, when you start a family, your finances suddenly come under closer public scrutiny than if you were on bail for money laundering. You hadn’t checked your bank statements for a decade before you got married. Now they’ve usurped her favourite celebrity gossip rag when it comes to being scrutinised. Itemised telephone bills, internet history logs, bank statements – they are all fundamental breaches of human privacy rights when thrown in the maelstrom of marriage.
Fortunately, with the family half way around the world, your credit card becomes yours again. Remind yourself, how much was that smart phone you’ve had your eye on? And (horror!) what if there’s a run on Maseratis? She’s spent the last five years clocking up a card’s worth of credit on creams. And when you tally that up, it’s almost as much as a down payment for a Mercedes. Remember: if you don’t have a receipt then you can’t take it back.
5 Suck on a shisha: Ever since you were deceived into marrying a nicotine patch in the shape of a woman, you’ve been condemned to carrying around a minty breath squirt and a can of strong deodorant. You’ve been reduced to hanging your head out of the top bathroom window at three in the morning when you’re certain she’s asleep. Sure, smoking kills, but it is nothing compared to the effect of being nagged. Smoking is part of the Arabic culture, something she’s been commanding you to immerse yourself in for the past few years. Hook yourself up with a hookah pipe (the best place to buy one is Sian Antiques & Handicrafts on the Mezzanine Floor in the Gold Souq, 17 213 868) and transform your living room with traditional majlis. When she returns, remind her that the oldest person on record (Jeanne Clement) gave up smoking aged 117. That should silence the cancer scare. 6 Get surgery: Nose jobs are for narcissists. And if anyone ever offered you a face lift you’d give them one in return. Except, Robert Redford is looking rather young these days. And you can’t help admiring what they’ve done with Matt Dillon’s schnoz. Besides, all blokes have their teeth whitened in the twenty-first century. And while some woman’s scraping at your teeth, why not kill two birds and have another fill your face with botox. It only takes a week to have your beer breasts shrunk, and they can pop in a synthetic six pack in the process. Couple that with full body laser hair removal, a chemical face peel, a little bit of lipo, a tiny little tummy tuck to tidy up the spare tyres and a few tufts of transplanted hair to hide away that bald patch at the Bahrain Specialist Hospital’s Cosmetic Surgery Unit (17 812 009) and the wife will think she’s married to Schwarznegger. Now that will teach her for calling you a fat, lazy lump.
7 Veg out: The best thing about the term veg out is that it sounds like a detox and yet there isn’t a leaf of lettuce in sight. Vegging out means the most physical exercise you do is flicking the switch on the doofer. It means burgers and fries, pizza for breakfast and not worrying about farting. It means watching TV until two in the morning and cancelling the cleaner in case she distracts you with the sound of the hoover. New research has revealed we are more genetically linked to Neanderthals than scientists first thought. In which case, we’re practically programmed to perform primitive forms of procrastination.
8 Pump up the volume: You’ve spent the last decade with the volume turned so low, you thought you’d gone deaf. What with the kids passing out at sunset, the wife with the perennial migraine and the neighbours who can’t stand anything that sounds even remotely like an electric guitar, marriage has felt like an induction into an order of the Trappist Monks. But with the whole lot dispatched elsewhere, stick on that old rock favourite and feel free to scream the house down. No one will hear you…
9 Be a good sport: Being married rewrites the laws of television programming. Some people refer to it as Sod’s Law. Others file for divorce. Before she moved in, you hadn’t missed an FA Cup final since the age of seven. Since she moved in, it’s as though the game’s become extinct. plus there’s the demise of the Snooker World Championship, the Rugby World Cup, the Indian Premier League, and the PGA Golf Tour. There’s the Ice Hockey Finals and the Darts World Final. There’s the Welsh Bog Snorkelling Championships and The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake. Prior to becoming prisoner in your own home, all of these events were streamed live into your living room, and there was never any question of not watching them because there was nothing else on that was even remotely worth watching.
But since she arrived, television programmers from across the globe all conspired to air that soap that she can’t live without, that chat show she absolutely loves, documentaries on knitting and pruning, and the Antiques Roadshow at exactly the same time as any kind of sporting contest. Meaning the best part of the weekend is spent boiling to death following the game in Arabic on the car radio. While she’s gone, take full ownership of the remote control. Better yet, get yourself down to the local bar and turn it into an occasion (Bahrain’s best sports bars?). This summer is the last time for a while you’ll see your team score.
10 Indulge in some mood food: You are what you eat, apparently. But you caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror recently, and you didn’t notice a bloated chipolata staring back. That said, the connection between what you eat and the way you look is not to be entirely dismissed. The correlation, for example, between the size of your wife’s rump and the amount of chocolate ice cream gone from the freezer is certainly proof of something. But how about a new theory: what you eat can change the way you feel? And in this regard, there’s no better litmus test than aphrodisiacs.
Sure, a dish of oysters and ginseng might not be everybody’s cup of tea. But millions of Chinese swear by it (and consequently live in the most populous nation on Earth). In the name of science, take a good friend out to dinner (one of the best and most authentic Chinese restaurants is Beijing Chinese in Adliya, 17 717 969) and fill up on shellfish and Asian herbs.
11 Home away from home: Remember the nights of your youth? When you were feeling tired and emotional, you didn’t have to fumble in your back pocket for the piece of paper on which you had scribbled your address. You didn’t have to fork out the earth for a taxi because you’d had a little snooze in the back while the driver had been doing circuits of Bahrain Island. You would give yourself up to gravity and drop where you felt like it: a friend’s toilet, repeatedly, or somebody’s lawn. The central reservation of a motorway on one occasion, if memory serves you correctly. How times have changed. Now, if you’re not tucked up by midnight you can forget forever your right to your share of the duvet.
And if you ever happen to have a little accident and bring it all back up in bed, say hello to the sofa for the rest of your life. These summer months spell freedom, not just from the family but also from their home. You are also free of the frugality imposed upon you by youth. Out on the town and feeling a little sleepy? Check into a hotel and call it a holiday. At least in hotels the lauded tradition of breakfast in bed lives on.
And two for the ladies...
12 Try a super spa: You’ve bought up three children, spent decades working nightshifts, cooked supper every night for the past fifteen years and been ravaged by the menopause. And your husband can’t understand why you don’t look like Demi Moore. Sure, if you had spent your life doing Pilates in a milk bath while being fed on a collagen drip then you might have been in with a fighting chance. But the occasional late-night face mask and the periodic removal of unwanted facial hair is only going to do so much. If you really want to see the years drop away, you’ll need the help of a professional, preferably one that is trained in the arts of massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and silence (nothing worse than the masseuse wittering on while you are trying to have a spot of meditation). Forget spas that allow in the occasional metrosexual male: for the real deal and some peace and quiet, head to a women-only spa such as Dessange in Adliya (17 713 999).
13 Ladies night!: You’re a feminist, and proud of it. The inequality of the sexes has, for far too long, been completely unacceptable and something you abhor. Of course, with every down there is an up. But how many times recently, for instance, have you been forced to pay for your own drink? Fortunately, while the men have lost their manners, Bahrain’s bars have not. Ladies nights, those bastions of decency, know how to treat women right. And if you play your cards well, you can be out every night without spending a dinar (see the nightlife listings for a comprehensive list of ladies nights in Bahrain).
The summer in numbers
8 The date, in July, when most schools break up and the family flies home 9 The average number of weeks most men are on their own in the Gulf each year (which works out as a fifth of a year, approx.) 70 The average price of a decent hotel room in Bahrain 21 The number of high-octane Friday brunches to be found on the island. See p36 for a pick of the best 4,100 Price, in BD, of a Rolex Daytona Cosmograph 35 The age at which most men begin to display symptoms of a mid-life crisis 140 The average price of a return flight on Gulf Air between Bahrain and Beirut 18 The number of Thursday and Friday nights over the long summer break when you’ll be on your tod52,300 Price, in BD, of a Masterati GranCabiro convertible: surely affordable...