From Bahrain to Saudi Arabia on the King Fahd Causeway

Posted by - April 8, 2013 | Category: Bahrain, Escapes, Middle East

I’d secretly love to catch a glimpse into life in Saudi Arabia, but with my big mouth and liberal leanings, this is probably as close as I’m going to get — the King Fahd Causeway linking Saudi Arabia with Bahrain.

For a mere 2 Bahraini dinars (about 5 bucks) anyone with access to a car and an ounce of curiosity can make their way to what’s dubbed Passport Island, the man-made no-man’s land that acts as border control for truckers, sheiks, day-trippers, and looky-loos like me.

finger pointing rightIf you don’t have access to a car, Uber is now operating in Manama. Uber does offer a promotion for new riders — sign up for Uber service and receive up to €10 off your first ride using the promo code RAYMONDW62

King Fahd Causeway Bahrain

The big draw here at the halfway point of the 25km causeway is the observation deck at the tower restaurant. There’s an exact replica of the tower on the Saudi side too — presumably so Saudi men can get a gander at Bahraini women riding bikes, driving cars, and other activities only fit for infidels.

Kingdom of Bahrain and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sign

Regarding the ban of Saudi women driving cars, I found this handy list of reasons outlining exactly why the ban is in place, compliments of Wikipedia:

  1. Driving a car involves uncovering the face. (one would hope)
  2. Driving a car may lead women to go out of the house more often. (or they could just drive around the house)
  3. Driving a car may lead women to have interaction with non-mahram males, for example at traffic accidents. (a “non-mahram” is any male who isn’t a close relative)
  4. Women driving cars may lead to overcrowding the streets and many young men may be deprived of the opportunity to drive. (oh the humanity, we wouldn’t want to deprive anyone now would we?)
  5. Driving would be the first step in an erosion of traditional values, such as gender segregation. (yes because where there are women drivers, the gays can’t be far behind)

Tower Restaurant King Fahd Causeway Bahrain

But I digress.

Entrance to Tower Restaurant King Fahd Causeway Bahrain

Saudi madness notwithstanding, I still wanted to get a peek at it. And the smiley chap above was more than happy to take my 200 fils (about 50 cents) to help me do it.

This is what you get for your 50 cents — a hazy view through windows in desperate need of Windex.

King Fahd Causeway looking at Saudi Tower Restaurant

If you squint, you can actually see the outline of buildings on the other side. And if the breeze works in your favour, you’ll also catch the slightest whiff of oil money and human rights violations wafting across the Gulf.

Looking toward Saudi Arabia King Fahd Causeway Bahrain

Library Books Reading VintageTo read more about the chap who brought Saudi Arabia into the “modern” world and created the oil powerhouse, check out Ibn Saud: The Desert Warrior Who Created the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Passport Control King Fahd Causeway Bahrain

Turns out the better view was back towards Bahrain.

Looking east on King Fahd Causeway Bahrain

It’s probably the better place to be anyway. Let’s make that DEFINITELY the better place to be.

I tooled around Bahrain in a rental car from who obviously offer car rentals outside of the UK as well. 

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60 comments - add one
    1. When in Rome, do as the Romans do

      ever heard of this?

      They are tax free country that is why a lot of European and US nationals would like to live there and save themselves for paying taxes back home..

      In any case you are the one who is going to get something more out of it. So appreciate the country who offer yous some opportunity to save you some pennies.

  1. I was impressed with the specially-appointed KFC landing pad in that last pic! “Get that chopper down here NOW!!! There’s a shipment of centre breasts and coleslaw coming, and you know how the king gets when we run low on THOSE!! GO, GO, GO!!!!”

  2. Really, I am so thankful that I get away with the crazy female capers I get up to here in the US! The other day my hand brushed the hand of an old man on the street. I’m just giggly (and nervous with the threat of stoning) just thinking of it!

  3. Speaking from personal experience, they don’t always uncover their faces when they drive. I’ve seen many a covered face in the UAE. It was downright scary.

    1. Well that’s mildly frightening. They don’t put their kids in car seats or seat belts either. I always see have a dozen of ’em in the back window of any given car. Plus the Mom holding the baby (a la Britney Spears) in the front seat.

  4. It would obviously be totally unfair to infringe anybody rights. Those poor young men not being able to drive because the roads are filled with women actually being given any equality! Grrrr at Saudi Arabia

    1. It is indeed — I found this on a Saudi Arabia visa site: “Visas for tourism are issued only for approved tour groups following organized itineraries. Airport and seaport visas are not available. All visas require a sponsor, can take several months to process, and must be obtained prior to arrival.”

  5. I get so angry when speaking of Saudi Arabia, because the entire world knows it’s human rights violations yet it’s BFF with the damn USA. I hate how we turn a blind eye to everything we stand for to make an extra buck. I wish the USA would put sanctions on Sauid Arabia for all the violations. Now that would be a 1st in our governments affair with greed.

  6. Can I laugh any harder at your commentary of the Wiki facts? I understand that I can’t go into Saudi unless working for a company (and thus have a proper visa), am with my husband, or with my father.

    What the hell? I guess Jordan is as close as I’m going to get to that damn country.

  7. I have some friends working in Saudi and Bahrain. Didn’t know about the rule wherein girls are not allowed to drive.

  8. Now that is a cool road/bridge but I have to say your wordsmithing is what keeps me coming back.

    Ex: “And if the breeze works in your favour, you’ll also catch the slightest scent of oil money and human rights violations wafting across the Gulf.”

    Fantastic imagery!

  9. I think even if you are in labour or other medical emergency you are not permitted to drive yourself to the hospital or get into a taxi unless a male family member is with you. It’s better to die at home in agony then shame your family by exposing yourself to the unrelated male species! Makes me want to puke.

  10. And yes. I’ve seen many many a loose child in cars in the UAE. It never got easier to understand. But it is all the will of Allah. It’s funny as I’ve always felt Allah would want my kids in car seats and seatbelts.

  11. Oh, Saudi Arabia. I met a girl who used to work there as part of a US government, and she said she’d never want to go back. Tough place for women.

  12. My Bahraini friends pop across the bridge to Saudi for lunch and shopping every once in a while. Other than that, there’s not much to see right there, apparently. Still, I remember standing on that bridge and really wanting to have a look inside for myself.

  13. Strangely, I just did a muscle car tour with a guy from Saudi Arabia obsessed with cars. Did not occur to me that the women were unable to develop the same hobby.

  14. Loving your commentary Raymond! I was fascinated at staring off in the distance toward Saudia Arabia when I was in Dahab a few years ago. Very interesting to read about how close you can get…

    1. I was in Eilat many years ago and was fascinated with it back then too. I remember a guy swam out past the half point to the Saudi side and their version of the coast guard came out to shoo him back. Good times.

  15. “And if the breeze works in your favour, you’ll also catch the slightest scent of oil money and human rights violations wafting across the Gulf. ”

    I seriously let out the loudest cackle with this.

    I would be curious as well.

  16. After this lovely post you for sure cant pay them a visit any time soon. Just saying.

    Great post, very eloquently explained the problem with women driving.

  17. Such a funny post. Love the humour added to your list. It is a real shame about the driving ban women have in Saudi. In this day and age just simply mad!

  18. This is my type of post Raymond and first time to see it. I love stuff like this!! And would do this myself if I make it to Bahrain someday. Met a guy who lives in Saudi Arabia recently (when I was in Ethiopia) and he’s there on a work visa, which he reckons is the only way for a person from US or Canada to get in. Not sure about British or Irish though. I was aware of the ban, but didnt realise it was only in Saudi, I thought there were other countries women couldn’t drive in. Safe travels. Jonny

  19. As someone who has been over that causeway a few too many times I can tell you that you’re missing absolutely nothing. It’s just a whole lot crapper and more boring on the other side – the roads are crap, the driving worse, and the food terrible. Funny, we used to drive back every Wednesday evening for the Saudi weekend and despite the horrendous 2-hour border queue exodus of Saudis going to drink and pick up ladies in Bahrain, those 2 hours were the happiest of the week. Every second brought us closer to sanity – even the water seemed bluer, and the sky less gloomy on the Bahraini side!

  20. I never thought of going up that tower. I worked in Saudi for 1.5yrs and its not worth the trip across let me tell you! The country is more or less a dump. Nothing nice in it except sand. The way they treat women is disgraceful but on your main point about women driver is not quite as simple. You touch on it above. Women dont have any other jobs which is a bigger problem and issue and this includes being police. If there is an accident then you need women police. This is to identify the women (so the interaction you mention doesnt happen), a tradition which I dont agree with but with the other issues outlined its hardly even worth talking about.

  21. One of the funniest commentaries I have read in awhile! How absurd (and ironic) is it that this bridge connects two Islamic nations together where one has one of the most oppressive regimes following Sharia law and the other is one of the most socially liberal nations on the planet just so that they can attract more foreign investment and tourists. Is this bridge really just a test from Allah? 😀


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