Bahrain: Popular stop with sailors
BAHRAIN — Some resident sailors stationed here call Bahrain a mixture of Las Vegas meets New Orleans meets Tijuana.
There’s just something for everyone, from the bright, neon lights of the skyline at night to the surprising number of clubs and pubs in this predominately Muslim kingdom.
But there’s more to this country of nearly 700,000 which — faced with declining oil reserves, has turned to international banking and finance; outlets of entertainment and relaxation — also makes it an optimum port visit for Navy ships transiting in and out of the Middle East.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Favro, 36, has dabbled in several liberty programs, “from shopping to drinking to lounging and relaxing and taking a break,” said the operations specialist for the cruiser USS Anzio, in port since late February.
“I just want to take a break from everyday ship life, get out and explore.”
He’s shopped the Bahraini malls for souvenirs and hit the recently expanded Navy Exchange at Naval Support Activity Bahrain for items he won’t find in the ship’s small store, items such as shoe insoles and an MP3 player armband.
And he’s treated himself to the ever-popular suit market.
“I got a tailor-made double-breasted suit for $80, a suit that back home you’d pay $400. Back home, you can maybe get a shirt for $80.”
After he completes an upcoming tour in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he intends to seek orders to this archipelago in the Persian Gulf. He likes it that much.
It’s a busy port. Between 40 and 45 U.S. and coalition ships — of which roughly two-thirds are American — patrol about 2.5 million square miles of international waters from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, said Lt. Denise Garcia, a fleet spokeswoman.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Rafel Trice has had nine port visits to Bahrain. He never tires of it, he said.
“I like the mall, it has everything,” said Trice, also from the Anzio. “This place is getting better and better every time I come back.”
The visiting sailors hit several popular nightclubs and the local Information, Tickets and Travel office arranges a number of tours too, from camel farms and a go-cart racing track to an ice-skating rink.
And the souqs, or open-air market places, are incredibly popular, offering tourists an array of gold jewelry, silk cloths and Mideast knickknacks and souvenirs. Several hotels have pools available for day use.
But some sailors, such as Petty Officer 3rd Class Chris Nies, look after more mundane needs. He visited the ever-busy base laundromat to do three loads of backlogged laundry.