At a glance the Gulf States in the region all seem pretty much the same, apart from a few obvious differences in alcohol laws.
But really, each little Gulf state is so different. There is such a different vibe when entering the countries; some more relaxed than others, the Nationals happier, some more arrogant, others more competitive perhaps. (It is harder to answer the question of 'why' it is like this, but a lot, I think, comes down to money and oil.)
(I have written the next two sentences about six times and deleted them, as really, it is quite hard to explain how they are different, without using the word 'different' again and again. So...I'm going to give you a wee example.)
My friend and I arrived in Bahrain in the evening. As it was coming up to the 14th February and the anniversary of the protests at the Pearl Roundabout, there was a wee bit of waiting to do while they did background checks to see if I was a journalist. I got the all clear (blog writing obviously does not count..ha!) and off we went.
We decided to get a taxi, leaving our friends (that we were staying with) more time fluff up the pillows and leave sweets on our beds (no joke) !!
The Bahraini taxi driver was all smiles, welcoming us to his car and his country. I was explaining how I too am a Bahraini (am not really- but it is my country of birth) anyhow...
the banter in English continues and when we stopped at the first set of traffic lights, the driver takes out two small clean cups and offers us some tea for the journey.
I had to ask him if I could take a photo. He laughed and agreed. Ehh, this would not have happened in a taxi in Kuwait!
My friend and I had been outside the airport for 3 minutes and we loved it. We knew it was going to be a great weekend and it was.
Then...jump forward to arriving back in Kuwait. (Quite depressing at the best of times). I was arriving on a different flight from all of my friends. I considered hanging around at the airport to get a lift, but I was so shattered and only thinking about my bed, so jumped into an airport taxi (something my friend Kirsten has forbidden me to do!).
The taxi smelt of stale cigarettes and had burns in the seats. The driver spoke no English (pretty much everyone in Kuwait speaks English, apart from those with jobs in the ministries or at the airport it seems) so I bumbled through my instructions in Arabic, asking him to drive slowly-slowly.
We got on the way, zooming down the expressway (no notice was given to my earlier instructions) and suddenly we had pulled into the side of the road with cars screeching past at 120km per hour. I thought we had ran out of fuel (this is more likely to happen in Uganda than in a land floating on oil...but still)-but no, my driver had gotten out the car to face Mecca and pray.
Fine. Who am I to judge? Although...wasn't that happy about the cars careering past me.
Anyhow- my Arabic is obviously not quite up to scratch, or maybe it was the fact the driver was busy talking on his mobile and that was the reason we missed my turning and ended up with a 10 minute diversion.
I fell out of the taxi when it reached my apartment (after flying over speed bumps and sharging through roundabouts) and vowed never do get in an airport taxi again.
Welcome back to Kuwait!