I spent the last few days in two truly amazing countries – Bahrain and Qatar …
The first thing one notices is how nice the people are … the people are incredibly friendly – always wanting to help … and how quickly one’s stereotypes about the region quickly disappear …
Off the coast of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain sits in the Persian Gulf like a large jewel. It is connect to Saudi by a long, 20+ kilometer causeway/bridge. Bahrain has a very diverse economy, extremely educated population, and lots of people eager to work. A country of only 400K Bahrainis and 300K ex-pats, it contains a hodge-podge of diverse cultures which interact with one another on a regular basis. I spent some time at Bahrain University which has 20,000 students and increasing academic standards – especially in computer science.
Flying into Qatar (just a 30 minute plane ride from Bahrain) one sees tremendous building in the capital city of Doha. Also a country of less than 800K (with about 200K Qataris), one finds incredible buildings and highways – all built in the last few years. While there I visited University City – a new project sponsored by the Emir of Qatar to educate the entire gulf region. Here we saw mini-campus run by Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell University, and others springing up. Also – Doha’s beaches are gorgeous and the hotels are all brand new and opulent.
I was there in late June – and though the heat was crushing, it was tolerable (though I recommend skipping July and August in the gulf).
Though security is a problem given the proximity of both these countries to Saudi Arabia, I actually felt incredibly safe. Taking precautions is certainly advisable, but I wouldn’t avoid the region (remember – I was there during an extreme rash of kidnappings and killings in Saudi but still felt very safe).
Unfortunately, I missed a chance to go to Dubai as I had a meeting in San Francisco that I could not get out of. But I hear Dubai – though much more over-the-top (like Vegas or Disneyland) – is also a site to see.
I was there for business – but I hope to have an opportunity to go back as a tourist and spend more time talking with the locals. Doha, especially, seems like a wonderful winter get-a-way.
Looks like you got out of there just in time!
Since U.A.E. is the first buyer of the Airbus 380 I wonder if it is time to short that stock!
U.S. urges its citizens in Bahrain to leave
‘Credible’ evidence of terrorist strike cited
NBC News and news services
Updated: 11:24 a.m. ET July 02, 2004
MANAMA, Bahrain – The United States is urging its citizens in Bahrain to consider leaving after receiving “credible” information about planned attacks on U.S. and Western targets in the country, home to the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet.
“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Bahrain. American citizens currently in Bahrain are urged to consider departing,” the U.S. embassy said in an advisory issued Thursday.
“The Department has received information that extremists are planning attacks against U.S. and other Western interests in the kingdom of Bahrain. Credible information indicates that extremists remain at large and are planning attacks in Bahrain.”
As part of the advisory, the Navy has ordered the families of some 80 servicemembers to evacuate Bahrain. The exact number of dependents is not immediately available. The Navy is making arrangements to fly the families out of Bahrain as early as possible.
Six men held, released
Bahraini officials were not immediately available to comment.
It is less than two weeks since Bahrain arrested six men on suspicion of supporting al-Qaida and planning attacks in the Gulf state, but then freed them because of lack of evidence.
A U.S. counterterrorism official told NBC News that the six were tied to the “credible” threat.
Other U.S. officials told NBC that the six men are part of a “new group” tied to al-Qaida.
The six had been arrested on the basis of U.S. intelligence, said one official. “There was plenty of reason to pick them up and plenty of reason to hold them,” the official added.
Saudi attacks cited
The official did acknowledge the six were not found with explosives, but also said that Bahraini authorities “didn’t look very hard” either.
Bahrain’s neighbor is Saudi Arabia, which has been hit by a wave of suicide bombings and shootings of Westerners carried out by Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.
The embassy gave no details about the threat in Bahrain, but mentioned the suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia, which hit residential compounds.
NBC’s Tammy Kupperman at the State Department, Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon, Charlene Gubash in Cairo and Reuters contributed to this report.
If you liked Qatar and Bahrain you will love Dubai!