It's basically a new park in Cairo. However, park is a complete understatement. It's a park, a historical monument rebuilding programme, a tourist attraction, and an urban regeneration programme.
We need more of these programmes in the Arabic world, especially in Bahrain. It's a bit sad however, that it takes a generous foreign benefactor to put this project together, while local government are completely inept to do so.
We keep hearing how bahrain is an oasis, an island of a million palm trees with tranquil beaches. Where are they? Did I miss something here? Is there a part of Bahrain I've completely missed and I've never seen? The only palm tree that's in our dusty fereej in Muharraq is in our back garden, and it's already taking up valuable residential space.
In fact, the only (extremely modest) park in the area is the legendary Al Casino garden, just off the old garage station and tikka bushanab place (bahrainis will know what I'm talking about). I extend all my thanks to everyone who fought for the garden to stay (it's located in a prime position, and people have wanted to buy it to build stuff), as I've spent quite a few days of my childhood in that place. Yes, it doesn't have many gardens, and yes the games are pretty old and falling apart, and the only animals they had were a monkey, peacock, and a goat (I'm not sure if they're even alive anymore), but it was a great place where kids would go to play and meet other kids of the neighbourhood.
The only other public places in Muharraq with any greenery in them is a miniscule park in Galali (where I used to go to ride the donkey), and the Greater Muharraq Garden. Now Garden is an overstatement. It has about three ragged ass trees, a couple of sad excuses for patches of grass, and a filthy swamp that I think one day was supposed to be a fountain of some sorts. I have friends that their houses' gardens are better than this. The only thing going for it is that it is quite big (for an island the size of Muharraq).
So where are these springwaters I hear off? Where are the acres of palm trees and lush greenery? Where are these beaches that an island is supposed to have? I've heard about them quite a bit, I might have even seen them in a few pictures, but I've never been to them. I have seen, however, a lot of dull, unimaginative concrete houses all around the place. In fact, bahrain looks to me like " island of a million indistinguishable boring buildings" instead of the "island of a million palm trees."
Apparently these beaches and palm groves do exist all around the coasts of Bahrain. In Al Sehla, Al Zallaq, Budaiaya, but they're all privately owned. There is not a single palm tree park or publich beach of a good standard that people can go to (and please no one try to tell me the cornaish in Zallaq counts.) They are all in private hands. Is it that much to ask to buy a couple of these zra3as "farms" that overlook the beach, and turn them into a nice public place? Since there are people complaining that their farms never turn in a profit (and instead want to turn them into houses), why doesn't the govenrment buy a few of them, maintain them, and open them for the public as gardens?
Apparently we're getting a few new beaches on Amwaj island and Durrat Al Bahrain. Those, however, will be private beaches that will be bought by rich foreigners who want to summer on their own beach without pesky poor locals bothering them (you can mark my word, some sort of checkpoint will be put in there once it's opened). Don't people who can't afford to buy a B.D. 60,000 holiday house deserve to have some sort of a decent beach they can go to in their own country, especially when it's an ISLAND?