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Amna got her car!

Amna and her new car - Nissan Altima - Bahrain

I want to thank everyone for their very valuable suggestions as to what car I should get Amna. In the end, we decided to settle for the Nissan Altima which was between the two budgets set, and offers very good value for money and safety aspects.

She has had it for a day and a bit now and is very happy with it. She even named it Julian!

The happiest person on Earth (other than Amna) is really Frances, who suddenly realised that she actually has 3 – 4 hours a day extra for not having to drive/collect them from school!

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Sato’s, how to NOT run a restaurant!

sato_logo.jpg

We thought we would go to a special and different dinner to celebrate our daughter Amna’s 18th birthday a few nights ago and decided to go to the oldest Japanese restaurant in Bahrain; Sato at the Gulf Hotel. As it was mid-week, it wasn’t difficult to get a table.

We were received on arrival by the maitre d’ and led to one of their Japanese rooms where you sit at the table with your legs in a hole beneath it giving you the impression that you’re actually sitting on the floor Japanese-(or Arab)-style but you’re actually just sitting “normally”.

As the restaurant wasn’t that busy, we were soon attended to and placed our orders. We were all looking forward to a nice quality family night. Unfortunately, Sato’s had other plans.

I must admit that our knowledge of Japanese food is minimal. I prefer some kinds of sushi and teriyaki, but couldn’t tell you the contents nor do I know all the names; however, the minimally explained menu somewhat indicated what we can expect to get. We all stuck to the teriyaki side of the house that night, thinking better be safe than sorry. Amna, probably did the best thing and chose a set menu.

We chatted a bit after placing our order thinking that – as in a normal restaurant of its ilk – the order will take a while to arrive – something I generally enjoy – but I was mistaken. No sooner than the drinks were served then the first course arrived. Amna’s course, that is, while everyone else was left waiting much longer to get theirs. One would have thought that the arrival of food for all patrons at the table would be coordinated; not this one. That mish-mash of mis-coordination was symptomatic of the whole evening, leaving us at various stages of dinner, capped by them forgetting to bring my main course until almost everyone had finished!

That could all be forgiven of course had the food at least been acceptable. It was far from it.

I don’t think you will find me at that restaurant again by choice. If I ever want to enjoy Japanese food again, I would be much better served by picking up a Japanese meal from Al-Osra and enjoy it at my own pace rather than be hurried and harried as we have been at Sato’s. What a disappointment.

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Eye tests, DoT style

My daughter Amna has not only been nagging me to get a driving license for the last couple of years, but has already selected the car I will buy her on her successfully passing her driving test! Typical of the twit. Anyway, as she is approaching 18, I finally folded and took her to get a provisional driving license this morning.

I was immediately impressed as we entered the Traffic Directorate’s building; the offices were clearly sign-posted and the designated office has an automated queueing system in place. Brilliant, this is going to be easy.

I was immediately impressed as we entered the Traffic Directorate’s building; the offices were clearly sign-posted and the designated office has an automated queueing system in place.

Not wanting to bother the guy at reception and in the presence of the numbers vending machine marked with only two buttons: “Counter” and “Eye Test” I selected the “Counter”, it spewed the number and we sat down awaiting our turn. Our number came up within 15 minutes, “we’ll finish in no time” I happily thought – as I must confess that initially I have vacated the whole morning for this exercise.

Unfortunately as we sat at the counter the clerk pointed out that she should have done the eye test first! Great! Well, it’s my fault for being too confident and thinking that the Counter clerk would first vet all the documents, ascertain the applicant’s eligibility and only if that process is complete would he send the candidate to the formal eye test. Nope, one does the eye test first and only if that is successful the other conditions are looked into.

Back to the vending machine to get an “Eye Test” number this time, we went and waited in the allocated area. Fortunately for us, it seemed that the eye test process doesn’t take longer than 50 seconds, so it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to get to our turn. Amna suggested that in order to save time, she should remove her contacts. I thought that was fair enough, she removed her eyes and I handed her back the documents to take in with her.

Her number came up and off she went, but instead of it taking the usual 50 seconds, it took about a couple of minutes. On her exit from the office and looking at her face, I knew that something was amiss:

    “Everything okay?”
    “No, I need to come back and bring my glasses for the eye test!”
    “WHAT?! No way! I thought they would check your eye sight in there to find out how you could see things

without your glasses!”

    “Yeah, I thought so too, but, well, they don’t.”
    “Okay, where are your glasses?”
    “At home.”
    “What? You carry a handbag as big as a suitcase and you leave your glasses at home?”
    “Well I usually have them in the bag, but I cleaned it out yesterday.”
    “Okay, fine, do you have a spare set of contacts?”
    “Yes. At home!”
    “Damn. Okay, let’s drive back and get them, hopefully we’ll finish today.”

Off we went to get her glasses, but not only that, she decided that she would wear a new set of eyes and get a spare set just in case.

I just couldn’t believe that they actually test the candidate’s eye sight with glasses or contacts. What would they achieve with that other than ascertaining that the person can actually see with their optical aids? Would a person intentionally use glasses or contacts that would render their sight useless? What could this “test” possibly achieve and what is the logic behind it? The mind boggles. I put it down to procedure and bureaucracy.

I just couldn’t believe that they actually test the candidate’s eye sight with glasses or contacts.

Within the hour we were back, got another chit and fortunately as the place was a lot less congested, she was in to the “optician” with her contacts on, glasses clutched in hand and she was out in even less than 50 seconds!

“That was fun,” she said, “I barely read out two letters while covering the other eye, he signed the paper and that was it!”

I looked at the paper and could not believe the stupidity of the situation.

My daughter has perfect eyesight with her contacts in!

6/6 in all departments!

Me very very happy!

Even better and taking into consideration the cursory examination people are subjected to, why not cut out this queue and just install a chart at the counter

What the hell was all this about? Shouldn’t someone look into this stupidity? Am I missing something here? I’m not objecting to the eye test if it is done properly, for instance, checking the eye sight of a person who claims that s/he doesn’t use glasses but in fact s/he should, but if someone says that they do use contacts/glasses, what good is this test for? Even better and taking into consideration the cursory examination people are subjected to, why not cut out this queue and just install a chart at the counter and test people there and if the clerk notices that the candidate’s eye sight wanting, only then send them over to the “proper optician”? If more stringent tests are required, why not install a machine at the counter for a “go/no-go” decision? I am sure that this simple change would improve the efficiency even more.

Anyway, I am doubly assured now that my daughter’s eye sight is perfect – with optical enhancers. She’s got a good optician.

Back to the counter we go and within a few minutes we paid the required BD34.5 (including BD5 for the “Eye Test”) and left the building.

The whole process – including the return trip home – took less than a couple of hours. Not bad.

Now she’s got to attend a lecture on road safety and we need to find a good driving instructor. Any suggestions?

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Case Deferred

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We went to the court this morning with a number of people already present and offered their support. But due to the main judge’s family bereavement, for which I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Shaikh Mohammed bin Ali on the passing of his mother, the case has been administratively deferred to be heard on May 8th.

I would also like to sincerely thank everyone who was present and all of those who called, emailed and texted their support as well.

In particular I would like to thank the lead advocate Ms. Fatima Al-Hawaj and the legal team offered by the Bahrain Human Rights Society to assist Ms. Al-Hawaj in the case, Lawyers Nawaf Al-Sayed and Lo’ay Qarouni; Tawfiq Al-Rayyash, Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, the head of the Bahrain Journalists Union Mohammed Fadhel, journalists Mohammed Al-Sawwad from Al-Waqt (who was involved very recently in a similar case), Mohammed Aslam of the GDN, Mohammed Abbas of Reuters, Sandeep Singh Grewal from the Bahrain Tribune and Adel Al-Shaikh from Al-Wasat.

I would also like to sincerely thank my family who have always stood by me. My wife Frances, my brother Jamal and sister Maha as well as my children. I am sure that if my other siblings were in Bahrain they would have not hesitated an instant by being present to offer their support.

The legal team have asked for the case’s documents for their review and preparation, and we await the new court’s date to present our case before the High Criminal Court.

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Happy 16th Hanan!

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My little daughter turned 16 today. I won’t go into the usual “I can’t believe it” stuff, suffice it to say that Frances, I and her sister and brother are thrilled and are overjoyed for Hanan and we wish her all a very very happy birthday and hope that the whole day and the rest of her life is filled with happiness.

Hanan’s birthday cake made by her mother

Happy birthday my love!

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Car shopping

cars

Frances’ car is about crapped out and she needs a new one. So out we went this morning to test drive a few and visit the various car showrooms in the island, but although we have almost decided, we still are unsure on what it would be.

Requirements:
1. Family car with space for 3 kids, a maid and a couple of dogs
2. Not expensive and not flashy
3. Easily maintained
4. Have some resale value

Although I promised not to buy a Ford, their SUV is at the top of the list at the moment, we were not impressed with Nissan’s offerings and although the Toyota Avalon was very nice and we liked it, it is missing a space for the dogs, so that’s out of the equation at the moment.

Any ideas what else we could look at in Bahrain before we plonk the down payment? Our budget is about BD10k.

Update 26 March, ’07: Khalas, the deed is done! No more car shopping for a while…

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First hand Hajj experience

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My friend Rami just came back from performing the Hajj Al-Kabeer (the Grand Pilgrimage) and he came back with a lot of pictures which he thankfully just posted so we too can live the experience through his eyes.

These are some of the pictures he took, mostly with his mobile phone, and they do cover a lot of the things which he insists that I should experience first hand before too long too!

Rami's Hajj Rami's Hajj Rami's Hajj

My brother Jamal, his wife, our mother as well as our friend, blogger and cinematographer extraordinaire Hisham Khalifa (no relation to Rami!) have also performed the Hajj this year and they all came with wonderful stories to tell and all praise for this year’s organisation. Some even said that the Hajj this year was “too easy” and they don’t feel that they have suffered enough to be on a “real Hajj!”

Well, regardless, I wish them all that their Hajj is accepted by Allah and their misdemeanors forgiven

حجٌّ مقبول و ذًنْبٌ مغفور إن شاء الله

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