The other day I ventured into Mirai, the fusion Japanese restaurant that is the darling of many a nido-ers. My nido friends were shocked this was my first time. “Never Before? REEAAALLLYYY??? Where have you been living maaaaaann? You gotta get hip with the times!”. Well I can happily say that I will never venture again into that dump unless it involves an opposite sex with the possibility of future bonding. The risotto tasted like it was made by Tesco Ready Made Meals, the beef was dry and tasteless, the portions were really small, and at 20 BD a head I thought this was outrageous robbery. I bet you if someone is bored enough he could surf the internet and find the menu of some restaurant somewhere in the world that Mirai ripped off. I doubt the resident chef sat down and developed that Menu. I’d rather any day walk down the road and go to Krumz its next door neighbour, which is 100 times better and at a better price. Heck, Bu Shanab the tikka place in Muharraq is a better option any time and any day.
Anyway, I digress. I was sitting there eyeing the waiters topping up every nido-er’s water glass the second they took a sip. This is of course a common trick in up-scale Bahraini restaurants, where at 2.500 BD a bottle these places can easily rack up 15BD++ purely on water. It doesn’t matter that a bottle of water costs 200 fils in shops. It doesn’t matter that the restaurant makes a healthy 1150% profit (not counting the 15% service charge that the waiters ironically receive none off) on each of those bottles. Of course not. A nido-er would never be caught complaining of this. He would die of embarrassment. He’s got to keep his image and pretension of being a rich, magnanimous nido-er that a trifle few BDs make no difference to. Even though the nido-ers life and thought is centred around money, how to make more of it, and how to flaunt it, he has to keep up the image that money is absolutely inconsequential to him. And the restaurant managers know this.
Anyway we were sitting there drinking our BD 2.5 glasses of water, basking in our glorious nido-ness and checking out other nido-ers. Of course that’s the whole point, to see and to be seen. The mediocre food is inconsequential. It is the sensation of being around other nido-ers that matters.
I then realized the absolute nido bubble that we live in. Nidoers rejoice in spending 20BD+++ a head at ONE meal sitting, while for the vast majority of the country that constitutes the spending of a household for 2 weeks of meals. What nido-ers spend at a night club without batting an eye lid is what most of their countrymen spend on their household electricity bill.
Nidoers live in an extravagant lalaland consumerist world that has been imported to them from the west that has nothing to do with the vast majority of the rest of the population. They cruise around in lavish German cars. They live in luxurious houses furnished by the latest designs from Italy and the U.S. They spend their free time roaming from Trader Vic’s to Mirai to BJ’s. They deck out in the latest fashion hits by Armani and Massimo Dutti.
Contrast this to the vast majority of the population. They struggle to feed their families meat everyday. They barely have a house to live in, having to share it with parents, grown up brothers, sisters, their spouses, aunties, grandmas, grandfathers, and the rest. A vast proportion don’t even have jobs. Some don’t even have air conditioning in every bedroom of their houses.
It is literally two parallel societies with little in common except having to share an island. One side is cramped in tiny villages and alleyways. The members of the other side own houses each that are as big as any of those villages. One side’s kids go to the best private schools and western universities. The other side barely can buy the stationary needed to send their kids to school. They don’t watch the same shows, they don’t hang out in the same places, they don’t populate the same food places. They don’t even share the same language. One speaks arabic, the other English or at best a bastardized form of Arabeezi or Arabenglish.
Contrast this to the country as little as 30 years ago, where this class dichotomoy pretty much did not exist. Everyone was literally pretty much piss poor. People lived in a harsh environment which they had to share with one another in order to survive. Even the rich were poor by today’s standards. Just go and look at Shaikh Isa Bin Ali’s house, the former ruler of Bahrain in Muharraq. Although impressive, it would not even be the size of a garage in a modern day’s rich man’s house. Most astonishingly, it is right smack inthe middle of old Muharraq. People back then lived in the same areas, went to the same schools, and even used the same khabazz. Nido-ers have only to ask their fathers to get a sense of this. It is amazing how people from the older generation know and shared their youth life intimately with other individuals from all walks life, whether poor or rich, highly educated or not, regardless of wealth, class, and nidoism.
I’ll recount to you one story that I found funny, revealing, and full of despair. In our old neighbourhood in Muharraq, there used to be a family friend and neighbour who was born and bred in Muharraq since the thirties. He was a builder by profession. This guy was 3ejmy, and back in the eighties he had a horrid time trying to obtain a paspport for him and his family. He would go several times to the ministry and every time they’d make him play the run-around game and then kick him out. He would never be allowed to see the person in charge. One fortunate day 20 years ago the guard was distracted away from the manager’s office, so the builder took his chance and barged right in. The chief was sitting on his chair.
-Yes, what do you want?
-El Shaikh, I have been coming now for years trying to sort out my passport situation.
-What’s your name?
-Flan, ben Faltan.
-Flan ben Faltan???!?!?!? didn’t you go to Al Hedaya school back in 1950?
-It’s me! Faltan ben Flan! Your school mate! My god what happened!!!!
-Well, I became a builder trying to feed my family, and you are a sheikh!
I thought this story illustrates perfectly how not so long ago society was not so materially divided, and how the division has grown to mammoth proportions nowadays. How many nido-ers will encounter a similar incident to the above? Not so anymore. Nido-ers go to their own private schools with other nido-ers. They go to university with other nidoers. They hang out with other nido-ers in nido places. There is such a big schism between the two societies it is as if they are living on two different planets, where the only places they meet are the roads that each uses to go to his own different little planet.
As any blind person can see, this is a recipe for resentment, conflict, and revolution. A revolution probably will and should happen. When you have to bear living in a cramped room with four others of your siblings in a village cramped with thousands of others, and a few feet away a person you don’t even know or interact with owns a compound literally the size of your village, things don’t seem right to you. When that person stacks his compound with guards, nighswatchmen, high walls, barbed wire, and dogs to prevent you from even walking by his wall, things don’t seem right to you. When a person has no qualms about spending BD 2.500 bd on a bottle of water and you have to watch your spending on nekhi from your local khabaz, things don’t seem right to you. When you cannot even find an apartment to house your 8-member household while this guy own a house in Muharraq, Sehla, Budaiya, London, and Paris things don’t seem right to you. When you have to beg this guy for work while his kids can get away with clubbing, drinking and smoking the most expensive substances there are for a good prportion of their youth things don’t seem right to you. When you have nothing in common with this guy except that he seems to have set up a massive palace right next to your cramped vilalge things don’t bode well.
Indeed nido-ers have come to be perceived and indeed are a massive drain on the resources of a country. In a country with limited land wealth, they are seen as land grabbers in order to facililate their lavish compounds with their exotic gardens. In a land with limited oil wealth, the oil seems to be wasted on fuding the spoilt habits of the rich. While the rich waste the black gold money on drinking Johnny walker, buying fancy Mercedeses, and filling their big guts with fusion sushi, the rest of the country can barely make ends meet. They are percieved and indeed are, a waste of limited resources in order to fill their insatiable hedonistic apeitite for a lavish consumerist lifestyle.
And the recent oil boom has exacerbated this division. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Nido-ers have never had it so good. All of them are making a ridiculous amount of money thanks to oil, Daddy’s wekalat (monopoly agencies), was6at (connections), land ownerships, and the ability to go the best education institutions. The money kitty gets bigger, and the spending on the lavish materialistic lifestyle ballooons. They buy more posh cars, posh houses and apartments, and an increasing number of upmarket restaurants pop up. Hoards of expensive new suits, sunglasses, and louis vetton bags are purchased.
And the poor get squeezed even more. Prices of basic goods shoot up. House prices have more than doubled and are out of the reach of most of the population. Foodstuff have become so expenisve that people are having to cut down on basic household goods. But why should the nido-ers care? After all, daddy and auntie own the land of which the price has shot up. Grandpa and mummy own the food wikalat that sell these expensive basics. It makes the nidoer able to enjoy more linguinis, bmws, and buy more apartments in amwaj or riffa views.
Do the nidoers know about the forces that their lifestyles have unleashed? Nope, and nor do they care. They are busy getting drunk, watching the OC, playing videogames, or debating whether mirai or sato has better sushi. A country that was once reknowed for its sense of community has now degenerated into a classic divide of rich and poor. The forces in society are ripes for some sort of uprising, and it will only get worse. The rich, however, are as usual oblivious in their lavish spending.
And when the poor complain, and when the poor protest, they just go, “Why do they hate us so much? Why can’t they just be good obedient poor buggers? Why can’t we just get along?”.
Nidoers, you better cut down on a few sushis and use that money to buy a nice penthouse in London. Because when the turd hits the fans, you are going to need another pad from which to continue living your la-la land materialistic lifestyle.