|The world "border" aside, no real connection. Still, a rather compelling image, no?|
We visited our dear old friends from Sultanate days, a lovely couple who are probably the closest thing we have at the moment who appoximate that somewhat dated concept, Circuit Boys. Except that they're funny and nice and smart, as well as indefatigable. They're now living in the very pleasant city of Manama, in a very glam development completely built on reclaimed land and somehow as a result quite surreally artificial.
As is true of most places out here in the Sandlands, for example, they have what would be a stunning view, were it not for the abandoned half-finished towers, forlorn construction cranes, and several additional, as yet unoccupied, artificial islands between them and the sea. Their flat came furnished in a style that veers wildly between Bond-esque High Modern and English Cottage - dangerously low white-leatherette sofas and lots of chrome, against a background of cabbage-rose wallpaper. Oddly successful, taken on its own terms.
Their particular development is one that tries to offer all things to all tenants, so they live in a very contempo midrise building of flats called Terrazo Venezio Mansions, which is sandwiched between a complex of highly Arabesque villas lining quaint canals on one side and a very strange set of rowhouses done up in a style that can only be described as post-apocalyptic Chinoiserie, as if Frank Gehry were designing The Mikado. It all makes the staid old neighborhood of the Villa Muscato seem very dull indeed.
As, really, does their city entirely next to ours. Throwing ourselves into our hosts' quite capable hands upon arrival on Thursday evening, we sampled the nightlife in a series of low and lower dives that kept us quite merrily occupied until something like 5:00 a.m. on Friday morning. Things are distinctly less discreet up in that part of the world, and, if nothing else, fashions are far more extreme. Local boys swan about in skintight jeans, acid-colored chiffon shirts, Cuban-heeled ankle boots, and two varieties of all-the-rage coiffures.
I really wish I'd been able to take pictures. The first, and ever so slightly more butch 'do is a sort of sideways Mohawk along the back of the head; it looks as if the wearer had a kind of hair-tiara made up of all the hair from the ears back; the front consists of a stiffly gelled sweep that ends in face-framing swirls. It's quite complex, but not nearly as ridiculous as Hairdo Number Two, which is really nothing more or less than a mid-sixties Barbie Bubble Cut, achieving at its most extreme dimensions approaching that of a beach ball. Worn on a fashion doll, it's nostalgic. Appearing on well set-up mid-twenties Arab boys with wispy moustaches, it's alarming. They look as if they've been rummaging in the wig-trunk of the Vandellas, actually, and I tended to giggle.
Needless to say, we found it all highly diverting.
The difficulty of the place is that they are going through a spot of bother politically, disconcerting if you live in our part of world, which is so calm as to seem sedated - we're just not used to tanks in the streets, towers of smoke from burning tires in the distance, and having to recalculate routes to the mall dependent on which roads might be closed for rioting.
The rest of the weekend was a tad calmer than our first night, although it is to an extent in even such recent memory a haze of martinis, shisha (Mr. Muscato's particular weakness), and running from place to place with the boys' very cosmopolitan crowd (come to think of it, we had quite a few cosmopolitans, too), which runs to glamorous Lebanese girls named things like Zizi and Mimi, elegant German boys called Manfred, and a raft of JohnAbrahamesque Indian men.
The brief flight home this evening felt rather like decompressing after a deep-sea dive, but the sheer joy of the terriers, as always, helps reconcile one to our rather quieter existence. I'm being very naughty and taking tomorrow off, and am quite happy to let the mayhem of my offices take care of itself for a day. Perhaps I'll dig out some heavy-duty haircare products and see if I can back-comb myself into a middle-aged interpretation of a Bahraini boy's night out...