Now The Countdown to Christmas

Since the world is back on track, I thought I would share a low, medium and high option for a Bahrain Christmas Eve.

dublin bahrain christmas eve 2012 menu

Starting at the low end, Santa and his helpers will be hosting Christmas Eve dinner at a local club.  Knowing how many tribute singers come to Bahrain, I have a feeling this is not the REAL Santa Claus.  And, sorry men, I certain the helpers in the ad have been photo-shopped in.

The medium option is – believe it or not – Ric’s Country Kitchen in Juffair.  Before yesterday, I had not eaten at Ric’s since Mojo brought me there nearly a decade ago.  I appreciated the cow-kitschy, remodeled interior.  And my huevos rancheros with homemade salsa and beans were so good, I picked up their Christmas flyer.

ric country kitchen christmas 2012 menu

The menu, except the deep-fried turkey, looks like it came right out of my book.

My high-end choice is La Fontaine.

Christmas Eve 2012 at La ntaine

Fatima decided Christmas Eve means opera.  She has invited the Greek, but born in Bahrain, opera singer Danae Eleni and her pianist brother to perform.  Danae Eleni’s repertoire includes songs composed over seven centuries and in eleven different languages.  Like Placido Domingo’s sopranos, Danae Eleni has competed in several international competitions.  Add a glass of proseco under the new Capricorn moon and it sounds like a wonderful Christmas Eve setting.

Or, as in our case, you might have already been invited to an exclusive event with close friends.  The champagne and the snowman, ice cream cake have been ordered.  All Mark and I have left to do is to bake the chocolate mint cookies.  Mmmmm.

Speaking of Tim Mackintosh-Smith

Fatima Ali Raza, the owner of La Fontaine Center for Contemporary Art, invited me for dinner.  As we ate under the moon, she asked me,

“You know Ibn Battuta don’t you,” she began.  Her eyes sparkled.

Ibn Battuta, Ibn Battutua, the name echoed in my brain.  However, no thoughts came to mind.

“No,” I admitted.

“Ibn Battuta was an Arab explorer.  He traveled from Tangier to China and covered more parts of the world than Marco Polo.  So many people do not know who he is.  And do you know who I have coming to La Fontaine?”

“Ibn Battuta’s ghost?”

She paused, “Tim Mackintosh-Smith, the expert on Ibn Battuta.”

Now it registered.

At the 2011 Dubai Literary Festival, my friends, Deborah and Maeve, went to his lecture.  The British Mackintosh-Smith is an Arabist living in Yemen.  He is the go-to man for anything about Yemen – and Ibn Battuta.

Mackintosh-Smith literally re-traced Ibn Battuta’s footsteps around the world.  Then he condensed the 14th century traveler’s thirty years of travel into a trilogy.  Travels with a Tangerine, the first in the series, made it to the best sellers list.

“For three years I have been inviting Mackintosh-Smith to Bahrain.  And he finally accepted.  He will be coming in November.  We are planning to offer several workshops over the three days he is here, both in Arabic and English,” Fatima announced triumphantly.

“That’s fantastic,” I said.  “Now I know what to suggest to my book club.”

“But don’t read all of his books.  I am ordering some for the event.”

I decided to see how well-known Ibn Battuta was.  I posed the question to Mojo who corrects my American history mistakes.

“If I say Ibn Battuta what comes to your mind?” I asked him.

“The Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai.”

“Have I got a gift for you.”

Get ready for this November event at La Fontaine by reading Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s Travels with a Tangerine.

La Fontaine Center for Contemporary Art is featured in The Best of Bahrain vol. 2 which is being launched this Saturday, September 15th, 2012.

Haj Harmony

Touch the Marble by Jamshid Bayrami

“Mysticism and poetry have always been important elements in Islamic cultures.  This has been the case throughout the centuries.  The Muslim world is not composed of a single color.  And it is not static at all.  It is a tapestry of multiple colors and patterns.

Sufism is not an ancient, bygone heritage.  It is a living, breathing philosophy of life.  It is applicable to the modern day.  It teaches us to look within and transform ourselves, to diminish our egos.  There are more and more people, especially women, artists, musicians and so on, who are deeply interested in this culture.” – Elif Shafak, author of The Forty Rules of Love.

Fareed Ayaz and his eight member party will be performing a Qawwali concert to open the Jamshid Bayrami exhibit at La Fontaine.

Listening to the hypnotic songs which typically last from fifteen to thirty minutes may be a new experience for the modern pop music listener, but Qawwali music is not new.  It is a 600-year old Sufi devotional music.

In the West, the best known Qawwali musician was the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.  Peter Gabriel’s Real World label released five albums of his music.  In film, his contributions were included in The Last Temptation of Christ, Natural Born Killers, and Eat, Pray, Love.  Since the 1997 death of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Fareed Ayaz’s party has continued to spread Qawwali music worldwide, winning numerous awards and playing for global audiences.

Fareed Ayaz’s eight member party comes to Bahrain under the support of the Paris-based Theatre de la Ville.

Theatre de la Ville “finds beauty in the Surrealists”.  The theater’s aim is

“not to run away from the world and find refuge in dreams, not even for a second; it is rather to go to the theater to try on a new vision of things, to open up to events or experiences beyond the norm.”

Through Theatre de la Ville’s long list of Pakistani, Indian and African performers, Western audiences have been introduced to new norms.

The concert is in conjunction with the opening of Iranian photographer Jamshid Bayrami’s exhibit, Haj Harmony.  A photojournalist, Bayrami has covered the Iran-Iraq war and Middle East politics for The Economist, Time, and Agence France Presse.  He won the Grand Prize at the Fajr Festival and a UNESCO World Prize for photography.  He is represented by the London gallery Xerxes Art.

The exhibit opening and concert will be this Friday, May 25th at 7pm at La Fontaine Center for Contemporary Art.  The exhibition and concert will be 25bd and if you include dinner around the fountain, the cost is 35bd.

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