Another Pomegranate Noir Story

June begins the summer exodus.  People fly to other continents to escape the summer heat.  The school year over, military and expatriate families bid farewell as they move onto their next work assignment.  May is the month for good-bye parties.

It started with my friend author Melissa van Maasdyk.  She and her husband Glenn are off to Canada for a new life adventure.

Uncertain what exactly they will be doing, at their good-bye dinner we toasted to “future travels,” “a new beginning in Canada, Uruguay or Panama” and “until we meet again.”  To the very end, Melissa lingered with me and her friend Reem, standing in the parking lot, saying good-bye until Glenn gently reminded her they had to catch their plane.

Another blow was the sad news that after successfully launching the Bahrain Writer’s Circle and editing My Beautiful Bahrain, Robin Barratt’s wife got a new job outside of Bahrain.  Soon he will leave to start fresh somewhere else.

His Navy father’s three year stint complete, our baseball team’s star pitcher’s family is moving to some new secret location.

One of the baseball coaches, a teacher and our martial arts trainer, is taking his family back to Washington state to teach at a new school there.

By June 9th my yoga training will be complete.  My teacher, her philosophic husband and a fellow yogini are headed back to their respective countries.

As Bahrain’s future remains uncertain, two ladies from my sculpting class are headed back to Europe.  Several fathers of the children’s school mates and one of sculpture class buddies have been transferred to Dubai where the grass is definitely greener.

And after eight years in the Junior school, Ace and Mark are graduating and following their sister to the Senior school.  No more chauffeuring for me, they will take a bus to school.

Another tearful, hopeful time.


Touring Bahrain? Get Your STREETSMART Guide

You are invited to the Streetsmart Bahrain Book launch party.

Yeah!  The party I have been waiting for.

My friend, author Melissa van Maasdyk, promised she would have her Bahrain travel guide ready before the Formula One in April.  And she did it.

Sunday night was the official reception.  As we drove up to the soon-to-be opened, second wing of the Kempinski Grand and Ixir Hotel, we waited for the line of dignitaries’ cars to be valeted.

“Who are all these people?” Mojo asked.

Arab men dressed in elegant white thobes, African women in long gowns, European ambassadors in business suits, and glam women in high-heels all hurried into the lobby.

“Melissa seems to know everybody in Bahrain,” I said.  “The UN people love her book so much they asked the Director General of UNIDO to speak tonight.  Some must be with him.   And there is Debbie and Mohammed,” I said, pointing at the Bentley pulling in behind us.

Mohammed and Debbie Al Asfoor, the Arabian Sheik perfume designer/creators, are one of the thirteen Bahraini insiders featured in the MY WAY sections (pg. 89) of the guide.   With her enthusiasm for Bahrain, Melissa charmed these Bahrainis into revealing their favorite, and previously unknown to outsiders, places to shop, eat and chill.

As we walked through the lobby doors waiters greeted us with shots of fresh watermelon juice as the Bahraini jazz band 13th Note played.

Melissa introduced me to interior designer Ammar Bashar who created the fabulous entry way for the amphitheater where Andrea Bocelli sang last week.

The very stylish Ammar accessorized his made-in-Bahrain suit with a Hermes scarf instead of a tie.  In Streetsmart he gives away his style secret – his shoes are custom made by a local shoemaker named Ghuloom and has his suits made in the souq at a “fraction of the cost of Seville Row”.   To find these places you need the map in the guide.

Luckily for Melissa, New York based Bahraini photographer Ghada Khunji (pg. 51) was in town for the opening.  I had not met her before.  Like me her favorite aspect of Bahrain is the warmth of the Bahraini people and its multifaceted cultures.  And one of her favorite places to exhibit her photos, eat, have a spa day and a yoga class is at La Fontaine Center for Contemporary Art (pg. 49).

I took a photo of my new friend Errin Stone the Chef and Manager of the Al Riwaq Gallery (pg. 116) getting his book signed.  Just last month Errin helped me host our book club meeting.  He came up with five fresh salads, sandwiches and of course Red Velvet Cake for us to nibble.  Afterwards the members texted me “It was the best book club meeting we’ve had in awhile.” I attributed it to the art and the gallery’s atmosphere.

On the globe Bahrain is small.  But Melissa still managed to bring together Bahrainis who had never met.

Words Bookstore owner Rana whose family has literally lived in Bahrain for centuries met the perfumer and creator of Green Bar, Reem al Khalifa (pg. 168) for the first time.  I had never heard about Green Bar’s made-in-Bahrain line of pure rose waters (pg. 171) but Rana who uses her line of plant-based skin creams said “I’m so glad to meet you.  I love your products.”

Besides these Bahraini gems, the guide includes Bahrain’s key tourist sites – Tree of Life, Barbar Temple, Bahrain Fort, Saar Settlement and the Bahrain National Museum, shopping highlights and the restaurants with the best food.

Next week when my family visits, I am going to travel “off road” and will follow Melissa’s guide deep into the souq to visit Azzam Ayurvedic “that wouldn’t be out of place in Harry Potter’s wizard’s market, Diagon Alley” and through Muharraq’s alleys to the first coffee shop founded by an out-of-work pearl diver.  My brother-in-law who keeps a photo album of his favorite dishes will love going deep in the heart of Gudaibiya to sample the BEST tikka in Bahrain.

I may or may not tell you about our adventures.  Unlike Melissa, I like to keep secrets.

If you want to tour the real Bahrain or need a detailed guide for a day trip, you can pick up Streetsmart at Words Bookstore on Budaiya Highway, Jashanmals in Al A’ali Mall, or the Virgin Mega Store in Bahrain City Center.

If you stay at the Kempinski in City Center, a copy will be in your room.

To get copies of Streetsmart Bahrain for your Formula One visitors, you can email

Melissa and Jamal Shaheen Muharraq carpenter

See you at Jamal Shaheen’s carpentry shop on Road 1125 behind the unmarked wooden door on your left shortly after entering the street (pg. 69).

A Cocktail of Red Velvet Cake, Art and Birthday Presents

Melissa's Bday Portrait by Loredana. In front of Al Riwaq, they are sitting on grass sofas by a local artist. Notice the mural of the women. Only in Bahrain will you see that.

“Please join me on the terrace of the Al Riwaq Gallery to celebrate my birthday with tea and cake – 10:30am”

Only my friend Melissa van Maasdyk could glam up her birthday in the morning.  As I fooled around with the clock last night, Mojo asked, “You are setting your alarm on a holiday?”

“I don’t want to miss Melissa’s party,” I told him.  “I’ll need time to get ready.”

Ready because I knew Melissa’s cafe table would be surrounded by a stylish coterie of interesting women.

Known as one of four original saviors of Bahrain’s Modern Art Scene, Melissa’s universe is filled with artists, writers, poets, musicians, photographers, architects, clothing designers, chefs and restaurateurs.  She is a whirlwind of excitement and always has at least a dozen fantastically fun ideas on the tip of her tongue.

And her tongue is quick.

When I first met Melissa I could only stare her mouth trying to absorb her South African accent.  Luckily she accommodated this aMERican and kept me as part of her circle of stylish, globe trotting friends.

A fellow Scorpio I appreciated Melissa’s choice of sitting outside on a BEAUTIFUL November morning in the slowly awakening 338 district which became more vibrant after everyone had their coffee.

Scene around Block 338 in November

Fellow spiritual seeker Dierdre and I helped light the candles on the two layer, red velvet cake as Melissa greeted a Kenyan friend who just returned from visiting monks in Tibet.

Pic as I arrive to the Birthday Tea - Melissa in front of Al Riwaq

The rest of the table was filled with Melissa’s group of working women: Amy the British CEO of a branding company, Nicola a fashion/style writer, Loredana the Italian photographer on call 24/7 for royal gatherings, and tri-lingual Salma, a Syrian who taught Melissa Arabic.  BTW Salma’s gorgeous daughter is the lead in the upcoming Faulty Towers next week at the British Club.

And of course who arrived in gold high heels and a leopard skirt?

Maeve the Irish queen of storytelling and travel writer.

Melissa is nearly done with her new guide to everything modern and fashionable to do in Bahrain.  No boredom allowed.

Accompanied by her photographer she has interviewed Bahrainis to find the best of the best.  She sampled, tasted, and explored every alley to come up with this must have guide for anyone visiting Bahrain.  Her city guide will reflect Melissa’s background as a food critic, style editor and travel writer for international magazines.

As Melissa’s ideas poured out, we laughed when we noticed each of us had pulled out a notebook to write down names and places.

This month Happy Birthday Melissa.  Next Month HAPPY BOOK LAUNCH!


Tales by Chapter

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