It has been 15 years since I have made the UK my permanent home. I look back at all the things I miss about the Middle East, and in particular Bahrain, but also what I have fallen in love with here, in the UK.
I miss the warm air that hits you in the face when you land in the airport. I miss the melodic call to prayer that rings throughout the land, echoing off buildings and bouncing off walls. I miss the marble lined mosques that gleam with a polished finish where the call escapes from, out of its towering turrets, and through a neglected microphone which has seen better days. I miss the random giant KFC bucket that was on top of an ordinary KFC in Jannusan, as if its own call to attention for fried chicken lovers.
I miss the smell of strong Arabic perfume that would infuse your nostrils when you step into the gigantic maze of air conditioned shopping malls. I miss the numerous shisha bars dotted everywhere and anywhere, watching men blow out rings of smoke even at the side of the road. I miss the gorgeous ornate henna that wraps around women’s manicured hands, an intricate design destined to flamboyantly show the beauty of the wearer. I miss the sound of the Arabic language as it wraps around the speaker’s tongue, a beautiful mystical language to me. I miss the drives to the desert where we could look up into the sky and be surrounded by a blanket of stars with the empty silence of space to accompany us. I miss the shawarmas with fresh leavened pitta bread, tightly packed with a recipe that had been passed down by generations, the sauce dripping down my chin. I miss the hot rays of sun and the wind on my hair as we ride the waves heading to Jarada; a sand bank off the coast.
But I have begun to fall in love with the UK.
I love that the UK has seasons. You could be dressed up for a winter’s day and the sky shines bright above you whist you breathe in the fresh crisp air. I love the crunch of leaves underfoot with different shades of orange, red, and brown. I love that its cities across the UK are deeply rooted in history and their remnants of revolution, trade, and architecture. nestle next to pioneering skyscrapers. Old mill warehouses home to the sweat and tears of a thriving industry in Manchester have been converted to live music venues, housing inebriated euphoric fans that dance collectively under the flashing lights and throbbing bass. Classic Victorian toilets that still house rusty signs and questionable drainage systems have been converted to edgy bars in North London. I love how cities reinvent themselves continuously, adapting to modern trends and continuing to pay respects to its past.
I love the vast changes in countryside across the United Kingdom, from the crumbling cliffs of the Jurassic Coast that jut out of the sea, to the enchanting and bizarre pieces of Stonehenge. There is so much to see and do when the weather allows it, and I love that the country has such a variety in such a small place. I love the incredibly well mannered people that apologise for everything and will give you a warm smile whilst you dance awkwardly around each other, trying to reach for a cucumber in a supermarket. I love the boisterous open people who aren’t afraid of having a conversation with a complete stranger on the bus, which always ultimately steers to the weather. I love the diversity of the people that live in the UK, that I can walk down a street and smell different cuisines, hear different languages and see people from different cultures, all choosing to make the UK their home.
I love the vibrant arts scene; from the underground comedy clubs where new talent are practising their well rehearsed jokes on a sticky floor filled with tipsy punters, to the glamourous and ever so slick big performances that dance in time in the West End, or shows that leave a viewer speechless with pent up emotion. And the music scene! Arriving here with a love for Tina Tuner and a limited experience of music from the international radio station with Bahrain’s presenter “Crazy Kevin”, I was educated above and beyond. Blown away by different genres that could capture your very emotion and take you higher through music, connecting your soul through someone else’s voice, or someone else’s production. I’ve cried on dancefloors and at music festivals, taken aback by the majestic talent of live performances, beautiful moments with strangers, and connected experiences.
I will always miss Bahrain and a part of my heart will always be there, but for now, I think I have fallen in love with my new home.