Dreaming of Bahrain

by Brian on March 2, 2011

in Travel

Bahrain is right next to Iran - that sounds like fun!

We have just over a month to go until we leave for our long-planned trek to Nepal to celebrate my 50th birthday and Aviv’s bar mitzvah. There’s only one problem standing in our way: Bahrain.

The cheapest way to get to Asia for Israelis is via the Gulf – the price can be as low as $600 round trip from Amman vs. double that if you leave from Israel. Not wanting to be freiers and over-spend, we booked a Gulf Air flight from Jordan to Kathmandu via Bahrain. Our itinerary has an 11-hour layover, so we figured we leave the airport and take in the sights of Manama, the tiny country’s only real city.

And then, a few weeks ago, following the riots in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrain erupted. Protesters took to the streets, occupying Pearl Square, and the government fought back, killing several and wounding many more.

That kind of scuttled our plans tour the capital.

Gulf Air flies not only over Iran but Pakistan to boot

It didn’t make it any better that, in 2009, a commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards called Bahrain the Islamic Republic’s “14th province.” Not to mention that Gulf Air flies over Iran (and as you can see in the picture, a little too close to Islamabad) on its way to and from Kathmandu. I wonder what would happen if our plane, with its Israeli contingent on board, had to make an unexpected landing in Tehran?

Now, there’s no knowing what will be by the time we leave (protesters took to the streets in Bahrain again today after two weeks of quiet). But if Egypt is any clue, if fighting does flare up, even flights could be suspended.

Given the dicey situation – and not a small amount of added stress while planning not only a trip, but an entire bar mitzvah – I quickly went online to find an alternate route. But everything cost an arm and a leg.

“We can’t afford it,” I complained to my wife Jody.

“What’s more important – money or our safety?” she shot back. That’s a hard one to argue with.

Now, of course, canceling a flight has penalty fees. But our travel insurance should cover it, right? Isn’t that why we took out the policy in the first place? Nope, said Adam, the friendly English-speaking representative of the insurance company.

“We don’t cover cancellation due to political unrest,” he calmly explained after checking with his supervisor on my insistence. “However, if you get stuck in a place where violence breaks out, we’ll pay for your emergency airlift.” That seemed kind of backward – they’ll shell out big bucks to get you home in a pinch, but not the relatively small fees for avoiding the situation in the first place?

In the end, our travel agent found us a flight that is actually cheaper than our itinerary was via Bahrain. It requires staying for Shabbat in Mumbai, India, but that actually sounds fun. And get this – it’s on El Al (usually the most expensive airline there is).

So, let me see if I’ve got this right: Gulf Air – riots, threat of kidnapping – or El Al: surly flight attendants, but kosher food and a safe route.

Kathmandu, here we come!

I originally wrote about our flight ordeals on the Israelity blog.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Rachel Selby March 4, 2011 at 1:09 am

And I thought that old joke about the Bar Mitzva celebration involving an elephant ride in the jungle was made up. Have a great trip! By the way – with a two-year-old, I would only travel El Al. We have been to London four times in the past two years and the crew were wonderful every time.

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