Before I was born, my parents lived in Bahrain for a two-year period. I grew up hearing stories and knowing the family they lived with in Manama as close, dear friends. They came to visit us stateside twice and taught me a lot as a kid, even though I was too young to realize it at the time.
We had a camel saddle in my living room, which we always used as furniture. I didn’t realize until junior high that nobody else in my school had one. My mother used to yell at me in Persian for misbehaving because she thought it would be less embarrassing for me in public, since the other shoppers probably wouldn’t understand what she was saying.
I’m utterly surprised and saddened at the news coming out of the kingdom right now because I always heard stories of it being a very progressive, fairly liberal Muslim country–and that was all the way back in the 1970s. My mother wore jeans and t-shirts. No one said a word to her. The younger members of the Bahraini family we knew did, too. It just wasn’t that big a deal; it was just a style choice as far as they were concerned.
There’s a big, long post I really want to write about Bahrain and the people who live there, but it’s going to take emotional energy, and I have none tonight. I couldn’t resist playing with some numbers, though, just to illustrate how closely-knit the citizens of this usually-peaceful kingdom must be.
Consider Tennessee. (Mostly because I’ve lived there a long time, and well, it’s my blog and that’s what I thought of first.) All of these numbers and images, by the way, are from Wikipedia.
Tennessee comprises 42,143 square miles.
Middle Tennessee, a region we locals are visually familiar with
(think weather maps and voting districts), measures 17,009 square miles.
Bahrain? The whole country? It’s 290 square miles.
(And yes, what you see here includes ALL of their main highways.)
That means Bahrain is 17 square miles SMALLER than
Cheatham County, TN, which looks like this:
That tiny, tiny sliver? Fits a whole freaking nation. Plus some.
Those people on the news aren’t just crying because of political upheaval. With every new death, they are losing family members, coworkers, and friends. Everyone in the country lives within 40 miles of everyone else.
I can’t imagine that.
But now I can picture it.
PS: And for my Nashville friends, your county gets 526 square miles. (The math on that makes Davidson County 236 square miles bigger than the whole of Bahrain.)
PPS: A Twitter conversation with Avery Oslo brought up the fact that Rhode Island, with 1,214 square miles is more than four times the size of Bahrain. There are four Bahrains in a Rhode Island?! I honestly didn’t think Rhode Island was bigger than anything but maybe a Wal-Mart.