You're right about Saudis and I'm on broadband in Bahrain.<br><br>MacGizmo you won a free trip to the Tree of Life with my Jeep if you're in Bahrain. It's a huge tree in the middle of the desert with no vegetation around it at all. Only sand and some camels from time to time. It's a wonder how it survives.<br><br><br><br>Dilmun (the preislamic Bahrain) is mentioned in the Babylonian creation myth, and the Epic of Gilgamesh describes it as a paradise to which heroes and wise men are transported to enjoy eternal life. In the epic (the world's oldest known poetic saga), Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, spends much of his time seeking out this sacred island. Some say that Bahrain was the biblical garden where Adam and Eve lived. The tree of life is the tree where the snake lived, who was hitting on Eve.<br><br>http://raszl.net
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…but thought some of you might be interested about the political changes. Very relevant because of Iraq. Here is a New York Times article:<br><br><br><br>There Is Hope<br><br>October 27, 2002<br>By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN <br><br>MANAMA, Bahrain <br><br>There is nothing more beautiful than watching people get to<br>vote in a free election for the first time - particularly<br>in the Arab world, where elections have been so rare.<br>That's what happened in Bahrain Thursday, as this tiny<br>island nation off the east coast of Saudi Arabia voted for<br>a parliament that will, for the first time, get to share<br>some decision-making with Bahrain's progressive king, Sheik<br>Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. <br><br>As I visited polling stations, what struck me most was the<br>number of elderly women who voted, many covered from head<br>to toe in black burka-like robes. Many of them illiterate,<br>they would check the picture of the candidate they wanted<br>to vote for and then stuff the ballot in the box - voting<br>less for a politician than for their own empowerment. One<br>appeared to have her grandchildren with her. As she voted,<br>her grandson, who looked about age 10 and wore a soccer<br>outfit, tried to explain to his little sisters what a<br>voting booth was. Thus are seeds of democracy planted. <br><br>This is the first election ever in the Arab gulf region<br>where women were allowed to run and vote, and their<br>husbands have quickly discovered what that means. The<br>king's wife, Sheika Sabika - in an unprecedented move in<br>this conservative region - campaigned publicly for women to<br>go out and vote. She visited a Shiite Muslim community<br>center and an elderly woman stood up to say: "Thank you.<br>[Because we can now vote,] for the first time our husbands<br>are asking us what we think and are interested in what we<br>have to say." <br><br>It's true that Bahrain's young king has been planning this<br>transition to a constitutional monarchy for several years,<br>as part of a move to spur economic growth and overcome<br>Bahrain's legacy of Sunni-Shiite tension. He prepared the<br>way by releasing all political prisoners, inviting exiles<br>home, loosening reins on the press and repealing laws<br>permitting arbitrary arrests. Nevertheless, this election<br>is about something larger than Bahrain. It is about how the<br>Arab world confronts the forces that produced 9/11 - and<br>all of Bahrain's neighbors, like Saudi Arabia, are<br>watching. <br><br>What the more enlightened Arab leaders understand today is<br>that with the mounting pressure of globalization,<br>population explosions and dwindling oil revenues, their<br>long acceptance of political and economic stagnation -<br>which they managed with repression and by refocusing anger<br>onto Israel and America - is becoming unsustainable. While<br>the first big explosion happened in New York City, these<br>regimes know that unless they get their houses in order,<br>and on a more democratic track, the next explosion will be<br>on their doorsteps. <br><br>Not a single person I spoke to at polling centers mentioned<br>foreign policy. Most said they hoped the parliament would<br>improve the economy, end corruption by senior ministers and<br>give people a voice. "Things have changed in the whole<br>world and we can't just sit around and watch and have no<br>forum to express our views -—the pace of change dictates<br>this upon us," said Dr. A. W. M. Abdul Wahab as he waited<br>to vote. <br><br>The Bush team needs to pay attention to the Bahrain<br>experiment, because it is a mini-version of what<br>nation-building in Iraq would require. Like Iraq, Bahrain<br>is a country with a Shiite majority, which has been<br>economically deprived, and a Sunni Muslim minority, which<br>has always controlled the levers of power. Historically in<br>this part of the world, democracy never worked because of<br>the feeling that if your tribe or religious community was<br>not in power, it would lose everything - so no rotation in<br>power could be tolerated. <br><br>By electing one house of parliament and appointing another,<br>the Bahraini king is taking the first tentative steps to<br>both share decision-making and nurture a political culture<br>in which the country will not be able to move forward<br>without the new lawmakers' building coalitions across<br>ethnic lines. The same would be needed in Iraq, only on a<br>much larger scale. <br><br>I heard Harvard's president, Lawrence Summers, say once<br>that "in the history of the world, no one has ever washed a<br>rented car." Ditto for countries. So many Arabs today feel<br>that they are just renting their governments. They have no<br>real ownership, and so don't feel responsible for solving<br>their own problems. Bahrain took a small step last week<br>toward giving its people ownership over their own country,<br>and one can only hope they will take responsibility for<br>washing it and improving it. Nothing could help this region<br>more. There is hope. <br><br>http://raszl.net
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