Squids and Tea in the Kingdom of Bahrain

The scent of raw fish, salt, and tea sends me to a good place. One whiff of it and suddenly I’m on a boat wearing overalls and sporting a bowl cut (you know, that 90’s hair cut that turned every little girl into a beautiful boy).

Its the summer before my entry into the second grade and we’re fishing close to Jazirat Mashtan, a small island lying southeast of mainland Bahrain. It’s a beautiful place. During the early morning hours not a soul or engine passes by. Just birds, random flies that caught a ride at the marina, and the warmth of the Bahraini sun. I watch my father as he stands by the edge of the boat, sipping his tea and observing the direction of the current; he calculates their move and then tells us where to drop our lines. Were not using rods. Instead, we follow the tradition of using a simple line and hook with tiny weights. It’s easier, requires less effort and in my opinion much more personal than a commercial rod.

Although most of the people on board have already thrown their lines in, I refuse to do the same until I choose the best bait. I open the ice box and see that it is filled with prawns, dried up sardines, and things I cannot even name but I pick the squid. It jiggles when I try to cut it up to usable sizes and I feel like I’m going to gag and laugh at the same time. I must look hilarious! Before my body decides on which course it’s going to take, a hiccup laugh or a small discharge of vomit, my brother swoops in and grabs the knife. He helps me prepare the bait and soon enough I’m ready to throw my line in. After we’ve all found our comfortable fishing positions, we wait patiently, meanwhile cracking a million jokes and passing around the dala.  Some of us are hoping to catch Hammour for dinner.

Written by Sahar Nass

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