I was extremely saddened this evening as I ventured out to the Manama waterfront park, or the Corniche as it is called, and found it deserted. But for a handful of children in the company of their bored-looking parents, and some officials, there was nothing else there.
The dozen or so “rides” where children normally would amuse themselves and enjoy for hours on end were empty, their attendants biting their nails and staring into space, the handful of shops closed, the place is littered and there is just no activity.
This is a far cry from the days when we came to Bahrain in mid-1990’s, and even until a few years ago, when this was the place to be on weekends, overflowing with children, adults, young, old, hawkers, dozens of policemen to keep a look out and, of course, picnickers of all hues, competing for space on the lush green grass slopes beautifully landscaped into the surroundings.
So, what has happened now?
The “malls” have happened, said one extremely bored and frustrated park official. He said the park was in its heyday several years ago when Bahrain was still the “old Bahrain” and there were no malls and indoor amusement parks. Parks such as these were the only places to go so children, and their parents, enjoyed the great outdoors and made the most of the weekends. Now, with the “mall culture” has come the “indoor culture” and people have moved into air-conditioned areas of the massive complexes that have everything from lavish food courts, shopping arcades, play areas and even indoor theme parks.
The result is children these days will never know what it is like to sweat it out, what it is like to play on the sand, on the merry-go-round, with the fresh air on the face, the dust, the tase of the hawkers’ tidbits, the ice cream from the shop in the corner or the feeling of being in a community.
Even when our children were younger, we frequented such parks, and particularly this one. In a way it was frustrating that we had to wait in endless queues for the children to have their turn on the rides, the bouncy castle or the train chugging on at the perimeter.
Those day are, sadly, gone.
Kids these days are growing up in an environment that was alien to us. They are protected from the realities they will face when they get out to face the world. It’s surely going to be tough on them but no one seems to care. At least not in this part of the world!