An oasis even if a little unkempt

On the Manama side there were only two seaside parks for a long time where people could stroll about or take walks, children could play and families could either go for a picnic and enjoy home-made meals [or prepare them in the park itself] or have snacks from kiosks. One of them was next to the Kids’ Kingdom off BFH. The other halfway between the Shaikh Isa Library in Juffair and the Bahrain Museum.

The former is now barely a shadow of itself and both the approach to it and exit from it is a tricky and circuitous affair. As for the latter, that too is trying to survive in ‘reduced circumstances’ but still has a charm of its own even if these charms have somewhat faded.

Thus, clumps of straggling trees with benches here and there at the Shaikh Isa Library end have long been cleared, Layali Turkiye restaurant with its sheeshas has disappeared and given way to a green patch, and Bait Al Omdah restaurant which offered some lovely tea was burnt down some years ago due to a kitchen accident. The pleasure boats that once plied from there have also long gone and so have the remnants of piers.

But the park still has compensations for middle-class families and their children. For one, the toy train still chugs along, there are enough playthings to keep children busy, including swings, the dolphinarium seems to be thriving, a couple of kiosks can be found perennially busy selling tea and popcorn, parking is never a problem and it is all safe for children. The star attraction, which is a draw for the well-heeled, is the huge ship-shaped restaurant whose facade at night might lull a new visitor into believing it is a real one berthed along the shore. And wonder of wonders it has a proper sandy beach as well, even if barely 20 yards long, complete with thatch umbrellas and tree-trunk benches.

But the real attraction of this park is its tree-lined avenue with a banyan thrown in half way through [wonder why its hanging roots have been cut away]. Even though the boulevard is lined with straggling, unkempt trees born bent thanks to strong winds, in the evening the stretch gives a cosy feeling as you plod along with children running about in the vast grassy patches, kebabs being roasted while the flames are being assiduously fanned, not to forget the knots of cats playing in the trees or prowling about the picnickers in anticipation of an occasional crumb.

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