The King Fahd Causeway, is a combination of bridges, manmade islands and causeways connecting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. It is located several miles up the road from where we live and goes to the island Kingdom of Bahrain. Putting it on the map,click on this Link.
The idea of building a causeway had been talked about for generations. In the 1950’s both kingdoms had interest in connecting the Eastern Provence and the Kingdom of Bahrain to nurture and further solidify the brotherly bond between the two Kingdoms. In 1981 construction was started, in November 1985 the causeway was officially opened at a cost of $800 million. The causeway is a 4 lane road 16 miles long. On a clear day you can see the island of Bahrain from our compound and on most nights you can see the lights of Bahrain.
There are several manmade islands connected by causeway and bridges. The middle island know as Passport Island is where the border stations are located. The island is divided in half, on one side Saudi Arabia has its passport control and the other Bahrain has its passport control. As of 2010 19.1 million passengers cross the causeway annually, an average of 52,450 people every day and on the weekends 65,000+ each day.
There are a number of reasons way the causeway is so busy. I think the number one reason is it services as a relief valve for the Saudis living in the Eastern Provence. The Eastern Provence is the most liberal provinces in KSA. Many single men frequently use the causeway to have access to alcohol and woman. Many westerners and some Saudi’s go to Bahrain for art, movies, shopping, museums and many international concerts and performances. But the BIG reason is alcohol which is available at most restaurants and international hotels. It is very hard to find beer, wine and alcohol sold in stores. For many westerners/Texans, living in Saudi, it is the only place to buy pork products which is never found in Saudi Arabia. Bahrain also has a major airport with many international flights compared to the KSA international airport in Dammam, a 30 minute drive from Khobar. ME and I never use the Dammam airport, in Bahrain the airport offers a lot more availability in flights, the flights are cheaper and it is just a better experience.
We go to Bahrain perhaps every other week. Sometimes we drive ME’s boss or other colleagues back to the Bahraini Airport on Thursday afternoons for their return flights to the US. We would stop at one of the international hotels and sit out on the restaurants patio and have drinks and a meal before their departure. We also go on day trips to have lunch and visit a museum or a historic site on Fridays or Saturdays. Recently many Dow folks from Midland have been here for several weeks so we have been taking them to Friday brunch in Bahrain. After a busy week they all enjoy getting away for a drink and a good meal in a relaxing atmosphere. Remember all alcohol is strictly forbidden in KSA. So that is the pleasure of having the causeway so near, it is a place where we can easily go for “beer and bacon“.
Without any traffic, crossing the causeway takes about 40 minutes , 20 minutes travel time and 20 minutes going through passport control. This is the pain of the causeway, there are 6 checkpoints on Passport Island. On the Saudi side there are three checkpoints to check vehicle insurance, passports and car contents and three checkpoints on the Bahraini side to check the same things. We try to go to Bahrain in the off times but our normal crossing usually takes about 1-1/2 to 2 hours, 20 minutes travel time and 1 to 2 hours at the border station. There are now several apps available for your smarts phones that gives you the current waiting times. The weekends are always the most congested with waits sometimes over 3 hours. We recently heard that they are going to cut the process in half. The Saudi checkpoint would be removed when entering Bahrain and the Bahraini checkpoint would be removed when entering Saudi but that has not happened yet. Plans were recently announced to build a second causeway between the two kingdoms.
We enjoy going to Bahrain, it is a nice change of pace, we think the restaurants are better and you can have a drink, that is the pleasure of going to Bahrain but you never know how long the wait will be until you arrive on Passport Island and that is the pain when going to Bahrain.