King and Sheik to Open New Causeway
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ Saudi Arabia and Bahrain open a causeway Wednesday that will link this island with the Arabian Peninsula to the economic benefit of both but may cause a clash between their cultures.
Alcohol is banned in the rigid Islamic society of Saudi Arabia but allowed in Bahrain, a more secular Moslem nation where nightclubs abound.
Who drives across the causeway may be another problem. Women are permitted to drive in Bahrain but not in Saudi Arabia.
Many people also fear the 15-mile causeway between Bahrain and the mainland means the end of the dhows, the clumsy-looking vessels that have plied the Persian Gulf trade routes for centuries.
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia arrived Tuesday and a performance by sword- wielding dancers was part of the welcoming ceremony at the airport.
Sheik Isa bin Salman al Khalifa, the emir of Kuwait, led a long line of sheiks and Cabinet ministers, Arab and Western diplomats in greeting the king. Sheik Isa has declared a national holiday on Wednesday, when he and Fahd will preside at the inauguration.
Saudi Arabia paid the $1.2 billion cost of the four-lane causeway built by Saudi and Dutch contractors.
It is designed to accommodate up to 3,000 vehicles an hour for the 20- minute trip over the shallow waters of the Gulf of Salwa. Dhows need three hours for the trip.
Officials contend that an expected boom in tourism and food imports will benefit the island.
Bringing food in by truck will reduce the annual bill of $80 million for imported food, most of which now comes by air.
″The causeway will certainly stimulate the economy,″ Abdul-Nabi al- Shoala, director of the Chamber of Commerce, told The Associated Press.
Bahrain is 28 miles long and 11 miles wide, with a population of 300,000. Saudi Arabia has 11 million people in an area larger than Western Europe.