Business Booms at Gulf’s First Sex Shop
Breaking Taboos in Bahrain
By Alexander Smoltczyk
Just down the road in Saudi Arabia, men aren’t allowed to talk to women in public, but the phone at Khadija Mohammed’s Bahrain sex shop hardly stops ringing. One favorite item: fruit-flavored edible underwear.
King Fahd Causeway connects Saudi Arabia to the island kingdom of Bahrain, where some of the rules are rather more relaxed. If you leave Manama, the kingdom’s capital, take a right down Baghdad Avenue and drive south to the traffic circle by the Last Chance supermarket, you’ll find a place far removed from the strictures of Saudi morality, enforced chastity and prudishness.
"By the traffic circle … next to the laundromat. Yes. No, I don’t have any dildos, only massage devices … Good. See you later. Maa al-Salama." Khadija Mohammed’s telephone rings every 10 minutes. The last call was from a number beginning +966. "A lady in Saudi Arabia," Khadija explains. In other words, the typical customer of Khadija Fashion House in Manama.
Later that afternoon the lady comes by, concealed by a hijab that reveals nothing but her eyes, and purchases a magenta-colored "Oui", described on the packaging as a "simple, elegant personal massager, so thin it can fit in the palm of your hand."
Hiding Behind A Veil
Sometimes, Khadija Mohammed says, wearing a veil can be extremely practical. Nevertheless women without veils also come into her shop. Their husbands stand to one side while their wives shop.
A "beginner’s bondage kit" complete with handcuffs and a blindfold — typical sadomasochism equipment — hangs on the wall behind the cash register. Such items are usually associated with the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. There are "cats-of-nine-tails" for seven Bahrain dinars each, as well as whips and G-spot stimulators. On the shelves there are enema nozzles, penis enhancement creams, belly-dancer costumes, "Dress Black Gladiator"-brand stilettos, and glow-in-the-dark nail polish. Khadija says she has just run out of dice for party games.