Saudis flee dry kingdom to Bahrain for New Year

AP News
Posted: Jan 01, 2013 8:15 AM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Residents of Saudi Arabia, where booze and New Year's celebrations are banned, flooded into neighboring Bahrain in search of festivities to ring in 2013.

More than 80,000 cars crossed a causeway over the Gulf to Bahrain Monday night to celebrate New Year's Eve, the Saudi newspaper Al-Youm reported on Tuesday. Saudi Arabia adheres to a strict interpretation of Islam and bans alcohol as well as celebrations of Christmas and New Year's Eve. It also prohibits unrelated men and women from mingling.

Saudis and foreign residents of the oil-rich kingdom frequently take the half-hour drive across the causeway to Bahrain on weekends, filling bars, movie theaters and hotels in the capital Manama. Some conservative Bahraini lawmakers, however, want the government to ban alcohol and close nightclubs.

Al-Youm said a few hours before midnight, the line of cars waiting to cross King Fahd bridge stretched for a half-mile with traffic police, security and passport officers out in force to keep the revelers flowing.