On the Arabian island, the farmers could read the signs of the times. As the skyscrapers rose out of the desert and the sheiks raced their Maseratis down the shimmering King Fahd causeway, the demand for food increased. The leisured classes and the construction workers alike needed bread. That food could be imported, or the money could stay close to home.
The land was against them. Government scientists had been searching for a way to reclaim land from the sea, to make the small amount of arable land more productive, but all but the most dedicated agriculturists knew that the real value of the land was in the black gold beneath the surface. Grain could always be imported from Egypt -- why waste time and manpower on cultivation? The press, which has been testing the limits of the new and more lenient regime, criticized the endeavor in increasingly strident editorials.
Still, the project had the favor of certain highly placed officials. With support from national funds, researchers at the largest public university had compounded new chemical fertilizers that could be dusted onto the fields of the coastal plains. The project was unveiled to much publicity, and lucky farmers were selected by lottery to have their fields treated with the experimental product. The result was an utter fiasco -- a junior lab assistant had made an error in sending the formula to the chemist's lab, and instead of enriching the soil, the acclaimed fertilizers burned the land. The resulting wheat crop was sparse and singed. Egyptian economists and exporters sat back in cafes and ordered each other another round of tisanes.
The reaction of the press was swift. Papers, still damp with ink and scorn, were flung into the marketplaces and the city shops as the merchants, antagonistic to the aims of the peasant farmers, stroked their beards and murmured over the headlines: Bahrain, It's Plain, Sprays Vainly On The Grain.