Get ready for two days of culture taking in Bahrain’s rich past as a prime location in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the old world
A fascinating melange of eastern and western cultures, the Kingdom of Bahrain boasts many mosques and minarets sharing skylines with skyscrapers. An apt destination for tourists to explore, Bahrain is nothing less than a wonder to be at. December is a special month to visit as one can witness the whole Kingdom coming together to celebrate Bahrain’s National Day on December 16.
Day 1 Morning
Start exploring the beautiful capital city of Manama at the Bahrain National Museum, which showcases the cultures that have passed through this island. From the ancient civilisation of the Dilmun to Arab, Portuguese and British influence over successive years, you’ll wander the museum to discover the treasures they left behind, showcased in the artifacts on display in the museum’s many exhibits, including a full-sized dhow and other stalwarts of the pearling industry.
Next, head to Beit Sheikh Isa bin Ali, a traditional 19th century home. Separate quarters for men and women and an ingenious wind tower system that keeps the building cool in the sweltering heat are unique features that were typical of such houses at the time.
For a quick bite, go simple and street-side: a delicious shawarma chicken sandwich from one of the ubiquitous street restaurants that offer this popular dish. You can also head specifically to Sameeh Restaurant, located a mere 10 minutes from Beit Sheikh Isa – but be careful, you can encounter long queues at the restaurant. Continue to explore Manama’s religious culture by visiting Beit al-Qur’an, which houses a fascinating collection of historic and handwritten Qur’ans from around the world, as well as the intricately designed Al-Fateh Mosque, with a capacity for 7,000 worshippers: one of the largest worldwide.
In the evening, head for a performance at the Bahrain National Theatre, a spectacular architectural masterpiece that sits resplendent by the city’s waterfront. Finally, take in a bit of the local culture for dinner – and there’s no better place to do this in the art and restaurant quarter of Adliya. This partly pedestrianised area is a great place to explore on foot before or after you sit down to eat just about any style of cuisine you could wish for.
Day 2 Morning
Start your second day exploring outside the city walls. On top of the list for many Bahrain explorers is Qal’at al-Bahrain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located several kilometres outside Manama that dates back to 2,300 BC, and perfectly encapsulates the rich layers in Manama’s history. It was once the capital of Dilmun, and it is where archaeologists have discovered many priceless artifacts of Dilmun culture, that are displayed at the National Museum. On top of the 30-acre mound is a magnificent 15th century fort, which was used by the Portuguese when Bahrain was claimed as part of their empire.
Visit the Bahrain International Circuit, where the 2018 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix will be held next year in April. Even in off-season periods, the go-karting track and a circuit tour are available for tourists. Another family favourite is the Al Areen Wildlife Park & Reserve, which provides a habitat to 50 species of mammals, 100 plus bird species and around 100 desert plan species. Taking a bus tour through the reserve is an opportunity to relish the native life of this region. Of particular interest is the Arabian Oryx, a stunning gazelle-like creature native to the Arabian Gulf that was once threatened with extinction.
Once you’re back in the city, you can either relax by doing some shopping for souvenirs in one of the traditional marketplaces such as the Manama Souq – pick up some unique wares at niche places like the Spice Souq, Gold Souq, and Kingdom of Perfumes – or take a break from the sweltering heat by enjoying the rest of your day at Wahoo! Waterpark. The beautiful city of Manama can be appreciated all the more, once you’ve had a refreshing dip in
Words: Maryam Al Dabbagh