The Manama Souq has many narrow and chaotic streets and alleys featuring a variety of items at negotiable prices
“My friend, my friend…” calls a vendor while we cross his small electronics shop in Manama. While we are not interested in buying anything, we move ahead and come across an old Bahraini man selling herbs and spices. Next to him is a man selling all kinds of souvenirs. Welcome to the Manama Souq.
While Bahrain doesn’t lack in modern malls featuring popular and world famous retailers, a trip to the Manama Souq is a must for people looking for a traditional bazaar-like shopping experience. If you are not the one who enjoys the brightly coloured display of fresh fruits and vegetables, or scents of herbs, nuts and spices, come here to observe people going about their routine lives.
Located in the north of Manama, between the Central Business District and the city, Manama Souq lies in the heart of the city, near Bab Al Bahrain (Gateway of Bahrain), a historical building with an arch marking the entrance to the souq. As you stroll through the souq’s busy streets, you will come across numerous shoppers filling the streets and vehicles trying to make their way around. Here one gets to see and purchase all possible fabrics, spices, thobes, kaftans, souvenirs, handicrafts, nuts, dry fruits and anything else.
What’s great about the souq is that here traditions meet modern lifestyle. You will find the same cheap electronics and bargain clothing found at any open-air market. Look beyond the wares that are for sale. It is the smells and the sounds of the market that make the experience. All prices are negotiable, and the streets do not lack vendors offering special deals just for you. Do not hesitate to indulge in a conversation, they are friendly and helpful.
Bahrain is famous for its gold too, and the Gold Souq inside Manama Souq houses dozens of jewellery stores. Come here for both custom-made and ready-to-buy gold pieces. In few of the workshops here, you can see goldsmiths at work. Bahrain Gold is usually 21 carat and hallmark, and is available in infinite number of styles, including traditional ones.
Manama Souk, with its labyrinthine lanes and alleys, is best explored on foot, so if you’re driving, remember to leave your car in one of the parking facilities near Bab Al Bahrain. The souq opens from about 9 am to 1 pm, and then from about 4-9 pm, with most shops closing in the afternoon to avoid the heat. If you want to avoid crowds, Saturday mornings are the best time to go.
By: Ahmed Hussain