Why is it that around a million people per month visit Bahrain, and each weekend tens of thousands of visitors pour across the Saudi causeway into Manama?
Bahrain has dozens of things to offer visitors – whether you want beaches; culture and history; a diverse range of restaurants; or a broad choice of leisure activities.
While in other Gulf states tourism opportunities are quite limited because of conservative cultural norms or security concerns; Bahrain has relatively relaxed dress codes for men and women and is a safe and relaxed location for leisure and tourism.
For a small island, Bahrain is rich in historical sites. Bahrain is home of the ancient Kingdom of Dilmun, prized by the Mesopotamians for its pearls and rich trading opportunities. Many important sites dating back thousands of years from this Dilmun period still exist, including temples and ruined towns. Bahrain’s excellent national museum boasts a treasure group of excavated materials from the Dilmun era.
There are several significant fortresses along Bahrain’s coast, built to defend the islands at various points in their history. The inhabitants of Bahrain are reputed to be one of the first people of Arabia to have embraced Islam after sending delegations to visit the Prophet Mohammed and among the important Islamic sites is the recently-restored Khamis Mosque.
Bahrain excels as a family-friendly location. The two most popular waterparks are Wahooo, located at the City Centre mall and the Lost Paradise, not too far from the Sakhir Formula One racing track.
Many of the malls have extensive play areas for children and bowling alleys, ski parks and numerous sports areas are also popular. There are several pleasant beaches and open areas to take the kids. Al Areen Wildlife Park is also a popular location for families.
There are many day-trip opportunities by boat to visit the islands around Bahrain’s coast. Hawar islands take a little longer to get to.
Places to stay
Once again, you have a wide range of choices for hotels and accommodation. The Sheraton, Ritz-Carlton, Gulf Hotel, Four Seasons, the Marriott, Radisson Blu and Sofitel are among the grander five-star locations, but there are dozens of others which can more than meet your expectations.
Bahrain probably has more shopping malls per square kilometer than anywhere else on earth. Obvious places to start are City Centre, Seef Mall, Moda Mall,Aali Mall and the Bahrain mall – all within a short distance of each other and with several other large malls close by. Get there early though, because these places are heaving with people every weekend. These malls have dozens of restaurants to suit all tastes and plenty of play centres for the kids. The traditional markets of Manama and Muharraq are also essential spots to visit.
Those with an interest in culture are spoilt for choice, with Bahrain’s diverse range of art galleries and centres for hosting cultural events, including the new National Theatre. You can also find many fascinating centres for traditional crafts, making perfect gifts and souvenirs for visitors to take home. For centuries Bahrain’s economy was centred on trading and pearls. Once again, there are efforts to revive Bahrain’s pearling industry and raise awareness about the past, with the Pearling Trail in Muharraq being designated as a world heritage site.
Places to eat
There is such an embarrassment of excellent places to eat in Bahrain that it seems futile to try listing them. Adliya is a good part of town to start for restaurants and cafes and many of the major hotels are also famous for their food. Several coastal localities have great fish markets.
Bahrain’s historic cultural and ethnic diversity means that there are a broad variety of eating opportunities; Lebanese, Indian, Chinese, Italian, Greek, Bengali, Arabian, Turkish, French…
There are a broad range of water sports activities available, particularly along the east coast and clubs like Coral Bay are good places to start for snorkeling, jet skiing, diving and boating. Fishing is also a popular activity in many locations.
Bahrain is also famous for annually hosting the Formula One Grand Prix, and outside of the F1 season the Sakhir racing track hosts other motoring activities. There are also many great locations for football, tennis, bowling, swimming and other sports.
Places to relax
Popular clubs with expats include the British Club, the Sailing Club, Coral Bay, the Rugby Club, the Country Club and the Dilmun Club.
Bars like JJs (Irish) and Sherlock Homes (located at the Gulf Hotel) are also popular and there are an abundance of nightclubs and places to go in the evening, particularly in areas like Adliya and Juffair.
In the spring and autumn, a popular Bahraini recreational activity is going off camping in the desert. When the weather is right, thousands of Bahraini families can be found out sleeping under the stars and preparing their food in the open air.
Ten reasons why Bahrain is best: Click these links to find out
#1 – Family friendly
#2 – Religious tolerance
#3 – Personal safety
#4 – Cultural hub
#5 – Open economy
#6 – Tourist paradise
#7 – Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
#8 – Dependable ally
#9 – Island nation
#10 – Historic power-centre