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Book a flight to Bahrain with Qatar Airways and you could be enjoying the friendliness and relaxing atmosphere of island life at its best. Translated, Bahrain means ‘two seas’ and this kingdom is practically defined by its relationship with the seas that surround it. The waters are so shallow that the inhabitants often ‘reclaim’ land that was once lost to them. Manama, the Bahrain Financial Harbour, is built on such land in a peculiar reversal of tide against turf.
Although it is quite modern in appearance, Bahrain has a long and illustrious history, dating back to the ancient Dilmun civilization. The Romans, Persians, Babylonians and Assyrians have all left their marks here, evident in the unique architecture and the complex flavours in the local cuisine.
If you’re taking children on your trip to Bahrain, the Al-Areen Wildlife Park is well worth visiting. An expansive park, it gives families the chance to explore at their leisure and see some of Bahrain’s indigenous species in the wild. Originally, it was created to house rare Arabian animals, such as the Oryx, Adax and Reem Gazelle – all of which still live there.
However, if you’d rather soak up some culture, take a trip to the Bahrain National Museum, a waterfront building where the waves come up to the windows! Here, you’ll find fascinating and informative displays on the country and its history, including artefacts from the Dilmun people. After that, you might consider following it up with a visit to the A’Ali Burial Grounds. These are very much an attraction in their own right, but a trip to the National Museum beforehand will help you appreciate their significance.
For many visitors, a trip to Bahrain simply wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Al-Fatih Mosque. Capable of holding over 7,000 worshippers, it is built on reclaimed land and serves as a perfect way to further your understanding of Islam.
Bahrain is well established as a financial centre in the 21st Century. However, as recently as 100 years ago, its economy depended almost entirely on pearl diving. What was once a dangerous profession has been turned into a safe pastime for tourists, who use the latest scuba equipment to scour the seabed for oysters.
However, if that sounds a bit too challenging, you might want to visit some of the many art galleries in Bahrain, such as the Al Riwaq Art Space and the Bin Matar House. Alternatively, you can get an adrenaline fix and still remain seated by paying a visit to the Bahrain Grand Prix, held in Sakhir. This is a world-class event that is much enjoyed by the locals as much as visitors – although you’ll need to book your tickets in advance.
Food is an integral part of Bahrain’s culture and meals can go on for hours. No trip to Bahrain can be truly complete without sampling the local coffee. Far from being the thick tar people think it’s going to be, Bahrain’s coffee is a peculiarly refreshing drink. However, once you’ve had enough, remember to shake your cup from side to side or you might find it fills up again…
Bahraini food varies wildly from rustic street food to formal fine dining. If you want to eat like the locals, then hunt out street vendors in the market places, where you can sample dishes such as shawarma – particularly from the shawarma stands behind the Gulf Hotel.
Your trip to Bahrain should include the local delicacies such as Qoozi, a delicious mix of grilled lamb stuffed with rice, onions, spices and boiled eggs. One of the most common accompaniments with every meal is the traditional flatbread known as khubz, which is often served with a fish sauce called mahyawa.
When you think of a trip to Bahrain, you probably envisage labyrinthine souks, heady with the smell of coffee and brimming with vendors. This is certainly one side of shopping in the kingdom. Visit Manama and you’ll find spice traders, and tailors ready to rustle you up a handmade suit on the spot. However, Bahrain is also home to some of the most expansive shopping centres in the area, such as the malls in Seef, where you can buy designer kaftans and luxurious Persian carpets.
If you have children with you, make sure to visit Muharraq, where you’ll find an astonishing array of traditional sweets.
Flights to Bahrain will arrive in Bahrain International Airport, about 7kms north of Manama. There are plenty of taxis and car-hire services, although the distance to where you’re staying is likely to be minimal.
Visa restrictions for entry into the country will depend on your country of origin, length of stay and whether your trip is for business or pleasure. So before you fly to Bahrain please check the visa and passport requirements.
Currency: Bahraini Dinar (BHD)
Voltage: 230 V 50 Hz
Plugs: Type G
Language: Arabic / English
International dialing code: +973