An archipelago of some 33 islands, Bahrain Island is the largest, with a land mass 55km long and 18km wide. Officially it is called the Kingdom of Bahrain and is the smallest of the independent Persian Gulf States. Historically the country is known for its oil and pearls but with over 200 financial institutions based in the city centre, finance has become the largest facet of its economy. Bahrain today has one of the strongest economies in the world.
Manama is one of the most liberal cities in the Middle East and as such has enjoyed massive growth in its tourism industry, with more than eight million visitors each year. Manama gives visitors a great insight into a liberal Muslim country without strict application of Islamic law; however it is recommended that women in particular dress modestly.
When planning your trip to Bahrain consider your safety and always check with your government or consulate before you leave.
Expats form around 30 per cent of Manama’s population making it a great city to sample international cuisine. Given it’s location it also boasts plenty of fresh seafood with bream and mackerel always in good supply. The Sheza Tower Hotel is famed for its Seafood Market Restaurant with an extensive seafood menu on offer. Located in the Diplomatic Area, this restaurant is well worth a visit.
A favourite amongst locals, Al Abraaj restaurants has been serving up flavoursome Arabic food in Manama for years. Found at a number of locations throughout the city, this is a great place to try traditional dishes like machbloos – savoury meat or fish served with rice or muhammar, a type of dessert consisting of sweet rice, sugar and dates. Cheap food stalls are a great way to try authentic local specialties. Keep your eyes open for the felafel and shawarma stalls which serve grilled meats and chickpea patties with tasty sauce, wrapped in traditional thin bread.
Bahrain’s largest shopping centre, the Seef Mall is an air-conditioned oasis. Marble floors and glass domed ceilings house an impossible choice in international brands as well as themed cafes, restaurants and an international food court. The cinema, bowling centre and family entertainment precinct called Magic Island are sure to entertain people of all ages.
Haggle with friendly locals at the colourful souk markets. Here you can find everything from food and clothing to home wares and souvenirs. They also have highly skilled tailors who can mend or recreate your favourite wardrobe items in just a few days.
Bahrain is a fantastic place to shop for jewellery, especially gold. Most of the jewellery is made from 21, 22 and in some cases 24 (pure) gold which gives it a bright yellow glow and the craftsmanship is incredibly detailed too. With very competitive prices it’s easy to see why so many visitors spoil themselves with a trip to the gold souk.