The Pearl OF the Gulf

An aerial view of the city of Bahrain is a good precursor to what you can expect to see in this archipelago of islands. The turquoise blues and greens merge with the sandy browns to create a landscape that is straight out of a painting. Even as you enter the city of Manama, the first thing you see is a large life-size colourful camel sculpture Caravan of Peace. This is part of a project by artists and students of different areas of Bahrain to promote national unity and the idea of citizenship and co-existence among Bahrainis. And much like the rest of the experiences here  this is a country that is as warm as it is friendly and welcoming. 

Sights & Sounds
A good place to start your exploration is the Bahrain National Museum that will take you on a trip down memory lane, and acquaint you with the 4,000-year-old history of the country. With nine halls housed in a beige hued building, the museum is spread over three levels. The ground floor has sections dedicated to graves, the history of Dilmun as well as the customs and traditions. On the first floor, you can check documents and manuscripts, Tylos and Islam, and trades and crafts. The lobby level has an art gallery, invested in culture exhibitions, temporary exhibition spaces, a cafe, gift shop and auditorium. Do look at the brilliant sculptures on the exterior of the museum that are framed by stunning sea views. Adjacent to this is the Bahrain National Theatre spread over 12,000 square metres with a seating capacity of 1,001. Opened in 2012, the architecture of this building has been inspired by 1001 Arabian Nights. A visit to the Qal’at Al Bahrain or The Bahrain Fort is also recommended, especially towards th
e evening as you can visit the fort as well as see the fantastic light and sound show that takes you through the country’s history, the legend of Gilgamesh as well as Dilmun and the pearling journey. Also make time for the Beit Al Quran  a museum dedicated to the Quran that has a number of Qurans some dating back to the 1st century.

Modern architecture in Manama.Modern architecture in Manama.

Cosmo Vibes
In spite of being a relatively small country, Bahrain has a vibrant night life scene replete with pubs, bars, night clubs and lounges, especially in most five stars. These are extremely popular with the youth. Among some of the popular watering holes in Manama are Club XS, W Club Lounge and Apollo Club Bar. Thursdays at W-Night at Bushido Lounge are recommended for DJ Albert’s thumping music. Women must check out Klub 360, every Sunday and Wednesday as they can enjoy free drinks and also take part in raffles to win spa vouchers, perfumes and designer bags.

Exhibits at the National Museum.Exhibits at the National Museum.

When in Manama, a great way to spend your evening is to visit Adliya, Block 338. This is a locality that has a motley mix of art galleries and restaurants but it is its vibrant street art that is its most attractive feature. Of course, the food choices here are great an eclectic mix of Indian, Arabic, Mediterranean, Japanese, there is never a dull culinary moment here. The locale is filled with art galleries like the Al Riwaq Gallery that displays art by emerging artists from Bahrain and the region as well as the Al Bareh Gallery, a private space that hosts exhibitions by regional artists. Being neighbours with Saudi Arabia, a short 25 minute drive on the King Fahad Causeway brings you to the border of Saudi. From this spot, it is lovely to see the azure vast expanse of the ocean, especially in the evening. For some shopping, you must check out the local souk Bab Al Bahrain where you can buy traditional souvenirs. The Seef Mall is a good place for urban shoppers. Of course, all race buff have to visit the Bahrain International Circuit, for a spot of adventure where you can experience a 4X4 land rover drive that is full of thrills and spills.

Street art at Adliya, Block 338.Street art at Adliya, Block 338.

Getting Arty
A stop at the Al Jasra Handicraft Centre is a must whether you love arts and craft or not, simply because this is a space where you can get up close with all traditional arts and crafts of the country under one roof. There is a separate room dedicated to each craft form  whether it is production of musical instruments, boat building, weaving, gypsum engraving, traditional chest making and pottery. The artisans work here so you can also interact with them. A small store retails these products so you can buy a piece of Bahrain for your home. This is a country that lives up to its tourism tagline Ours. Yours. And it’s yours to discover.

— Photographs by Bindu Gopal Rao

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