The tiny island country of Bahrain is a fascinating place for people who want to enjoy spending time in an Arab country that has a fairly liberal attitude. That’s not to say you can disrespect the local culture – you can’t! (And, you shouldn’t!) But, foreigners often find Bahrain a lot more welcoming than its neighbours.
Near to the coast, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, Bahrain also includes the pretty Hawar Islands. A bridge links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
Why not add somewhere a little different to your travel list and visit Bahrain? Here is some useful information to help you to plan your trip:
Getting to and Around Bahrain
You can fly into the international airport that is near to the capital city of Manama; flights are mainly to and from other Middle Eastern countries and the UK. Buses run from Saudi Arabia, finishing in Manama.
When in Bahrain you can get around by public bus or taxi. A lot of visitors hire their own vehicle to explore the country.
Visas on arrival are available for people from a number of countries. There is a fee, and visas are valid for two weeks. People who can get this type of visa include citizens from the USA, Canada, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavian nations, many EU countries, and Japan. Citizens of the UK and Ireland can obtain a visa on arrival for up to three months. People from other countries can apply in advance for a visa. Of course, make sure that you check the most up-to-date information with the Bahraini Embassy before finalizing any travel plans!
Although the official language is Arabic, English and Farsi are both very common.
Food and Drink
You’ll find a really wide array of places to eat and drink in Bahrain, with something to suit almost any budget. Bahrain offers everything from international standard gourmet restaurants through to cheap and easy street vendors.
Bahrain dishes up the usual cuisine that one would expect in Arabic countries. Being an island, the fish and seafood meals are especially delicious – grouper and mackerel are particularly popular, and your fish will often be served with rice. The warm climate means that the country can grow delicious fruits such as bananas, mangoes, dates, and pomegranates. A speciality is Qoozi, lamb stuffed with rice, onions, egg, and tasty spices. Try Halwa Bahraini if you have a sweet tooth!
Coffee is widely drunk and the country has a fairly relaxed attitude towards alcohol.
Things to See and Do
Rich in history, Bahrain boasts several impressive attractions from times gone by. Four old forts are particularly popular – the restored Qala’at al-Bahrain with its neighbouring museum, Arad Fort, which has been controlled by Arabs, Portuguese, and Omanis, Abu Mahir Fort, and Sheikh Salman bin Ahm ad Al Fateh Fort with its terrific views.
Going even further back in time, there are several huge burial grounds that date back to prehistoric times.
Bahrain has several beautiful beaches with shallow waters that are great for sunbathing, relaxing, and having a paddle. Sailing and diving are available. The Hawar Islands also have nice beaches and are a great place for avid bird-spotters.
Shop ‘till you drop in one of the elegant malls, and get your haggling hat on for a trip to the lively souks.
A fascinating sight, the Tree of Life is well worth the hassle to get to it. A lone tree in the middle of the dry and dusty desert, with just oil wells nearby, it certainly is different! Another desert activity, ride a camel to enjoy the sights.
The Grand Mosque is an impressive sight from the outside.
After your days of sightseeing, why not do like the locals do and kick back in a chilled out café with a sheesha pipe?
If you are travelling around the Middle East, or perhaps if you want to add somewhere a little unusual to a stopover, don’t miss out on Bahrain!