A Guide to Bahrain, the Unexpected Pearl of the Gulf

A Guide to Exploring the Extraordinary in Bahrain: Pearl Diving, F1 and more

Here’s a guide to discovering the best of Bahrain’s attractions before the number grows even bigger!

To some, Bahrain may appear to be just another country in the Middle East. However, it’s an outlier in quite a few ways.

Geographically, Bahrain comprises of 33 islands making it the only island country in the region. In terms of its culture, it’s a melting pot of people from various backgrounds which translates into a greater penchant for religious and racial tolerance. With its relatively lax laws on drinking and the like, Bahrain is considered a safe haven for visitors, especially those hailing from its neighbouring country just across the causeway, Saudi Arabia.

If you haven’t visited the place, you should know that Bahrain’s definitely not going to be your average Persian Gulf destination. In an effort to entice more visitors, many new attractions have cropped up within the past few years, and Bahrain shows no sign of stopping! Discover the best and newest spots to hit up in Bahrain with this nifty guide, and know what to look out for when you’re visiting its splendid islands.

Walk the streets of the capital city of Manama

Image credit: Francisco Anzola

There’s no missing the largest and most important city in Bahrain as you’d probably want to stay in an accommodation that’s close to the action. Beyond its skyline highlighting the prosperity of the nation, the landscape in Manama is a reflection of the recreational and cultural activities that more affluent residents and out-of-towners get to experience. In typical Gulf fashion, shopping is a sport that takes place in both traditional Arab souqs and malls with a hefty selection of international brands.

Image credit: Francisco Anzola

For an insight into Bahraini history, drop by the Bahrain National Museum and be amazed by its extensive collection of archaeological artifacts spanning across 6,000 years. Discover the drawn-out history of Bahrain, as you learn about the stories behind its former names Dilmun and Tylos.

Visit the most prominent display of Islamic influence in Bahrain at the Al-Fateh Grand Mosque, which also acts as an Islamic centre and holds the National Library of Bahrain. Be sure to check out the intricately designed interior and one of the largest fibreglass domes in the world found in this mosque.

Not too far away from the mosque is the Bohemian district of Adliya, as well as Manama’s leisure hub. Littered with restaurants, cafés, and bars, make a gahwa (Arabic coffee) stop whenever you want at some of these establishments. This lively locale is also where you’ll also find plenty of art events and exhibitions to drop by and have a look.

Immerse in the history behind Qal’at al Bahrain

Qal’at al Bahrain is one site in Bahrain that you absolutely can’t miss. Also known as Bahrain Fort or Portuguese Fort, this fort lies on a tell or artificial mound created after more than 4,000 years of continuous human occupation.

Find out what great relics have been found at this site, the stories that these historical treasures tell about Bahrain, and the different civilizations that previously resided here. A museum display of 500 artefacts recreates the different archaeological layers that have been uncovered at the site, allowing you to visualise the various versions that it may have gone through over centuries.

Race down the tracks at Bahrain International Circuit

Image credit: Alex Comerford

Travel south towards the Sakhir desert and you’ll stumble upon Bahrain International Circuit. Fans of Formula 1 would need no introduction to this motorsport facility, which also hosts races such as the Porsche Supercup.

The grandstands come to life every April during the Formula 1 Grand Prix, but there are also heaps of other activities to experience in the facility throughout the year. Test your skills as you race down the twists and turns of the renowned tracks on cars or bikes.

Marvel at the lone Tree of Life in the middle of the desert

Image credit: Tighef

Be mystified when you visit the Tree of Life, the lone major tree growing in the otherwise barren Arabian desert. Over 400 years in age, its survival is an intriguing matter, seeing as how Bahrain is as dry as it gets throughout the year.

Wherever your beliefs may lie, you’ll find yourself pondering on the wonders of nature and life as you inspect the peculiarities of this tree up close.

Experience the best of Bahrain’s nature in Tubli Bay

You may not have anticipated such a rich ecosystem in Bahrain, but you can best experience it by going on a mangrove tour in Tubli Bay. Located south of the Manama, it doesn’t take too long to get to Tubli Bay. Hop on a calming boat ride and cruise through the lush green mangrove forests. Here, you can get a close-up look at the rich marine and bird life.

Tubli Bay is also the only site in the whole of Bahrain where the mangroves, seagrass, and corals interact ecologically. The mudflats provide a habitat for many species including snails and worms, which in turn feed the large population of birds in the area. It would be hard to find any other place in Bahrain where you can appreciate an ecology as diverse as it is in this tranquil spot.

Become a modern pearl diver in Bahrain

Traditionally considered the pearl capital of the world, Bahrain has been a site for pearl diving as early as 5,000 years ago. Bahrain’s pearls are often considered the world’s finest due to their purity of colour, and are thus highly coveted. After 80 years of being closed off to the public, pearl-diving is once again an activity to be enjoyed in Bahrain.

Become a modern pearl diver simply by purchasing a ticket online with the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority and attending a briefing before finally setting off to collect some pearls. It’s one of the only places in the world where you can dive and obtain pearls, and even take your newfound treasures home as the most unique souvenirs.

From pearl diving and cruising through mangroves to its fascinating history and the facets of its past that have remained, Bahrain is not your average destination indeed. Just like the Tree of Life, Bahrain thrives where you’d least expect it to and is a captivating destination for all.

Also read: Solo in the Middle East: Highlights of the Four Countries I Visited in One Trip

Along with the cropping up of attractions and activities for tourists, improved tourism infrastructure are also underway in Bahrain. Coupled with coordinating for a higher number of international flights to make Bahrain more connected, travellers will have even greater access to the country in the near future. Bahrain as an exciting travellers’ destination is the definition of “watch this space”, which means you should visit the country before it gets too crowded!

Also read: Why Middle Eastern Airlines are Increasingly Becoming Millennials’ First Choice of Travel

About Author

Sharifah Nur Afiqah
Sharifah Nur Afiqah

Always going from one extreme to the next, Sharifah’s constantly agonising over what to order off the menu, yet she tends to jump head-first into the major things, on the basis of intuition. Catch her at her loudest when she’s on a roller-coaster, cable car, or any other thrill-inducing contraption.


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