Bahrain: A Small Gem With Tremendous Charm
Among Arab countries, Bahrain, as a holiday destination is often underrated. Perhaps it’s because of how small it is. Due to its size, it’s considered one of the smallest countries. According to Countries of the World, it’s the 23rd smallest country in the world by total area in both land and water surface. This may be the reason why people who don’t really know the country thought of it as a mere city.
Here are some facts you should know about Bahrain. A small country in the Gulf with tremendous charm.
- It ranks 23 among the smallest country in the world and the 3rd smallest nation in Asia after Maldives and Singapore.
- Capital is Manama
- It’s an island country between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and is a part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) together with the other Arab countries in the Middle East.
- Traveling from Bahrain to Saudi is through the King Fahd Causeway (a series of bridges and causeways that connects the two countries). While from Qatar, the only way is through the plane.
- Bahrain is one of the earliest countries to convert to Islam and it was on 628 CE or Common Era, also known as Anno Domini or AD.
- Just like the other Arab nations, the King runs the country.
Commonly Asked Questions about Bahrain
Is Bahrain a Muslim country?
Yes, and people there strictly observe the traditions relating to Islam like Ramadan wherein Muslims practice steady fasting. for a month. If you’re a non-Muslim, you should respect the tradition by not eating in public places during this time from 3 AM to 6 PM.
You might get in trouble (like getting into jail) if you’re caught eating or drinking even water in public places during Ramadan.
Is Bahrain an open country?
Yes. It IS a Muslim country but it values diversity so much that many practicing religions like Catholic, Sikhism, Hinduism and more are able to do their rituals openly.
What’s the weather in Bahrain?
It’s mild winter from December to February which is the best time to go out and do touristic activities, while April to October is summer. And take note, summer here is a very hot period with a temperature of up to or a little over 40 degree Celsius. Humidity is high. March and November are transitional months. It rains very few times in a year in November.
Tip: Don’t travel in summer, especially in May to June when eating and drinking are not permitted in public because of Ramadan. You don’t want to end up with a heat stroke, do you? Good.
Is Bahrain safe for tourist?
Yes. People there are kind and helpful. However, as a traveler not only in Bahrain but in anywhere, it’s crucial to be always alert. Be mindful.
Is Bahrain a free country?
If free here means the actions you can do in public, then yes. Unlike other Arab countries, what makes Bahrain cool is that you can wear anything you like in public. Women are not obliged to wear abaya or hijab or thobe for men. Take note though that if you wear something sexy or revealing in public (like shorts or tank tops), expect all eyes to be on you. People there, being Muslims, aren’t used to seeing women in sexy or revealing clothing. If you don’t mind the attention, then it’s all cool.
You’ll be surprised to see how lenient Bahrain is for foreigners as long as you follow the rules. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure you enter the country legally and with proper documentation.
There are several nationalities living in the kingdom from all over the world like the US, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. The country is like a common hub for people from all over the world.
What’s the mode of transportation?
Most people here own cars so that’s the primary mode of transportation. There are lots of rental cars everywhere too. Also, there’s the bus option for public transportation. I love riding the bus because it’s very convenient and spacious. The only disadvantage of using the bus is that there’s the possibility of it not coming on time. Sometimes, it comes 30 minutes to an hour behind the scheduled arrival time.
What’s the money in Bahrain?
It’s Bahraini Dinar (BHD). Its value is around 2.65 USD or 140 PHP. Paper denominations available are half dinar (1/2), 1, 5, 10 and the highest is 20 dinar. Coins are called fils, and there’s 100, 50, 25, 10, and 5 fils. 100 Fils is equal to 0.1 dinar, so 500 fils is 0.5 dinar or half dinar.
Lastly, is it allowed to drink alcohol?
Yes, but don’t do it in public or else you’d get in trouble. Alcoholic beverages are only sold in hotels and some Western-franchised restaurants. Department and convenience stores don’t sell them.
Now, that you’ve learned a little bit about Bahrain, let’s get you to know more about it.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, this kingdom may be small but its history spans since ancient times. As a matter of fact, most tourist destinations in the country are considered historical. These are some of them.
1. Qal’at al-Bahrain
It is sometimes called Portuguese Fort or Bahrain Fort. It’s an archaeological tell (a raised mound which marks the site of an ancient city) and became the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bahrain in 2005. It was once the capital of the ancient Dilmun empire (Circa 2000 BCE) and became a hub for economic exchange in the past.
2. Bahrain National Museum
It’s the largest and oldest (since 1988) public museum in Bahrain. It consists of two buildings and tells the story of almost everything about the island from the Dilmun graves, pearling industry, reproduction of souk (Arab market), and many more. The museum showcases archaeological artifacts which spans from ancient Dilmun up to the present.
3. Al Fateh Grand Mosque
Al Fateh is Bahrain’s grand mosque and one of the largest in the world. It was built in 1987. The place can accommodate over 7000 worshippers. That’s how large it is! The mosque is open for non-Muslims, however, visitors are required to wear hijab and abaya (traditional clothing for women in any Arab country that covers the head and the body) and thobe (traditional clothing for men) before entering. There’s also a library and other touristic options to learn more about the country’s humble beginnings.
4. Bab Al Bahrain
Here’s a story I found really funny.
The first time someone mentioned to me Bab Al Bahrain, (I didn’t know any Arabic words then) I thought it’s “bubble” Bahrain and that the place was bubbly. Little did I know that the place’s name is Bab Al (two words) Bahrain but people tend to put the two words together and say it fast so it sounds like “bubble”. I realized my mistake the moment I visited the place and saw a shop there named something with “Bab Al Bahrain” and I was laughing inside. Lol. That was lame, wasn’t it? I know. Well, let’s get going.
Bab Al Bahrain refers to the old and historical building in Manama, and the area covers the entrance to Manama Souq (Arab market). The souq is the main reason why people go to Bab Al Bahrain. You’ll see lots of souvenir shops, coffee shops, spice shops and almost everything there is in the country. If you want to get the feel of typical Arab market, there’s no doubt you can find it here.
5. Al Areen Wildlife Park
Al Areen Wildlife Park is the only animal park in Bahrain. It is located in Sakhir and it’s a nature reserve and zoo. The park protects different endangered animals and shelters desert plants. It’s become an ideal place to spend the weekend for local families. An entrance fee of 1 BHD is paid upon entering.
6. King Fahd Causeway
To improve the bonds and national relationships between the two nations (Bahrain and Saudi Arabia), the King Fahd Causeway (or sometimes spelled as King Fahad) was constructed. It connects Saudi to Bahrain through a series of bridges and causeways. This has become so useful for Saudians whenever they visit Bahrain during weekends which most do.
We’re not done yet. There are more interesting places or things in Bahrain to see. There’s the Tree of Life which is basically a 32-feet tree that’s over 400 years old. That’s not all. In terms of engineering and building designs, Bahrain is on par with other Arab countries. Some that are famous are Al Zamil Tower(that one that looks like a twin tower), Diplomat Tower, Fakhro Tower, Four Seasons Hotel.
Bahrain isn’t only a place that’s rich in history. It is a good summer destination too with its resorts all ready to welcome guests from all over the world. These are a few of them.
7. The Lost Paradise of Dilmun Water Park
In the south lies the biggest water park in the country that is approximately 77,000 meters. It’s considered world-class because of the state of the art slides and features. The theme of this park is based on the history of ancient Dilmun (there are speculations that this is where the true garden of Eden is located), thus the name, The Lost Paradise of Dilmun. There are different attractions here suited for people of any age. There are usually more guests during the transitional months (November and March), when the heat is not at its peak and winter hasn’t begun yet. Tickets vary from 8 BHD to 18 BHD which can be purchased on their website.
8. Amwaj Islands
Bahrain has this famous man-made islands that are considered to be the favorite place of expats (mostly Western people). These islands are located close to Muharraq. It’s a hub that combines living, luxury, and leisure. Lots of residential and commercial buildings are situated here with the purpose of improving businesses. As far as I’ve known, this is the only place in the country wherein the King (King of Bahrain) has allowed foreigners to own Bahrain lands. Amwaj has become a residential home to most Western people who lives and works in the kingdom.
9. Al Dar Island
Al Dar is a group of resort islands located in Sitra. From there, you need to ride a boat for 10 minutes to reach the island. It’s another option of a perfect summer destination for families. Other people have compared their experience here to that of Maldives. That’s how awesome this island is.
You will need to pay for the tickets that cost 5 BHD for adults on weekday and 8 BHD on weekend or public holidays. Tickets for children cost 2 BHD for weekday and 4BHD for weekends and public holidays.
10. Marassi Beach
Marassi is one of the famous beaches in Bahrain. Actually, it’s the cleanest beach I’ve ever been to. The resort has complete amenities. It’s a private beach so there’s a 2 BHD entrance fee for adults. There’s no need to bring beach tents for shade as there are plenty of chairs with umbrellas and loungers around the beach. There are outdoor showers, bathrooms, and restaurants too. There are water activities and gears for rental.
There’s a sign not to bring any food so our bags were checked as we went in. However, we’ve heard from someone that we could sneak in food if we placed them underneath our changing clothes inside the bag, so that’s what we did.
After living in Bahrain for two years, I realized there’s no other place like it. It offers so much in terms of tourism but there are not many people who know that. People would rather visit Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Oman. I can’t blame them. I, myself was clueless about Bahrain until I lived there. Small as it may be, it has an advantage over other holiday destinations in the Gulf. That is, you can visit more touristic places in a day since these places are not very far from each other. You can go around by bus or rent a car.
Again, it gets really hot in the summer and humidity is high, so if you plan to visit Bahrain, the best time would be from November to March since the weather is temperate enough to go out and socialize.
I’m sure Bahrain will grow more in the years to come. By that time, I hope it will become a famous place as another best holiday destination in the Gulf.