Although its name is mostly associated with the kings of oil, the island of Bahrain has prospered since Antiquity. At one time pearls were farmed there, serving as a currency for exchange, like precious metals. Today, Bahrain lives in the 21st century like its rich Middle Eastern neighbours. It attracts businessmen, travellers passing through, and curious and wealthy expats. Tourism on a grand scale is planned here - like Dubai - but currently travel to Bahrain is rare.
Security: demonstrations and protests are a regular occurrence in Bahrain. Some can be violent. You should avoid large crowds and demonstrations. The Government of Bahrain has imposed a curfew on the waterways around Bahrain between 6:00pm and 4:00am.
Surface area : 765.3 km2
Population : 1324000 inhabitants
Time difference : Bahrain is 3 hours ahead of the UK.
In Bab Al Bahrein Street in Manama, you will find more than
100 shops selling gold and silver jewellery and decorations. Flasks of rosewater and copper bowls can be found at the antique dealers' on the same street. You will also find Chinese porcelain and Indian fabrics. Perfumes, basketwork and local fabrics can all be found at the Central Market. The shops are open Saturday through Thursday from 8:00am to 12:30pm and from 3:00pm to 7:00pm. If you are returning with a Bahrain pearl, the most precious type in the world, make sure you ask for a certificate with the receipt.
Bahrain's cuisine is not limited to the restaurants at the luxury hotels. The excellent variety of choices that can especially be found in Manama, the capital, includes European, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian, Filipino, Mexican, Moroccan, Iranian and Lebanese cuisine. In short, anything you want, you will be able to find! Dishes of Arabic origin are spicy and feature lamb and chicken. Arabic coffee is extremely strong. It is often enjoyed with helwa, a typical pastry from Bahrain made using rosewater. To eat on the go for next to nothing, stop by the side of the road and try a kubus, a kind of cheese naan made in front of you in a traditional baker's oven: it is a real delight! The best Japanese restaurant in Bahrain is Bushido, near the Ritz Carlton in the district of Seef. You are literally transported to Japan in this restaurant, where the traditional architecture gives the feeling of being in a temple. The waiters wear kimonos and a superb collection of samurais is put on display for you. Sushi or teppanyaki, the excellent Japanese cuisine here is enjoyed in a traditional yet trendy atmosphere that brings to mind the concept of the Buddha bar. You will not forget its retractable roof or panoramic terrace, not to mention the Japanese garden.
Are you lost and not sure how to discover all there is to see in Bahrain? Give Gesche Willers and her Tamna Travel Agency a call! Bahrain doesn't hold any more secrets from this German, who has lived in this kingdom in the Persian Gulf since 2004. She will make sure that you see everything that could interest you and has a particularly full address book. Gesche seems to have contacts just about everywhere, including at the Formula 1 Grand Prix Track, where she started her career in Bahrain. For more information, visit www.tamna-events.com.
It would be a shame to visit the site of the Tree of Life on a Friday, the day of rest; many of the locals take advantage of the occasion to go quading here, ruining all the pleasure of discovering this mysterious site in silence. If you can, try to come in the morning at sunrise, or in the evening at sunset!
Keep in mind that in Bahrain, as in many of the Gulf States, the weekend means Thursday and Friday, when you won't find many things open! On the other hand, Saturday and Sunday are like any other weekday.
Women must cover themselves when visiting a mosque and men must wear trousers.
A 15.5 mile bridge connects Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
If you bring back a Bahrain pearl, one of most precious in the world, make sure you ask for a certificate with the receipt.