Bahrain, an archipelago of 33 islands in the Arabian Gulf, may be the smallest country in Arab world but it sure packs a punch for visitors. You won’t find the same level of glamour as in Dubai, but visitors can discover a country that is a crossroads of modern Arabian culture, religion and history, where all the riches of the Gulf can be seen alongside the remnants of bygone eras.
The skyscrapers of its diverse capital city, Manama, are neighbours of a range of architectural highlights, museums and characterful districts. In the desert, the rolling dunes house 4,000-year-old ruins and a Formula One race track, while along the coast an array of pristine beaches lie opposite beautiful uninhabited islands.
Those discovering this corner of the Gulf will be welcomed by a blend of modern city living and an immersion into history that makes Bahrain a fascinating country to visit. Here are some of the best things you can do.
Find culture and history in Manama
The capital, Manama, has undergone a rapid trasnformation since the country gained independence from Britain in 1971. Today it is home to around 700,000 people and many of the most important landmarks in the country.
The main religious centre is the Al Fateh Grand Mosque, a large, ornately decorated space that can hold 7,000 worshippers. The Kufic calligraphy and a vast fibreglass dome are particularly impressive, and tours run daily from 9am to 4pm, Monday to Thursday. Nearby, the Beit Al Quran houses a renowned Islamic museum and an extensive collection of Qurans (and related manuscripts) dating back centuries.
Elsewhere, the Bahrain National Museum chronicles around 6,000 years of history. It is housed in a magnificent limestone building on its own man-made island, and features exhibits such as Dilmun, Tylos and Islam and Traditional Trades and Crafts.
Head to the Al Fateh Corniche – the city’s waterside promenade – for a run, a long walk or just to sit in a green space by the water; it’s also a great place to watch the sunset). The Adliya district is known as the city’s most bohemian area, filled with galleries, bars, clubs and international restaurants, while Seef, the waterfront district, is best for shopping and nightlife. The Amwaj Islands – a collection of man-made islands in the Gulf – feature malls, the beautiful Solymar beach, an entertainment complex known…