30 best things to do in Bahrain
30 best things to do in the Kingdom of Bahrain this year 3 Comments
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1 Watch a Bollywood film at Awal cinema: OK, so Bollywood is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Bahrain, but it should be. Bahrain shows more Indian movies per population that practically anywhere outside of India, and if you are not well versed in the tribulations and heartache of the genre’s stock characters by the time you pop your clogs, then you haven’t lived. Awal cinema (17 274 121), the dingy but endearing cinema is the heart of the action. Nip into Taka Tak (17 254 848) for a pre-screening curry buffet, grab some gulab jamun from Sangeetha (17 272 768) after the show and buy the soundtrack to the film you just watched at the hundreds of Bollywood-centric music shops that fan out from the cinema.
2 Eat in the Capital Club and marvel at the views: The Capital Club (17 100 100) has got quite a reputation for food, even more so for views. Problem is, unless you are willing to fork out a fortune to join (or have a friend who is), then this members-only affair located on the top two floors of the East Tower of Bahrain Financial Harbour is strictly off limits. Sure, it is not a place you want to book for your hen party, and the other guests can be occasionally dour, generally pretentious and somewhat unwilling to engage in any kind of conversation, but the combination of great food cooked by top chefs, and truly stunning views are hard to beat.
3 Party the night away at Lunarfest on Al Dar Islands: Bahrain frequently tries to imitate the Mediterranean. Lunarfest, the full moon party on Al Dar Islands (17 704 600) is the only time that it comes close. Happening once every quarter (check www.aldarislands.com for details about the next one), these wild beach parties in the middle of the Arabian Gulf have helped to establish Bahrain’s party scene as one of the best in the Middle East. For the ultimate island experience, get a boat to Al Dar Islands early and spend the day on the beach before watching the sun set and the island come alive as it gets dark. Camp on the island for the ultimate in all night parties.
4 Scour the souk for spices: Arabian souks form a network of social and cultural hubs that span the Arab world, and while Bahrain’s can’t compete with the likes of Damascus or Marrakech, the souk still forms the historic soul of Manama. While a walk through the souk is de rigueur for visitors, if you live here then it is obligatory to actually buy something. So avoid the cheap Chinese plastic objects and head straight for spice street where herbs, spices, perfume and tobacco are all being peddled in an atmosphere that probably hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.
5 Go pearl diving: Bahrain might be a financial centre now, but just over a century ago much of the local economy was dependent upon pearl diving, a hugely challenging and dangerous operation that killed hundreds of people annually. Fortunately, the new millennium has bought new technology and you no longer have to hold your breath in order to collect a load of oysters from the seabed. Check out Scuba Master (17 292 154) for PADI-accredited scuba courses and organised peal diving excursions.
6 Hit the Bahrain heritage trail: Garden of Eden or not, Bahrain has been a focal point of the Middle East for millennia and there is no point living in Bahrain if you are not going to, at least once, visit some of the kingdom’s cultural treasures. Start off at the fantastic Bahrain National Museum, which houses a reasonable collection of Dilmun-era artefacts collected from the numerous archaeological digs in the country. Then head to Muharraq’s pearl heritage, which includes a number of former royal residences and merchant’s houses that are likely to be collectively listed as a World Heritage Site in the near future. In the afternoon, trot along to Al Khamis Mosque, one of the oldest in the region, before ending the day at Bahrain Fort, with a fortifying tea in Palm Cafe (17 322 549) at the Bahrain Fort Museum. Your weekend sorted...
7 Watch the Bahrain Grand Prix: We don’t like to state the obvious, but we’ve met an alarming number of people who have lived in Bahrain for decades and yet who refuse to attend the Bahrain Grand Prix (17 540 000). Even if you don’t like cars, don’t like crowds, don’t like noise, and don’t like the fact that neither of the British drivers came out on top last year (neither do we), if you live in Bahrain and haven’t been to the Grand Prix then you haven’t really lived here. Remember: you can only regret the things you didn’t do, so book your tickets now...
8 Road trip to the south of the island: It’s amazing the number of people who knock around between Muharraq and Saar, stopping off in Seef, partying in Juffair, eating in Adliya and yet never heading south to see the other 80 per cent of the island. Sure, it isn’t much to look at, and the oil infrastructure has done its best to destroy what’s there, but only on a road trip to Durrat do you really get the sense that Bahrain is much bigger than you had imagined.
9 Get a curry in a hurry in Manama: This might be Arabia, but the national food of Bahrain is a toss-up between the shwarma and the Indian curry. Manama is home to some of the country’s best and cheapest Indian restauarnts, with curry houses lining the souk, each specialising in a different segment of the subcontinent’s plethora of cuisine variations. Make sure you don’t miss out on the Indian sweet shops for dessert!
10 Take a look at the local art scene: On the surface, Bahrain doesn’t appear to be a country with a great love of art (take a look at the architecture here for a start!). Scratch beneath, and you’ll soon find local art pouring out of numerous small galleries, corporate spaces and government institutions, with several local artists making waves in the international art scene. For the best in local art, check out our three favourite galleries: Al Riwaq Art Space (17 717 441), Albareh Art Gallery (17 717 707), and Bin Matar House (17 322 549).
Time Out Bahrain,