An entire alphabet of cool things to do in Bahrain this summer
Time Out Bahrain staff
In a bid to escape the island’s sweltering summer heat, we found 26 fun ways to stay chilled all season
August is a funny old month on the island. The summer holidays are still in full swing, plenty of people have gone off on their hols and those of us left behind are wondering how to entertain ourselves until the new season ushers itself in with a bang. While the summer heat definitely hinders our exploratory prowess somewhat, there’s plenty of activity to be found indoors or underwater so don’t just let the month pass you by as you create a dent in the couch and catch up on Game of Thrones or True Detective. Get out there and experience the cooler side to island life…
Arabic lessons It’s time to broaden our horizons. Those of us who have been in the Middle East for a decent amount of time and still don’t know how to speak the language – you know what to do. Arabic classes for beginners are rife in both language schools and with personal tutors. Berlitz (Manama: 1782 7847; Budaiya: 1769 4233) is the obvious choice for those looking for international standards and they put a ban on speaking your mother tongue in class so you learn fast. They also offer classes to kids and adults in English, French, Spanish, Farsi, Russian and many more. For something more personal, teacher Shehab Ali (3418 6689) offers tutor sessions with the promise that you’ll learn Arabic in 48 hours (of classes at BD15 per lesson and the first one is a free trial). If you’ve already mastered Arabic then there are plenty of other languages you can add to your repertoire. For instance, European languages – English, French, German and Spanish – as well as Arabic, are also taught at Budaiya-based Lingo-Ease Centre (1759 0895).
Bed and breakfast The summer provides the perfect opportunity for a staycation in Bahrain. Check yourself in to one of the island’s many luxury hotels and resorts for a weekend of pampering, rest and rejuvenation. The Domain Bahrain (1600 0100), the country’s newest boutique hotel, is offering a promotion until August 31 for BD50++ per night inclusive of a daily breakfast buffet, private butler service and access to their fabulous new spa and fitness centre (complete with an indoor rooftop infinity pool). Or shun the city for a laidback resort vibe at Ritz-Carlton Bahrain (1758 0000). The hotel is offering accommodation and a daily buffet for two guests starting from BD113++ until August 31 (excluding public holidays).
Culinary carnage Now that the brunches are back and in full swing, after a long month of closure, it’s time to let your hair down again and partake in one of Bahrain’s most decadent activities. Wander through live cooking stations and buffet spreads, as far as the eye can see, in the cool of an air-conditioned venue while sipping on a beverage of your fancy and enjoying you group’s companionship. We recommend, for a sophisticated family affair, the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain’s La Med brunch (1758 6499) which received the ‘Best Brunch’ accolade at Time Out Bahrain Restaurant Awards 2013. A more grown-up crowd should try one of Bahrain’s newer options over on the 34th floor at The Domain Bahrain (1600 0000). It’s on from noon to 4pm with prices starting from BD19++.
Dive time Exploring the ocean deep is a year-round activity and Bahrain offers a brilliant starting off point. Get your PADI certification here in a course that lasts around three days and, most importantly, is done in a safe and friendly environment. Then venture out to pastures blue. The rest of the region has some fantastic ship wrecks and coral reefs to explore – for instance, Qatar and Oman are incredibly popular places for divers. GCC-based master diver Hani Chehab says this kind of activity is particularly good for teenagers and families. ‘Since diving is all about safety, the teenagers learn quickly responsibility for themselves and their marine environment with a great sense of exploration, which is expediential for the imagination,’ he tells us. ‘I see them develop their mathematical skills and learn many facets of the laws that apply to buoyancy and gravity. Not to mention it’s a great swimming workout.’ We have a range of companies offering training and PADI certifications all over the island. One is Into the Blue Bahrain (3775 7373, www.intotheblue.bh). Edutain yourself Combine a wee bit of entertainment with some education and get the whole family involved this summer. Our top spot for some edutainment is in the brightly coloured Bahrain Science Centre in Isa Town. It has great stuff for kids and young adults to see and do, plus parents won’t be bored either. There’s an impressive collection of skeletons, a host of interactive exhibits, plus regular events and talks, and learning tools such as the X-ray simulator that allows youngsters to move through the human body and discover. Various zones concentrate on different topics such as nature, health, the mind and Earth – to name a few – where you can test your skills. Regular entry is free. Open (during school holidays) Sun-Tue, Thu and Sat 8am-1pm, 4pm-7pm. Building 334, Riyadh Avenue, Isa Town, www.bahrainsciencecentre.com (1768 6466).
For it’s the season of gelato and frozen yoghurt. Bahrain has seen a serious upsurge in the past few years of ice cream parlours and fro-yo spots and summer provides the perfect time to go on a little trek around them. In Bahrain City Centre alone you have at least six outlets selling a range of frozen treats –including Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery, Freshberry, Marble Slab Creamery, Morelli’s Gelato and Pinkberry – so you can pair a little retail therapy with comfort indulgence. Alternatively, visit Seef Mall for the Stick House (handcrafted gelato on a stick) or Yoo Moo, the fat-free frozen yoghurt parlour. Or for a taste of a rose flavoured gelato, head out to the award-winning Dolci Desideri in Saar Mall.
Interaction at Bahrain Science Centre
Gallery excursion Bahrain is a very creative place, filled with artists from all sorts of disciplines and they’re being supported by some of the local galleries in the country. Others display a range of eye-opening works by international and regional artists in rotating exhibitions throughout the year. So there’s not much of a limit to gallery trawling you can do here. Our first choice is the more grassroots Al Riwaq Art Space which lies in the heart of the bustling Block 338 area. It was founded in 1998 as a non-profit art organisation, dedicated to promoting contemporary art and design practices in Bahrain, and has since become a driving force for the local creative industries through a series of unique and bar-raising initiatives. It’s a hub for artists to hang out, there’s a café, constant exhibitions and even a gift shop. Open Sat-Fri 9.30am-10pm. Block 338, Adliya (1771 7441).
Happy hour at Amber Bar
Happy hours The beverage deals are back on so you can head straight from work to the comfort of a lounge or bar to enjoy some music and quench your thirst. Every day at the Royal Golf Club (1775 0777) from 5pm to 7pm, you can get discounts on a range of drinks. Pair this with a spot of golf or dinner at Links restaurant where they host regular themed buffet nights from 7pm onwards. We particularly recommend going on a Wednesday when you can dine in on the signature ‘steak stone’ and get 40 percent off your prime cut. For a more chic experience try Sofitel Bahrain’s Amber Bar (1763 6363) where every day they offer two beverages for the price of one from 5pm to 7pm. Flip to our Music & Nightlife listings for plenty more beverage deals running every night of the week.
Indulge in ribs at Le Sauvage
Infinite indulgence We love to eat out at Time Out Bahrain and nothing captures our imaginations quite like an ‘all you can eat’ meal deal (no, not brunch!). Bahrain has an abundance of these on offer from a wide variety of cuisines all over the island. For some fresh seafood, try Silk’s Restaurant at Movenpick Hotel Bahrain (1746 0017) on Monday’s from 7pm to 11pm for BD18.2++(food only) or BD22.300++ (unlimited beverages) per person. For a taste of the Med, head to Prego at the Royal Golf Club (1775 0777) on Saturdays from noon to 3pm for a buffet at BD12 net (adults), BD5 with soft drinks (kids under 12) or free for under-fives. Another of our weekly picks has to be the Sauvage BBQ Rib Night on Wednesdays and Thursdays at Le Sauvage in The Domain Bahrain (1600 0000) with unlimited fine beef short ribs and a signature barbeque sauce for BD12++ per person. Loads of other great offers are listed from our Eating Out listings. Catch tunes by SugarMash at Club Buffalo
Jammin’ It’s tune time and the live bands are back in town. Downtown Bar at the InterContinental Regency Bahrain (1722 7777) has a brand new act called Evolver performing live on stage from Tuesday to Sunday from 8.45pm onwards. Head over on a Sunday for Jam Night (9pm to midnight), when you can sing or play an instrument alongside the band and get a free drink for your efforts. The best amateur performer also wins a special prize. Quirky Club Buffalo at Ramee California Hotel (1729 7000) also have a new band arrival, all the way from gigs in North America and China. The seven-piece group, called SugarMash, perform nightly (9pm to 2am) popular tunes from a variety of genres from grungy rock to upbeat pop to lovelorn ballads. For a chilled out atmosphere, we recommend heading to Block 338 restaurant (1771 0338) any night of the week from 8pm where they rotate musicians playing a range of genres including Latin soul, jazz, reggae, blues and R&B – to name a few.
Take your kite for a spin
Kite surfing This might be an outdoor activity but catch a windy day at sea and kitesurfing can be a great way to cool down and get your heart pumping all at the same time. This adrenalin-fuelled sport is also brilliant to watch but can be tricky to get the hang of. Most of the surfer dudes hang around Amwaj Islands but if you’re a novice, you can book lessons through stalwart extreme sports shop Skate Shack (1769 7176). It usually takes about six to eight hours to get the hang of it but, once you do, there’ll be no stopping you.
Tini Tuesdays at Thai
Ladies’ and lads’ nights out The island’s nightlife circuit is moving again and so that means the return of the gal’s and guy’s nights out. The ladies are certainly spoilt for choice in this regard as they can easily find a deal any night of the week. We recommend Thai at Ritz-Carlton Bahrain (1758 6499) on Tuesdays where the girls get complimentary beverages (shaken not stirred) all night long as a live DJ spins the decks. Or, in Downtown at the InterContinental Regency (1722 7777), on Wednesdays and Thursdays, ladies get three free beverages from 9pm to midnight or on Saturdays, during the same hours, unlimited concoctions. Lads, there might not be exclusive deals for you but you can certainly take advantage of promotions for everyone. For instance, you can get 30 percent off on beverages from 5pm to 7pm at Karma Lounge at Coral Bay (1731 2700) or six bottles of hops for BD12 to share (or to keep to yourself).
Mall trawl We’re sure you’ve noticed by now that we’re rather well off for malls in such a small country. They easily provide one of the best sources of cool activity, what with the plethora of shops, kid’s entertainment centres, cinemas, restaurants and plenty more. It’s easy to arrive there mid-morning only to look at your watch again to find it’s already dinner time. The obvious choice is Bahrain City Centre (1717 7771), home to the largest range of international brands in Bahrain, as well as a 20-screen cinema, water park, kid’s play area, bowling, an array of restaurants and more. Just next door, Seef Mall (1758 2888) also has a great variety of recognisable brands, the newly-revamped Magic Island kid’s entertainment centre, two food courts and two cinema complexes – to name a few. Another notable shopping centre worth visiting is Riyadat Mall in A’ali for a number of home-grown brands such as Pachachic, Babushka and Basta 23.
National Museum This is Bahrain’s pride and joy, having initially started its life in 1957 when the first exhibition of artefacts was held. Nowadays, the Bahrain National Museum is easily the most popular tourist attraction but there’s plenty of good reasons for residents to pop down there as well. Reconnect with the island's vibrant past by going on a journey spanning 4,000 years through traditional handicrafts, burial mounds, ancient manuscripts and the Tylos and Islamic eras. Then visit the current exhibitions ‘Recreational Purpose’ (until August 15), a fascinating insight into modern day Bahrain through the eyes of locally-based and international photographers, and ‘Visible Differences’ (until August 31), a poignant showcase of 20 women’s work from Latin America and the Middle East. Finally, finish your trip down cultural lane at Darseen Café where they serve a wide variety of traditional Bahraini and international dishes and beverages alongside beautiful views. Open daily 8am-8pm. Al Fateh Highway (1729 8718). Organic evolution We all start the year with the very best of intentions to revamp our diets and our pantries but give us a few weeks and our long-term goals start to go a little awry. The summer actually offers an even better opportunity to refresh our refrigerators, as there isn’t as much to do out and about. For a crash course in fabulous organic and healthful ingredients we recommend visiting a string of shops and getting yourself accustomed to what’s available in the country (surprisingly, quite a bit!). Your first port of call should be Organic Foods and Café in Seef Mall (1333 3285) where you can grab a healthy bite and shop at the same time. Alternatively, try Live Well at Al Jazira in Zinj (1772 0288) or Bio-Natural Nutrition in Bahrain Mall (1755 3151) which are smaller but packed full of great products from dried foods to vitamins to yoga DVDs. Also check out our salads feature here to find out where you can eat light in Bahrain (complete with a cut-out salad recipe).
Splash about at Coral Bay
Poolside fun Sun kings and queens can rely on a carefully regimented schedule this summer of two minutes lying under the rays followed by a whole afternoon of splashing about to keep your cool. Choose the right spot and you can also combine this with a swim-up bar, beach, jet skis and other water sports to while away the hours. Coral Bay on Al Fateh Corniche (1731 2700) offers an infinity pool, beach strip, gym, spa and restaurants so you can easily spend the whole day there. It’s BD10 for access – inclusive of a towel and locker – on weekends and BD8 on weekdays (for kids it’s BD5 or BD8). The Novotel Al Dana Resort (1729 8008) also has a beautiful pool complete with a fully stocked swim-up bar, alongside a beach and a fab seafood restaurant. It’s BD10 for access on weekdays or BD25 on weekdays and public holidays (kids can go for BD5 or BD12).
Quiz time It’s time to show Bahrain what your brains are made of! Grab some friends, form a hilariously-named group and get those thinking caps on for a fun and educational quiz night. The island’s most popular is run at JJ’s Irish Restaurant in Adliya (3932 9083) on Sundays from 9pm to 11pm. Test your general knowledge in three rounds of questions and get chance to win gift vouchers. It also happens to coincide with their JJ’s Angels night when ladies can get unlimited selected beverages for BD4 from 9pm onwards.
Get all ten pins at Funland Centre
Renew the mind-body Forget going all the way to one of India’s famous yoga resorts or Turkey’s notable wellness centres to re-align your mind-body-spirit because we actually have some good options right here in Bahrain. The Bahrain Wellness Resort in Janabiyah (1779 5961) is a spa, residential resort and rehabilitation hospital nestled in lush gardens over a vast 50,000 square metres. Here, the aim is to rejuvenate all guests through the use of alternative medicines including Chinese, Ayurvedic, Polish and Belarusian. They also focus on fitness and yoga via workshops and classes. Elsewhere, in Durrat Al Bahrain, Pankooshi’s resort (www.pankooshis.com) focuses on juice fasting, cleansing and detoxing in a programme that lasts one to two weeks. Book yourself into their exclusive accommodation – which also offers a circuit gym, fitness classes and educational workshops – and watch the magic happen (and the pounds drop).
Join an ice hockey team
Skate and bowl No summer in Bahrain is complete without a trip to Funland Centre on Al Fateh Corniche as it’s home to the kingdom’s only ice rink. It’s open to the public for a quick spin but you can also get your kids involved in regular skating or ice hockey lessons throughout the year (more details available at the centre). But that’s not all – there’s also an 18-lane bowling facility that’s open to the general public and more serious tournament participants. Open 9am-3am. Ice skating is BD3 per person for two hours. Bowling is BD2 per person per game. Funland Centre, Al Fateh Corniche (1729 2313). Try bubble tea at Pearl Tea
Tea time Numerous scientific reports have told us that drinking something hot actually helps to cool us down in sweltering weather. This is still a disputed ‘fact’ but as many of Bahrain’s popular tea places are indoors (which often requires us to wear jumpers in the summer!) then this is a year-round love affair worth exploring. The Tea Club in Amwaj Islands (3888 7107) is a notable and cosy spot with hundreds of chai options from all over the world, making it a tea lovers’ utopia. For something traditional try Chai Café opposite Bahrain Mall (1700 1727) where they serve up a mean karak. Or, for a really refreshing option, go for the Taiwanese invention of bubble tea at Pearl Tea in Seef Mall (1758 111). It comes with the obligatory chewy tapioca balls and in a variety of flavours.
Ultimate relaxation If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s the fact that we don’t lack spas in Bahrain. These range from the cheap and cheerful massage parlours right through to the ultimate in luxury. The vast Sofitel Zallaq Thalassa Spa (1763 6363) is home to a huge facility and offers Bahrain’s only selection of thalassotherapy treatments, which utilises sea water for its therapeutic properties (they were also the first in the Gulf to offer this kind of treatment!). Elsewhere, the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain’s Royal Spa (1758 6808) is offering a special ‘scrubassage’ that’s designed to beat the heat through the use of a berry scrub combined with a soothing massage. For a more cheap and cheerful option we recommend checking out our feature ‘Bahrain’s best budget spas’ on www.timeoutbahrain.com.
VIP cinema-goer With plenty of blockbusters hitting our screens this season, one of our favourite things to do at the moment is go to the cinema and book the number one seats in the house. Most of Bahrain’s cinemas have VIP seating, which means super comfortable chairs that mould to your body, plenty of leg room and the best views of the screen. Hot films to catch now or yet to be released include Transformers IV: Age of Extinction, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – to name just a few! Keep an eye on www.timeoutbahrain.com for all the details and reviews of new and forthcoming films, alongside cinema timings on the island.
Indoor water play at Wahooo!
Water park play We’re lucky in Bahrain as we have two fantastic, world-class water parks at our disposal. The humungous Lost Paradise of Dilmun (1784 5100) has a great range of activities, attractions, slides and pools to offer all the family, plus reasonable seasonal deals on tickets. Then there’s the region’s first temperature-controlled, indoor-outdoor Wahooo! waterpark at Bahrain City Centre (1717 3000) which is perfect for a summer escape. Have a go on the Master Blaster rollercoaster, multi-level Rain Fortress, the wave pool or Lazy River (to name a few). It’s all spread across a whopping 15,000 square metres. Admission for guests 1.2 metres and above is BD11. Any shorter and it’s BD7. Kids three and below can enter for BD3.
Xbox and laser tag One of the better and most exciting multi-player game consoles is easily the Xbox but we’re definitely not recommending you stay at home and play with your mates. In Bahrain, there are a number of gaming zones you can head to for a friendly tournament but our pick is Ozone in Sitra Mall. It’s great for all ages, has a number of Xboxes and other consoles ripe for play, but it’s also home to foosball and billiards tables, a state-of-the-art bowling alley and Bahrain’s only laser tag facility! Open Sat-Wed 10am-midnight; Thu-Fri 10am-2am. Sitra Mall, Sitra (1774 9499).
Yodel-ay-hee-hoo Okay, so maybe don’t actually yodel but do exercise those tonsils by belting out some big notes on the mic at one of Bahrain’s karaoke nights. Zodiac Lounge at Elite Grande Hotel (1756 5888) welcomes all nationalities to their multi-lingual karaoke nights on Wednesday and Friday where the best voice receives a free round from 8pm to 2am. Or popular Irish spot JJ’s in Adliya (3932 9083) offers up their stage to karaoke enthusiasts on a Monday from 9pm. If you and your pals would like to battle it out between yourselves, then we recommend booking a big table at Beijing restaurant in Block 338 (1771 7969) where they offer good Chinese food alongside a personal karaoke machine for your group.
Zumba Don’t let the summer weather become an excuse not to exercise. Indoor classes are rife and a good choice is Zumba, a work-out that combines Latin and international music to create a fun aerobics and dance session that’ll have you dropping those post-brunch pounds in no time. As Dessange in Adliya (1771 3999) runs classes throughout the day, every day, for BD5 per session, you have no reason not to attend at least one to see what you think. If that's not your thing, don’t worry because Bahrain has you covered from yoga to Muay Thai, CrossFit to Pilates.