What are the best shopping options in Bahrain? Time Out takes a closer look
Al Aali Complex Not your usual run-of-the-mill mall, Al Aali Complex makes a refreshing change from the well-trodden chain stores ruling the roost in its neighbouring shopping centres. An elegant and sophisticated place to peruse more atypical shops and boutiques, Al Aali is mainly aimed at women and children, and is the choicest venue to run amok with the credit card. Ladies’ fashion rules supreme with unique offerings such as Arabella, Avenue and Betty Barclay, while new mothers are well catered for in stores such as Mommy 2 Be, Oui Plus and Oilily – the latter also ingeniously includes exciting ranges for the kiddiewinks. For pregnant mums with more pressing things on their minds, i.e. chocolate – there are two very fine chocolate shops. Seef (17 581 000). Open Daily 9.30am-9.30pm.
The Bahrain Commercial Complex Also known as the Sheraton Mall, the latest shop-a-rama in the Kingdom links the hotel to the site of the new World Trade Center, which is set to officially open later this year and will house over 100 new shops in addition to a health club, spa and some fine dining establishments. At present, the only eating option is Foody’s, which perhaps explains its otherwise puzzling popularity. The complex is a great place for high-end goods. From Bang & Olufsen to Cartier and Tiffany to Kenzo and Christian Lacroix, this isn’t the place to come if you’re looking for bargains. Women with full purses will love it, though, and should head to the Sufana store first if they want to get kitted out like an A-list star. The mall also has a number of traditional dress shops and Arabian perfumeries and a bookshop that appears to get its stock sent direct from 1986. Next to Sheraton Bahrain Hotel & Towers (17 535 140). Open Sat-Thu 10am-1pm; 4pm-8pm.
The Bahrain Mall A few minutes in The Bahrain Mall is enough to tell you why everyone’s there. Just about every shopper you lay your eyes on is carrying a Géant shopping bag. While it may be the main pulling power, there are plenty of other first-rate shops to keep you amused whatever your budget; Ralph Lauren, Nine West, Accessorize and Peacocks are just some of the bigger names. On the practical front the mall has a post office, food court and children’s shops such as Adams and Mothercare, which makes it the mall of choice for families. It is also home to some quirky outlets; you can pick up a model dhow from one of the stalls in the entrance area, or make your own necklace from a selection of beads from Planet Charming. Make sure you look out for the Mall Talk leaflet, which offers substantial discounts on many of the retailers’ products. Seef (17 558 100). Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm; Thu-Sat 10am-11pm.
Country Mall This Budaiya-based mall is the latest addition to Bahrain’s expanding shopping scene. It’s popular owing to the recently opened Riffa Views Golf & Leisure Outlet, which stocks Ping and Burberry golf wear for fashion-conscious golfers, alongside a range of accessories by Boris Becker for keen tennis players. Budaiya (no number). Open Sat-Wed 10am-10pm; Thu-Fri 10am-11pm.
Dana Mall Despite appearing to be a huge food court with the odd shop, a 12-screen cinema and Chakazoolu (a theme park), Dana Mall is full of quirks. Greeted by a wealth of cafés, you’ll find yourself having a perusal round Calvin Klein Jeans, Faces, Boboli, Zoom and Sur Pointure. But these big names are nothing new. The fun is in high street alter-egos such as Veronica’s Secret and Sixth Avenue. They’re not cheap imitations, but it’s tough not to raise a smile at the names. And it doesn’t help when you walk round the corner, with Leather Festival staring at you. Candle Palace and Ethnic Crafts offer a more traditional take on things, the latter selling everything from rocking chairs to wooden camels. Seef (17 558 500). Open Daily 10am-10pm.
Lulu Centre Shopping centres don’t get much cheaper than Lulu. It’s a family centre, with children’s buggy cars available to hire and plenty of shops serving your everyday needs, like those dedicated to socks or casual day wear. If you can get past the drab interior, you’ll find some bargain buys. The biggest draw is Mega Mart, the cheapest department store we’ve come across, and we recommend a trip to stock up on cheap cotton undies and children’s clothes. Mega Mart also has a cheap food section, making it a one-stop shop for families. You won’t find any chain coffee shops here, but perhaps that’s no bad thing, and the shops are similarly independent too, meaning Lulu is a good choice for those who want to make sure their money goes back into the local economy instead of into the corporate coffers of a multinational. Manama (17 250 334). Open Daily 9am-11pm. Top floor closed 1pm - 4pm.
Marina Mall Located in central Manama just opposite the pearl roundabout, this is a smallish mall, but an excellent choice if you want to pop in for something without getting distracted by big-name shops. Offering a variety of budget shops such as Studio One and Lifestyle, it’s also home to Shoe Mart, a good choice if you’re after a pair of well-priced shoes. If you’re looking to splash out on a more expensive high-street brand, Nine West can cater to your needs. If you’ve got kids in tow, the food court is child friendly and there’s a Mothercare for mums, an interiors shop and a Home Centre for kitting out your house. Manama (17 277 800). Open Daily 10am-10pm.
MODA Mall At the time of going to press, the finishing touches were being applied to Bahrain’s highly anticipated new shopping mall (an extension of the Bahrain Commercial Complex), and only the World Trade Centre’s garden court was fully operational. As befits its prestigious location underneath the wind turbines of the WTC, MODA will focus primarily on luxury brands and high-end shopping. Expect a large branch of the Kuwaiti chain Villa Moda – which lends the mall its name – alongside Rolex, Cartier and around 150 other boutique stores and restaurants; enough to make shopping trips to Dubai a thing of the past. Bahrain World Trade Center, Diplomatic Area (no number). Open Opening hours tbc.
Seef Mall By far the biggest mall in Bahrain, and arguably the most popular, Seef stocks a host of big-name brands and an excellent indoor entertainment zone for kids, all of which make it a solid bet for a Friday afternoon spree. When it comes to gents’ fashion, there are decent high-street offerings from Pull and Bear, Diesel, Next and Vero Moda, plus elegant suits and high-design shirts from Massimo Dutti. Ladies are catered for by Jacadi, River Island and b.young, while for yummy mummies there’s a branch of Mothercare. Those after more classic, upmarket designs should look no further than the judiciously laid-out Karen Millen. Cute accessories and saucy lingerie are taken care of by Claire’s Accessories and La Senza, while there are enough sparkling jewellery stores to satisfy even Mr T’s penchant for gold. If you need DVDs, CDs or assorted electronics, make for Euphoria, a Virgin-esque treasure trove catering for film geeks and musos. Finally, if you just want to stroll round and browse, both Debenhams and Marks & Spencer are on hand for some multi-level shopping. Seef (17 581 111). Open Daily 10am-10pm; cinemas 10am-3am.
Sitra Mall It’s not yet at full retail capacity, but when the entire complex is complete, Sitra Mall will house 118 shops. It also has the capacity to accommodate five anchor-type tenancies, including a hypermarket on the ground level and a family entertainment centre on the third level. A 12-outlet food court with a sea view is planned for the second level. On the bayside of Sitra Island on the outskirts of Manama (17 457 272). Open Daily 10am-10pm; Le Marche 10am-midnight.
Yateem Centre Located next to Manama Souk, the Yateem Centre is Bahrain’s oldest shopping centre. If it’s brand names that you’re after, with the exception of Damas and Faces, you’d be best looking elsewhere. However, Yateem is a good bet for Bahraini souvenirs (such as shisha pipes and pretty papier-mache boxes) and bargain-basement-priced electronics. It’s also home to some decent eateries, such as the perennially popular Penny’s, plus a branch of Costa Coffee and Baskin Robbins for those dreaming of the cold creamy stuff. It’s not a destination shopping complex by any means, but it’s worth a punt once you’ve finished strolling around the adjacent souk. Bab Al Bahrain (1721 5615). Open Daily 10am-10pm.
Gold City Gold City has something in common with the Tardis; it looks small from the outside, but is actually pretty big inside. If you can’t face the sticky summer heat outside, this is a good place to sample some souk delights. As the name suggests, the place is dripping with gold, but being Bahrain you’ll also find some shops brimming with pearls. You don’t have to have a wallet full of dinars to shop here, though, as once you’ve perused the gold and pearls, you can move on to some of the cheaper jewellery shops where you can pick up some cheaper tat, like a skull ring or an embroidered camel for BD2. So, if you’ve got a spare hour or so, take yourself down to Gold City and then if you need a refuel you can always pop next door to the City Centre Hotel for refreshments. Next to City Centre Hotel. Open Daily 8am-12.30pm, 3.30pm-7.30pm.
Manama Souk Walking through a bustling maze of small alleyways sounds like a bit of a hike. But with every turn leading to a new slice of life in Bahrain, shopping becomes more of a leisurely stroll at Manama Souk. Men sit down selling tobacco and dates, or relax in the shade with a pipe and Arabic coffee. Witnessing this tradition and way of life is a huge attraction, and it’s guaranteed you’ll leave with something, even if you hadn’t planned on buying anything – fabrics, jewellery, electronics and spices are just some of the things on offer. The fake designer goods and random toys, including aeroplanes with creepy faces on them, adds a touch of Del Boy to your spree, but the quirky fish bone figures, traditional sweet shops and smells of incense will constantly remind you where you are. Just remember to barter. Bab Al Bahrain. Open Sat-Thu 8.30am-12.30pm, 4pm-8pm; Fri 4pm-8pm.
Muharraq Souk This souk is an area rather then an actual building, and the vast majority of the shops here are shabby and unlikely to tempt you to open your wallet, but it’s a place well worth visiting all the same. Old men beating and shaping bits of metal into pots, and second-hand stores selling items that are unlikely to be of any use to anyone, are commonplace. So are medicinal shops offering strange powders and potions that almost certainly have no benefit, but it’s a wonderful setting. The back streets of the area look and feel like the Middle East of old, before the air-conditioned malls and Armani set moved in. This is an essential and authentic part of the country to visit.