Charity and helping those in need is important in Islam. Zakat, in fact, is one of the five pillars of Islam and refers to the annual percentage of wealth that is given to the poor and needy. As such, there are charity, volunteering and fundraising drives throughout Ramadan to make it easier than ever to get involved with good causes. We contacted four of Bahrain’s amazing charities to find out what they’re up to this Ramadan.
Dine at iftar
Even if you are not fasting during the Holy Month, you will most probably experience an iftar. This is the name given to the meal at sunset to break the fast. It has become customary in Bahrain for hotels and restaurants to host iftar gatherings, a number of which will occur in specially constructed tents and beautifully decorated venues. The initial breaking of the fast is a humble occasion, with simple dates and water to prepare your stomach. After this, however, there is often a large spread of Middle Eastern foods and regional favourites offered. The understated atmosphere and Middle Eastern tinge to decorations, sometimes with traditional music discretely played, makes it an enjoyable, family-friendly atmosphere.
Then check out a ghabga
In Bahrain, the word ghabga means “gathering” and specifically refers to the evening meal after iftar. The buffets get bigger and the crowds start piling into Bahrain’s best venues for a good few hours of filling up on local cuisine and catching up with friends. In many tents and venues you’ll find games to play, such as dominoes, as well as oud players to entertain until the early hours, when the pre-dawn meal suhoor is generally consumed.
Host an iftar or ghabga at home
As well as visiting a paid-for evening meal, you can take this opportunity to host one at your own home and invite friends to come and break their fast with you. Be wary of what you’re offering (for example, spicy foods and fizzy soft drinks can irritate empty stomachs). Generous helpings of classic mezze dishes, such as hummus, tabbouleh and moutabal are essential. It is also common for soups, rice dishes and lamb to be served. Of course, resupplying energy to the body is important so look out for deals on sweet desserts at your local supermarket and bakery. Kunafeh, with its layers of cheese and sweet syrup, is satisfying in every sense of the word.
Mark kids' day
Around the GCC, the 14th or 15th day of Ramadan is all about the children. In Bahrain, this day is referred to as Gergaoun, and it’s when kids don traditional clothes and head out to collect sweets, nuts and coins, while singing traditional songs. Many shops, supermarkets and malls will be decorated specially to mark the occasion and you’ll find various activities around the island. Take your kids along to experience some true Bahraini traditions at this special time.
Keep an eye on www.timeoutbahrain.com for more information near the time.
How many times have you told yourself you are going to learn some conversational Arabic? It is a thought which pops into most expats’ minds, but you are probably still stuck on shukran. While the pace of life has slowed down, there is no better time. International language school Berlitz is a top choice, as it has more than 500 skills in around 70 countries and is regarded as one of the global leaders in language education.
Visit www.berlitz-bahrain.com or call 17 827 847.
Visit the Bahrain National Museum
When talking about the cultural and heritage attractions on the island, Bahrain National Museum is always mentioned. When it opened in the late 1980s it was the first modern museum in the region to house locally discovered artefacts and now, nearly 30 years on, and following much transformation, it still ticks our fascination box. Displays range from archaeology to Islamic art and exhibits about the history and heritage of the island.
Bahrain National Museum, Al Fateh Corniche, www.culture.gov.bh (17 298 718).
Explore the Houses of Muharraq
Tradition and heritage go hand-in-hand with religion during Ramadan and exploring and understanding the old houses of Muharraq is a great way to learn more about the island as it used to be. The restored old houses – including Bin Matar House, Bait Khalaf and Ibrahim Al Arrayed House of Poetry – give a fascinating insight into the region’s traditional architecture, as well as portraying the different aspects of old Bahrain life. Dozens of renovations have been overseen by the brilliant Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research, which hosts regular talks and lectures, and it’s particularly visit-worthy during the Holy Month when reflection and culture are important.
Various locations including Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research, Muharraq, www.shaikhebrahimcenter.org (17 322 549).
Visit Al Fateh Grand Mosque
Learn more about the teachings and traditions of Islam at the breathtaking Al Fateh Grand Mosque, the walls of which are adorned with stunning Kufic calligraphy. As well as asking questions about Ramadan practises, Islam in general and the traditions of the region and religion, visitors can take a respectful guided tour inside the mosque and gain a greater understanding about what this time of year means to Muslims. As the largest mosque in the country, large enough, in fact, to house more than 7,000 worshippers, it is a real opportunity to learn more about the religion.
Open Sat-Thu 9am-4pm. Al Fateh Grand Mosque, Juffair, www.culture.gov.bh.
Visit Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre
Out in the suburbs of the island, it’s easier to find a more traditional side of Bahraini life. Perhaps nowhere more so than in the Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre. This collection of workshops and studios looks to keep traditional techniques and skills alive. Witness boat building, basket-weaving, pottery making and a variety of other age-old pursuits done in the traditional ways, and get an explanation of the processes from the artisans themselves.
Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre, Al Jasra, www.culture.gov.bh (17 611 900).
Try a fitness class
Don’t like the idea of the rugby pitch and outdoor team sports in this heat? We can hardly blame you. Luckily, this isn’t your only option as Bahrain’s gyms gear up for the summer with a range of new indoor classes to tempt fitness enthusiasts. During Ramadan, gyms’ regular schedules will be altered to factor in iftar and digestion time, so make a note of those evening classes. Fancy yoga? Try Namaste in Budaiya (www.namastebh.com, 17 591 565). Want to push yourself further with CrossFit? Find CrossFit Seef (www.crossfitseef.com, 33 441 122). Our pals at Tribal Fitness, who champion natural movement and healthy living, have opened a new facility at Bahrain Financial Harbour, too (www.tribalfitness.com, 17 300 859).
Watch an IMAX movie
A trip to the flicks is one of Time Out’s favourite pastimes and even though the release schedule can be a bit hit and miss during Ramadan, we subscribe to the theory that anything seems better if viewed on an enormous IMAX screen. Luckily it just so happens that Novo Cinema has exactly that. Sidle up to Seef Mall Muharraq for an enormous screen which somehow manages to be impressive even before the projector is turned on. If it is big and in 3D then give up a few hours of scorching heat to enjoy the spectacle. Also turn to page 28 to find out more about the most anticipated blockbusters on the world’s schedule this year.
Novo Cinema, Seef Mall, Muharraq, www.novocinemas.com (17 464 420).
Read a book
It might sound boring (or perhaps even mind-numbingly obvious), but we say embrace the change in lifestyle by doing that one thing you’ve been hoping to get the chance to do for months – curl up with a good book. Is there a shelf full of paperbacks unread because of your long weekend brunches and busy nights? The Man Booker International Prize shortlist was announced just last month, so there are at least six critically-acclaimed new novels awaiting your attention.
See the recently released shortlist at www.themanbookerprize.com.
Buy a car
We’re being serious. It has become an annual tradition that car dealers offer great deals on new automobiles during Ramadan. Promotions range from zero percent financing deals, raffles and accessory upgrades on new cars as dealers look to attract customers in what could otherwise be a slow period. So notable has the trend become that Time Out has spoken to many would-be buyers who delay making a purchase for a couple of months just to discover the eventual deals that are offered. A drive around Sitra should take you past many car showrooms, with Land Rover, Nissan, Kia, Toyota, Porsche and Volkswagen all having a presence here. Also keep an eye on websites for the latest offers and finance deals. Nissan, in particular, is running its “A Sign of Good Things” promotion, with unbeatable prices and offers on selected Nissan vehicles.You could be the proud owner of a Sunny in a matter of days.
Give up a bad habit
The most obvious thing to ditch would be something food related. Anybody who is fasting will shed the need to snack throughout the day and that is a habit instantly cured. But this is an excellent opportunity to monitor what you’re eating as well. The strain put on your usual eating habits means that when you do have a bite it really should be carefully considered, with some thought to the long-term effects it has on your body. You don’t need to limit your self-improvement to just food though. For example, if have bad posture, are argumentative with others, smoke or just watch too much TV, this time of contemplation and reflection is an ideal opportunity to kick the habits you least like about yourself.
Foster a pet
During summer months, it is a good time to register with a pet fostering organisation, as many pet-owners have gone on holiday and a number actually leave Bahrain for good, often leaving their furry friends behind. Dozens of stray animals are permanently in need of assistance in the form of medical treatment, temporary shelter or even a forever home. The Bahrain Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) is an animal welfare group which seeks to provide shelter and care to homeless animals in Bahrain. As well as rescuing them, it looks to also rehome them. Even if you’re not looking for a fluffy pal, then a trip to the charity’s dedicated Thrift Shop, along Budaiya Highway, means you could pick up a couple of good books and donate to a worthy cause in the process.
With Ramadan expected to run from around Monday June 6 until July 7, there will be a close overlap with the UEFA Euro 2016 football championship, which plays between Friday June 10 and July 10. Kick off times for matches will be 4pm, 7pm and 10pm, mostly ideal for some post-iftar viewing in some of the island’s top cafés.
Check out the full UEFA Euro 2016.
Let a spa take care of you
While fasting it is important to take good care of your body. Dietary changes don’t just affect how hungry you feel, but also energy levels, skin and general wellbeing. Eating well after iftar and correctly hydrating are important and you should be aware of your whole body. Certain spas in Bahrain offer specific health-related treatments to simply help you feel well, de-stress and relax.
Get out of Bahrain
Working hours tend to be less during Ramadan and there is an understandably sleepy feel to many offices in the daytime. Especially now that Ramadan falls during the hottest time of year. Why not take this opportunity to have a short holiday and get out of town for a few days? When combined with the Eid holiday at the end of Ramadan you could get as much as a week off without missing much work. You can reach some of the world’s most exotic locations in less than four hours, so why not take advantage?
Have a staycation
Can’t bear to actually leave the island? We understand. So why not book yourself in to one of Bahrain’s luxurious five-star resorts for a bit of a staycation instead, then? While there’s plenty to choose from, one of the top family favourites is at Art Rotana on Amwaj Islands, where there are excellent food and beverage outlets, a wonderful beach front, great health and fitness facilities and even a Kids’ Club complete with a water park to keep the little ones busy. It's currently offering a two-night escape deal, with room rates starting from BD70++.
Art Rotana, Amwaj Islands, www.rotana.com/artrotana (16 000 111).
Go scuba diving
There are two types of people in the world: Scuba divers and people who should be scuba divers. Whichever group you are in, we recommend discovering a peaceful underwater world off the coast of Bahrain. Get PADI-qualified with a local diving company and you can experience alien life right here. Get in touch with the folk at Biss Marine, at Amwaj Marina, where they offer plenty of courses and excursions in diving, as well as wakesurfing, wakeboarding and waterskiing. The team has also launched dinghy sailing courses, which is a great way for children to learn how to sail.
Amwaj Marina, Amwaj Islands, www.bissmarine.com (16 034 486).
Boost your photography skills
In case one day you leave, don’t allow yourself to forget the wonderful sights and experiences of your life in Bahrain. While memories change and fade, a photograph will stay constant and although you may consider yourself a proficient “instagramographer” you could probably do with sharpening your skills and not being so reliant on filters. The best way to improve is to keep taking pictures, but some expert advice and training is always going to come in handy. Why not sign up for a walking photography tour around Muharraq with established artist Rasha Yousif?
Join a club
This is the best possible month to make new friends and expand your interests. Why not indulge your hobby and meet like-minded people? You might like karate, chess, arts and crafts, or writing (Bahrain Writers' Circle meet on Monday June 13). Whatever and whoever it is you’re looking for – Bahrain has it all.
One for the ladies this, but if you’ve ever fancied the thought of your body as a canvas then a temporary henna design could be the art you are looking for. An ancient practice in India and the Middle East, the trend has recently spread as far as the fingertips and toes of Hollywood celebrities. Standard tattooing is forbidden under Islamic law, however, henna is not inserted under the skin and does not harm or alter the body, meaning the technique is permitted. You’ll find henna artists at ghabgas in major hotels this season, as well as beauty salons across the island offering a design for next to nothing.
Visit a Bahrain gallery
There is a thriving art scene in Bahrain, with cultural activities and exhibitions taking place throughout the year. The Al Riwaq Art Space (Adliya, www.alriwaqartspace.com, 17 717 441) is an inclusive gallery with thought-provoking exhibitions and one of the funkiest spaces for art on the island. Beyond that, La Fontaine Centre of Contemporary Art (Hoora, www.lafontaineartcentre.net, 17 230 123) and more traditional Bin Matar House (Muharraq, www.shaikhebrahimcenter.org, 17 322 549) are all well worth looking at.
Visit www.timeoutbahrain.com to find other galleries in Bahrain.
Appreciate world cinema
Ramadan tends to mark a lull in blockbuster season in Bahrain. Multiplexes usually pause the barrage of big special effect movies on their screens and cinemas can be a little quieter and random with what they show. There is no better time, then, to make the effort to see films from beyond Hollywood. Alliance Française Bahrain has regular movie screenings as part of its Culture Club. The curated films can come from all parts of the world and include shorts and documentaries, as well as feature-length productions, often from local filmmakers. Even if film screenings are slower, a DVD archive of interesting cinema can be borrowed from.
Building 51, Avenue 4109, Isa Town 841, www.afbahrain.com (17 683 295).
Learn a new skill
Enhance your understanding of the arts, set yourself on a new career path or simply indulge a long-forgotten hobby with arts and crafts lessons on the island. The EZ Art Studio is just one place where you can unleash your creative side and try your hand at something artistic. Specialising in pottery and mosaic making, this is an art centre that lets you get hands on and experiment in a non-judgemental and fun environment.
EZ Art Studio, Jannusan, www.ezartpottery.com (17 591 585). Visit wwwtimeoutbahrain.com to find other classes in Bahrain.
Explore the souqs
A traditional shopping experience such as you might find in Bahrain’s souqs is practically a cultural activity in itself. Manama Souq, beyond Bab Al Bahrain arch, is Bahrain’s most famous. Whether you’re looking for spices, fabrics, souvenirs, perfumes, electronics or just about anything else, the side streets and alleyways are alive with sights, sounds, scents, tastes and textures. Drink chai karak, eat a shawarma and go forth and haggle with traders for your own good.
Manama Souq, Block 304, behind the Bab Al Bahrain Arch.
Go biking around Bahrain
One of our most recent favourite activities has to be the biking tours with local lady Hessa Al Rumaihi. She started off with a lovely little bike ride around Jasra, which takes in the camel farm, a hidden beach, Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre and an organic farm. While she's paused her tours during Ramadan as she fasts, you are able to rent the bicycles from her and go on your own adventure.
See @global.wheels on Instagram.
Hit the water park
It’s hot and the evenings are quiet – what better time of year is there to hit one of Bahrain’s water parks? Lost Paradise of Dilmun Water Park (www.lpodwaterpark.com, 17 845 100) is a massive, Dilmun era-themed outdoor park that’s perfect for families daring enough to take on the slides, rides and wave pool. Alternatively, a safer bet weather-wise is the indoor-outdoor Wahooo! Water Park (www.wahooo.com.bh, 17 173 000) that’s attached to City Centre Bahrain, meaning it can be combined with a shopping spree, cinema viewing, bowling session or even a look around the kids’ entertainment centre.