Many moons ago, the tiny island of Bahrain was a lush, fertile, green oasis. Once the site of the ancient Dilmun civilisation, known for its vegetable production and agricultural know-how, the nation’s cornerstone was its abundance of springs – many of which still exist today – that spurted sweet drinking water. Over the generations, urban development and land reclamation have led to the country becoming more like its Gulf neighbours – a desolate desert, limited in its arable land. However, in recent years, governmental plans, largely overseen by the National Initiative for Agricultural Development, have sought to change all this.
January’s Bahrain International Garden Show, the planting of saplings, support for local farmers and promises to limit our reliance on imported foods, are just a few of the ways Bahrain aims to combat our environmental woes. Introducing more public parks is another.
Just this year, it has been announced that the Northern Governorate – which encompasses towns such as Budaiya, Hamala, Hamad Town and Zallaq – will welcome eight new public parks and walkways, reports DT News. Making good on that promise, in August, The Ministry of Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning opened a new one in A’ali called the Hoor Public Park. Designed to primarily be a recreational facility, it can be found in Block 763 and includes sports playing fields, two kids’ play areas and a walkway for the fitness-conscious.
More are also set to open in Buquwa Village, Hamad Town, Buri and Bani Jamrah, joining some of our favourites in Budaiya, Arad Bay and Muharraq (see pictures in this feature).
Other private developments, such as Dilmunia Island in Muharraq (marketed as the “modern Garden of Eden”), despite being built on reclaimed land, also aims to bring a holistic, sustainable lifestyle to Bahrain’s residents by integrating indoor and outdoor living, and providing more green spaces.
Meanwhile, locally owned companies like Peninsula Farms continue to introduce new high-tech farming techniques, promoting food security, and lesser known pockets of fertile land used by farmers exist all over the country. Just mingle around Budaiya’s popular farmers’ market at Budaiya Botanical Garden (pictured overleaf) – one of the island’s greenest spots – if you don’t believe us.
Plenty of passionate individuals all over the country are also finding creative ways to encourage sustainable living and introduce the island’s tourists and residents to Bahrain’s green potential.
Take Hessa Al Rumaihi, for example, a local lady who launched the eco-friendly and educational biking initiative Global Wheels, which tours around Jasra and Seef, introducing riders to hidden beaches lined with palm trees and little-known organic farms.
Or even Reem Al Khalifa, who founded Green Bar, a boutique company that produces botanical beauty products, such as hair and body oils, using ingredients that are natural and locally sourced as much as possible.
And Chef Susy Massetti, who introduced a concept of farm-to-table dining in Bahrain at her award-winning restaurant and serves delicious dishes made with local ingredients plucked straight from their garden that morning.
Every day, more and more businesses just like these spring up in Bahrain, directly and indirectly reducing the country’s eco-footprint, and, significantly, raising awareness of our need to support such ideas and do the same.
You might not want to write up your eco-friendly business plan on recycled paper just yet, but there’s certainly no harm in getting outside and taking full advantage of Bahrain’s green havens. Even if that just means packing up a picnic hamper and enjoying a leisurely afternoon on the lawn at one of the island’s parks as the weather cools down. Or simply taking a stroll around one of the walkways.
Any great garden begins with just one seed and, right now, plenty of them are being planted all over the island. It’s just as Hessa Al Rumaihi once said to us: “This is, after all, the land of a million palm trees…” And wouldn’t it be nice to see it return to its heyday and flourish?
Al Andalus Garden
Just off Palace Avenue and next to Salmaniya Garden, this older park might be in need of a spruce-up, but it still attracts plenty of people from the area. It’s particularly popular among walkers, looking for a quiet evening stroll amid the palm trees and lawns. On the park, there's a tennis court (which needs repairing) and a lovely, traditional-looking building, which looks like it could be a great spot for new, small shops and businesses to set up. There is plenty of seating and lawn space for picnics and football matches, too. Note, there are no pets allowed.
Arad Bay Protected Area and Park
Based just behind the Mövenpick Hotel Bahrain, this is not only a recreation park, but also a natural reserve. A three-kilometre circular walkway, which is popular with fitness enthusiasts, curves around the bay, which is a safe haven for migrant birds, shrimps and rare marine life. The park also attracts cyclists, skaters and families, taking advantage of the kids’ play area and shaded benches. You’ll also find popular Bahraini restaurant Freej bin Rashdan here.
Budaiya Botanical Garden
Home to the annual outdoor farmers’ market, which runs from December until April, Budaiya Botanical Garden is a haven of lush greenery, shaded by myriad trees and foliage. It is split into four areas dedicated to palm trees, aromatic plants, wild plants and flowers, and there is an area with park benches, which is popular as a picnic spot. During the market, a number of food stalls are also set up to sell authentic local dishes, and artists also pop by to flog their wares.
Khalifa Al Kubra Garden
In East Riffa you'll find this lovely little park, which is home to a kids’ play area, grassy picnic areas, dedicated football pitch and a volleyball court. Families, sports lovers and casual walkers visit this spot on a daily basis, but it's never too packed to be unenjoyable. It also has security and toilets. Result.
Prince Khalifa bin Salman Park
It’s impressive, this Muharraq-based park. There’s a lake, walkways, restaurants, shopping areas, seating areas and plenty of greenery. Around six million dinars was spent creating this 80,000 square-metre space – one of the biggest in Bahrain – and was worth it as it’s particularly popular on weekends. On top of all that, there’s a skate park, pedal boats and bicycles to rent, a kids’ play area, rides and a games room, complete with air hockey. In terms of food, you’ll find stalls such as Chai & Chapati, and a tower boasting a 360-degree view of the lake, with restaurant Koffiatto based there.
This seaside area, at the end of Budaiya Highway, features lawns, paved walkways, benches, a playground and fountains, and it’s frequented by families and walkers throughout the year. There is a public beach here to enjoy, too.