Where do you go, or take people, when looking for a taste of culture in Bahrain? Is it the Tree of Life? Al Fateh Grand Mosque? The Bahrain National Museum? While these are all great places, the island still has so much more to offer and it’s just waiting to be discovered. Which is why the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities has launched their new Cultural Tourism Passport initiative. ‘Keeping the memory of these exceptional historical sites and cultural historic homes on our shores, and in our hearts, is one of the main reasons for the launch of this project,’ a BACA spokesperson tells us.
The idea behind the campaign is to invite tourists and residents to pick up a ‘passport’ and visit 21 of the country’s most iconic and historical landmarks, monuments and cultural sites. At each destination, the passport-holder can ‘tick off’ the location with a Dilmun seal stamp, given by the site’s staff.
After making it around the entire circuit, and getting all 21 stamps, the passport can then be dropped off at the Bahrain National Museum gift shop where it’ll be entered into a prize draw of 21 airline tickets to ‘key Arab and international tourism destinations,’ as we’re told. The winners will be announced on December 16, also known as Bahrain’s National Day.
Albeit a perfectly timed agenda, what with the weather cooling down and all, we had to know more about the organisation’s focus. They told us, ‘Cultural tourism is high on our agenda to promote Bahrain as a key destination in the region.’ This follows Manama clinching the title of Capital of Arab Tourism in 2013 and the Capital of Asian Tourism in 2014, and this year has been dubbed by the authority as ‘Our Year of Heritage’.
‘Realistically,’ the spokesperson says, ‘we’d love for visitors to our shores to explore more cultural and educational sites and not just our shopping destinations. By increasing the number of museums and information sites throughout the island, as well as restoring old homes to their former glory, we aim to promote and preserve our heritage for generations to come.’
This new initiative isn’t all the BACA have been up to either. This summer they pulled off the seventh annual Bahrain Summer Festival and just last month the 24th edition of the Bahrain International Music Festival. In January, their annual art exhibition takes place, followed by the Spring of Culture in March-April. They’re also still hard at work on the famed ‘pearling path’ project in Muharraq. Plus, if they see much success with the Cultural Tourism Passport, they say, ‘we might be inclined to launch a similar initiative in the next few years’.
Of course, we fully support any project that might highlight the uniqueness of this beautiful desert island to the world – so we ask the BACA to encapsulate, in just three points, why anyone should travel here. ‘We are the only desert island nation in the world. Secondly, where else would visitors find a natural phenomenon such as a 400-year-old tree, growing in the driest of lands, with no known water source?
‘Lastly, and most importantly, visitors who do come to Bahrain leave with the memory of its kind people, with their warm smiles and big hearts, and their new found admiration for this land and its cultural heritage.’
Download your Cultural Tourism Passport from www.culture.gov.bh
The 21 cultural hot spots
This is where your passport will take you...
1 A’ali Burial Mounds, A’ali
2 Al Hedaya Al Khalifia School, Muharraq
3 Al Khamis Mosque, Khamis
4 Al Qaisariya Souq, Muharraq
5 Bab Al Bahrain and Visitors’ Centre, Manama
6 Bahrain National Museum, Al Fateh Corniche
7 Bahrain National Theatre, Al Fateh Corniche
8 Barbar Temple, Budaiya
9 Beit Al Qur’an, Diplomatic Area
10 Bin Matar House, Muharraq
11 Bu Maher Fort and Visitors’ Centre, Muharraq
12 Ibrahim Al Arrayed House of Poetry, Palace Avenue
13 Memory of Manama – Khalaf House, Manama
14 Mohammed bin Fares Hall, Muharraq
15 Qal’at Al Bahrain Fort, Karbabad
16 Qal’at Al Bahrain Site Museum, Karbabad
17 Saar Settlement, Saar
18 Shaikh Salman bin Ahmed Al Fateh Fort, Riffa
19 Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research, Muharraq
20 Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa House, Muharraq
21 The Tree of Life and Visitors’ Centre, the desert