Bahrain has been one of the Gulf's most important commercial crossroads for over 4,000 years. The word Bahrain means 'two seas' in Arabic, indicating how the country's geographic position as a collection of islands has been important throughout its history. As the land of the ancient Dilmun civilization, Bahrain has long been a trading center linking east and west. The country has benefited from its position at the center of the Gulf's trade routes and rich pearl diving industry. By the mid-19th century, the country was the Gulf's pre-eminent trade hub, emerging as a modern state. Merchants from countries across the Gulf and beyond established themselves on the islands. Bahrain was the first Gulf state to discover oil, in 1932, and in the past 40 years has led the regional transition to a modern economy. Subsequently, as the first Gulf state to move away from dependence on oil, we have become the region's most diversified economy. In particular, our country has become the region's leading financial center since the 1980s. Since then manufacturing, logistics, communications, professional services and real estate have also become important sectors. Throughout this period, we have taken great care to build up the skills and talents of the Bahraini people. In 2002, Bahrain became a constitutional monarchy, and a democratically elected parliament was established. This marked the beginning of a period of on-going reform. The country also has an established legal framework and respected regulatory system.
Bahrain is a collection of 33 islands located off the coast of Saudi Arabia. The 25km King Fahd Causeway provides a direct road link between the two countries. In five years' time, a causeway will also link Bahrain with Qatar, to the southeast. At 45km, the 'Friendship Causeway' will be the world's longest land bridge. Most of the population lives in Manama, the capital, which is located on the northern tip of Bahrain island, itself the largest of the 33 islands. During the summer months, stretching from April to October, afternoon temperatures average around 37-40°C. In winter, temperatures range between 10°C and 20°C.
Local people in the Gulf are traditionally welcoming to visitors and outsiders. Coffee is a very important part of any visit, poured from a highly decorated pot into a small cup. Manners are formal and polite, with people indulging in small talk before other conversations begin. Sports enjoy great popularity. Some families still practice the traditional sports of falconry, horse racing and camel racing. Boating activities are popular, as are modern sports such as basketball and football.
With a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-denominational society, along with a low cost of living, excellent education facilities offering curricula from around the world and high-quality healthcare, Bahrain is an attractive destination for expat families. The kingdom provides a holiday destination on your doorstep boasting an archipelago of 33 islands, a cosmopolitan capital city, an attractive liberal lifestyle and a rich history and culture: from historic monuments such as the Al Khamis Mosque, dating back to 692 A.D. to one of the most modern Formula One race-tracks in the world at the Bahrain International Circuit. By sea, you can sail, dolphin watch, fish, scuba dive or kite surf. On land, there are gyms, horse riding stables and sports clubs, including rugby, tennis, soccer, cricket and basketball. Furthermore, our Royal Golf Club, designed by international champion Colin Montgomery, is a particular attraction. In sport, our facilities are world-class. We are the home of Formula One in the Gulf, becoming the first Middle Eastern country to host a Grand Prix in 2004, and hosting the season's opening race in 2010.
Known locally as Qal'at al Bahrain, this original fort dates back three millennia, although its current construction was built in the 16th century by Portuguese traders during a time when they controlled much of the Indian Ocean. Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005, the archaeological finds unearthed on the site reveal a great deal about the history of ancient Bahrain. The architecture of the modern fort is very impressive, while the café by the entrance provides a great place to cool off on hot days.
With over 6,000 years of local history, the Bahrain National Museum packs in a great deal of interest in an elegant, post-modern structure. A large portion of the displays are devoted to the Dilmuns, a civilization that had ties to ancient Mesopotamia, while the rest of the museum is dedicated to the island after the arrival of Islam up to the discovery of oil. Also recounted is the history of pearl fishing, a recreation of a traditional souk, and several gallery spaces for art and sculpture.Bahrain National Museum: With over 6,000 years of local history, the Bahrain National Museum packs in a great deal of interest in an elegant, post-modern structure. A large portion of the displays are devoted to the Dilmuns, a civilization that had ties to ancient Mesopotamia, while the rest of the museum is dedicated to the island after the arrival of Islam up to the discovery of oil. Also recounted is the history of pearl fishing, a recreation of a traditional souk, and several gallery spaces for art and sculpture.
This grand mosque is well known for its enlightening guides and is a great place to learn about Islam, the religion of Bahrain, in breathtaking surroundings. The largest building in the country, Al Fatih is a modern structure that was built in 1984 and can hold up to 7,000 worshipers. The materials used to build it were imported from all round the world-the marble from Italian, the glass from Austria, and the teak wood from India which washand-carved by local craftsmen.
Residents of Bahrain have been fixated on the Tree of Life for generations. Legend has it that this 32-foot Prosopis cineraria is 500 years old, but when you see the surrounding geography standing atop a 25-foot sandy hill surrounded by barren desert, it is hard to imagine how it began to be in the first place, as its source of water is unknown. It is the only tree within a sizeable area, and over 50,000 tourists arrive each year to make sure it is still protecting the region. Film buffs will appreciate the fact that the tree was mentioned in the film LA Story. Manama Souk: Lying in the capital's old district, this souk, or outdoor market, has narrow lanes and covered alleys reminiscent of a Middle Eastern bazaar, but little of the stressful congestion like those found in Cairo or Istanbul. From souvenirs and cheap goods imported from Asia to spices, handicrafts, electronics, and local produce, there is an enormous amount to explore here. Perhaps the most interesting area is the Gold Souk, with its traditional Bahraini architecture and regular bargains.
The Island was the first financial hub in the Middle East; but it has been overtaken by a number of other economies in the UAE and Qatar. Looking to reclaim the accolade, Bahrain built an impressive harbor on reclaimed land and decked it out in modern architecture and elegance. It is laced with shining structures, business, residential, and hotel towers and the tallest buildings on the island. All of them overlook an area of cafés and swanky eateries bordering the water below.
At the Oil Museum you'll get the dinkum oil on, erm, oil. Situated next to the still-producing first oil well in the Middle East, the museum has fascinating exhibits of old photographs, drilling equipment and a working model of an oilrig. It was inaugurated on June 2, 1992 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of oil in Bahrain; the first country in the Middle East to do so, despite the pessimistic pronouncement of a leading geologist that he would drink every drop of oil produced South of Basra.
First built in the 15th century, one of Bahrain's ancient forts, which, historically is the most significant, Arad was extensively rebuilt in the 1800s during the Omani occupation of Bahrain and became the central hub of military operations at this time. Situated on the island of Muharraq, joined to the mainland by the Sheikh Isa bin Salman Causeway, the Arad Fort craft bazaars with children's rides and traditional music are often held in the forecourt of the fort on Thursday and Friday afternoons.
This wildlife park is about 20km out of the city, and home to many species of gazelle and Oryx that are extinct in the wild; it's worth making the trip out here just to catch a glimpse of these elusive beasts.
Once the source of Bahrain's social and economic prosperity; the sea is now the backdrop to a thriving social scene and home to many recreational activities worth dropping by for. The yacht club has seen a steady rise in the popularity of boating and water sports, currently boasting a membership of over 700 people, of which over 200 keep either their own yachts or powerboats at the club. Yachting and power boating have become fashionable pastimes in Bahrain, allowing for the opportunity to enjoy a weekend outdoors and explore the islands less than 20km from the mainland. If you are interested in learning the ropes of sailing, the Bahrain Yacht Club offers a series of sailing classes open to both members and non-members from 11.30am-2.30pm and 3pm-5pm on Friday. Classes run over a six-week period, with each costing BD10. It's a family- oriented powerboat and sailing club run 'by the members for the members'. Its premises are located on the west coast of Bahrain, south of Sitra, and facilities include wet/dry moorings for around 130 to 200 privately owned boats, with Wayfarers, Toppers, and Lasers available for hire, and a resident expatriate sailing instructor on hand for lessons. There is cruiser racing twice monthly, and a well subscribed annual offshore fishing competition. Onshore there is a swimming pool and sheltered beach with a club house, which boasts of a very good coffee shop and restaurant.
The most popular destinations for boaters, Al-Dar and Bird Islands lie about eight nautical miles off the east coast of the mainland. Although Al-Dar (or Fawklands Island as it is sometimes known) has bathroom and restaurant facilities for day-trippers, both are largely untouched and not inhabited, so visiting boaters tend to create their own entertainment, with barbecues, picnics and social gatherings.
For those experienced sailors wanting to venture out to sea, Hawar Island, south east of the mainland, is an eye-catching retreat with its own hotel resort and watersports equipment for hire. For those less nautically inclined, 45-minute boat trips to Hawar Island depart daily from Ad-Dur Jetty. Approaching the islands, the flat appearance of the main island obscures the fact that a line of broken cliffs faces much of the eastern shore and the island's eastward protruding headlands. These characteristic cliffs are only found on Al Hajiyat, Wakur and Umm Hazwarah. The remaining islands are low and flat, some a little more than sand accumulations barely a meter above the sea.
The Marina Club (17 291 527) is another very popular destination. There is extensive wet and dry mooring, a boat hoist, servicing, painting and a repair yard. Some members' boats are available to rent for fishing or diving trips, with a captain to navigate around difficult sand banks. The youngsters and those young at heart can have fun on jet skis, ski and tow, banana rides, rings or Hobie Cats for a nominal price.
Seef Mall, City Center, Al-A'ali Mall, Dana Mall, Moda Mall, The Center, Waha Mall.