Bahrain Travel Guides
It is probably fair to say that Bahrain is lacking in the manmade child-orientated activities that other countries have to offer; however, there are some attractions that will appeal to young ones should they tire of the hotel swimming pool. Manama’s modern facilities and shopping centres provide the most options, with everything from arcades to cinemas, while daytrips to the Tree of Life and the Al Areen Wildlife Park and Reserve are both educational and fun.
Al Areen Wildlife Park and Reserve
While normally one would not imagine to see much of wildlife on this desert island, surprisingly Bahrain have a nice Wildlife Park and Reserve. The wildlife reserve incorporates a visitors' centre, animal open enclosures, nice bird and reptile area as well as other facilities. A ride across the park in visitor’s van bring nice views of Arabian Oryx in open plains and close encounters with Ostrich. Visitors can explore the area, which provides a sanctuary where planting trees and vegetation and breeding rare animals are some of the main objectives. The reserve is also very educational for children.
Bahrain largely consists of desert, making it the ideal habitat for camels. Should you visit the Tree of Life, which can be found in the heart of the desert, be sure to hop on a camel along the way. Camel riding is surprisingly safe and your children will find it an enjoyable experience to remember. Those wanting to have a ride on one should simply ask the herdsmen, who will be only too happy to let you on one for a small fee.Visit this website for photographs and further information about Camels in Bahrain
Finding indoor activities for the kids during your stay in Bahrain is a necessity, particularly if you visit in the summer months, when the heat can be unbearable. Children can be entertained easily at the air-conditioned Seef Mall, home to the largest Cineplex in the entire Middle East with a whopping 16 cinemas. There are also two other popular cinemas, Seef Cineplex, offering six screens, and the Seef Megaplex, which boasts 10 screens.
If you plan on getting active during your stay in Bahrain, there are a few options. Bahrain shares a love for all things equestrian with other Middle Eastern countries and it is therefore possible to go horseback riding on organised tours. If you are not confident riding a horse, there is an excellent racetrack in Manama with a capacity to seat 10,000. The horse racing season runs from October to March, when the weather is cooler; however, don’t come expecting to win a bundle as betting is strictly forbidden.
Another popular pastime in Bahrain is golf, with the Riffa Golf Course being the most popular course at which to practise your swing. The 18-hole green is set on a dramatic Wadi terrain which incorporates four lakes. Situated just 15 minutes’ drive from Manama and 20 minutes from the King Fahad Causeway.
Aside from golf and horseback riding, Bahrain is best known in the sporting world as the home of Formula One racing in the Middle East. The country first hosted the Gulf Air Grand Prix in 2004, making it the first Arab country to host such an event. Since then, Bahrain has continued to host the annual Grand Prix, which takes place in March. Visitors can make a trip to the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir to see the impressive US$150 million race track.
During your stay in Bahrain, you should endeavour to try some of the local delights. While there are many international and fast food options available, Bahrain cooking is not only cheaper but also delicious. A trip to one of the many souks across the islands will reveal a whole host of spices and herbs you may never have come across.
Bahrain cuisine is much the same as all other Middle Eastern cuisines and it shares many of the same dishes as Iran and Turkey. Established restaurants often have English menus and excellent service. Popular bites include falafels, kebabs, hummus (a garlic and chickpea spread) and taboule (a wheat, onion, parsley, mint and lemon juice spread).
Like the hotels in Bahrain, most of the restaurants here offer excellent value for money, with even five-star hotels frequently offering reasonably priced buffets. However, don’t be fooled into thinking the more upmarket the restaurant the tastier the food will be, as that is often not the case in Bahrain, with some of the cheap workers’ hang outs offering the most delicious cuisine on the islands.
If you don’t want a sit down meal and are just looking for something to eat on the run, head for one of Bahrain’s souks, where ready-cooked kebabs and falafels are waiting.
Chinese, Philippine and Indian restaurants are widespread and with so many of the country’s chefs originating from one of these countries, much of the so-called Bahrain food ends up being infused with foreign flavours.
Traditional Bahrain meals usually start with mezze, an appetizer, normally consisting of hummus; taboule; baba ghanoush (eggplant spread); olives; beans and fritters. The main course normally consists of a fish, chicken or meat-based dish served with rice and accompanied by salad, which is then polished off with red tea, sweet desserts and fresh fruit. While most Bahrainis eat with a knife and fork, it is still common to see people eat with their hands; however, if you are going to follow suit, be sure to only use your right hand when eating or passing food, as the left hand is considered ‘unclean’.
Bahrain is well known for its shopping, which, while not on a par with Dubai, is certainly one of the best retail experiences in the Middle East. Modern shopping malls have sprouted up over the past decade, but instead of wiping out the traditional souks, these malls sit side by side with Bahrain’s ancient trading centres, with each offering products aimed at different sectors of the market.
To the uninitiated, a trip to a Bahraini souk can be one full of surprises as you encounter a whole host of new smells, sights and sounds. It is an excellent way to get a feel for the culture, while also being the perfect place to pick up traditional souvenirs. Manama Souk is one of the most significant and lively in the country, but you will find smaller souks in every significant town across Bahrain, each with its own unique atmosphere.
Visitors can pick up anything from Arabian rugs and carpets to perfumes, spices and jewellery at Bahrain’s souks, while some souks specialise in one type of product such as electronics. Visitors should be prepared to barter for purchases, with bargaining being a necessary way of life in Bahrain.
The trader’s first asking price will often be two or three times higher than what they are prepared to settle for, so it is important to try and lower the price significantly at the start of your bargaining. You should also be prepared to raise the price to a fairer figure as the game goes on. If you are not happy with the price they offer you, take a look around and try haggling with a few other vendors who sell the same thing; you will soon find out what a ‘fair’ price is through comparison.
In contrast to the traditional souks, Bahrain has several large malls including Seef Mall (www.seef.net), Bahrain Mall, Dana Mall, Al-A'ali shopping complex, Sheraton Complex, Yateem Centre, Gosi Complex and Lulu Centre, with the largest being in Manama. Don't expect the same bargains that can be found in the souks. These malls offer an excellent range of designer and European goods, but with fixed prices to match. Bahrain Duty Free Shop at Bahrain International Airport is great for picking up tax-free goods.
Shopping hours are generally Saturday to Tuesday 10:00 to 22:00 and Wednesday to Friday 10:00 to 23:00; opening hours during Ramadan are restricted.