No Visit to Bahrain
would be completed without a trip to the soukh , with its profusion
of colors, sounds, and aromas. All wares are sold, from cloth of
colors and textures to gold and jewelry as well as the traditional
array of spices and local produce. Bartering is expected, and indeed
turns the whole experience of shopping into a challenge to see who
can obtain the best price. The central market, completed in 1978,
provides modern facilities for trades, which were unavailable, when
the market took place in the soukh. It is well worth a visit, if
only to enjoy the brightly colored display of fresh fruit and
vegetables, as well as the scents of the herbs, nuts and spices.
The Gold Souq
Bahrain gold is usually
21 carat and hallmark; it is available in an infinite number of
styles, including traditional Bedouin designs as well as the more
contemporary European jewelry. If you can't see what you want, then
don't worry pieces can also be made to order, although it is wise to
confirm a price before the craftsmen go to work.
The Cloth Souq
Materials of all
textures, colors and origins are available here from silk to cotton
and wool. If you have a sketch or an item to be copied, the many
tailors shops which are dotted throughout the soukh can make you a
new suit or outfit- at a fraction of the original price!
This is one of the most impressive examples of a 19th century built
by the pearl-merchant Ahmed Bin Qassem Siyadi and has many fine
features to look out for, including ornate ceilings, stained-glass
windows, carved screens and a large safe set into the wall of a
small, upper reception room.
The twin minarets of this ancient mosque are easily identifiable as
you drive along the Sh. Salman Road. It's considered being one of
the oldest relics of Islam in the region, and the foundation are
believed to have been laid as early as 692AD. An inscription found
on the site, however, suggests a foundation date sometimes during
the 11th Century. It has since been rebuilt twice in both 14th &
15th centuries, when the minarets were constructed. The mosque has
been partially restored recently.
The first dwellings on
the site are believed to have been constructed around 2800 BC, and
have subsequently been overlaid by numerous fortified settlements.
The last was built in the early 16th century to defend Portugal's
recent acquisition of the islands-for this reason, it is also known
locally as the Portuguese Fort. Numerous excavations have uncovered
a variety of relics from the forts past.
Excavations, which were begun in the 1950s and 1960s, have revealed
three stone-built temples dating from the second and third millennia
BC. It is believed that they were built as a place of worship for
the God of Spring Waters, Enki, and a sacred well within the complex
strengthens this theory.
Museum of Pearl Diving
The 'Museum of Pearl Diving' building is regarded as one of the most
important and historic buildings in Bahrain. Its importance derives
from being the first official center for the Bahrain Courts.
In addition, it is a vital witness to what Bahrain has achieved
through its long history in regard to the application of civil law
and regulations, and the establishment of the principles of justice
on solid legal foundations.
The building was opened by the late H.H. Sh. Hamad Bin Essa AI-Khalifa,
then governor of Bahrain, in the Hijra year 1356 (Islamic Calendar),
October 18th, 1937.
The building at that time consisted of four Supreme Courts, in
addition to three Directorates: (1) Sunni Waqf (Religious Endowments
of the Sunnis), (2) Jaffaria Waqf (Religious Endowments of the
Shiites), and (3) Minors Estate (Properties of Underage). In
addition, there were rooms used as offices, and another room for
In 1984, the building was transformed into the Traditional Heritage
Center. Its departments
and rooms were dedicated to the display of various traditional
aspects of Bahrain's heritage, except the Supreme Courtroom, to
which no significant change has been made for 65 years. The Supreme
Courts at that time included (1) a Civil Court, (2) an Appellate
Court, and (3) a Criminal Court.
The current 'Museum of Pearl Diving' building is under the authority
of the Directorate of Archaeology and Heritage, which is one of the
major Directorates of the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and
Information. The 'Museum of Pearl Diving' building is a source of
pride to Bahrain, for it contains the story of Bahrain, its
governors, and its people from the past till the present.
Bait Al Qur'an
The House of the Qur'an was built to accommodate a comprehensive and
valuable collection of the Holy Qur'an and manuscripts, a concept
which is unique in the Arabian Gulf. All visitors are welcome, and
the complex comprises a mosque, a library, an auditorium, a school
and museum consisting of five exhibition halls.
This 16th century fort of Arabic construction is probably one of the
first landmarks you will see upon arrival to Bahrain due to its
proximity to the airport. It has undergone extensive restoration,
and is now illuminated at night, presenting a magnificent sight.
Little is known of the fort history, and there is no firm evidence
of the precise date of construction, but comprehensive excavations
have been undertaken in order to discover its past. N.B. Stout shoes
should be worn if you intend to pay a visit, in order that you can
explore to the full- high heels are not suitable for climbing about
on the ramparts!
Shaikh Isa's House
Shaikh Isa's house, in the old town of Muharraq, was once the home
of the Amir`s great-grandfather, Shaikh Isa Bin Ali Al khalifa . It
provides a fine example of local architecture, complete with wind
tower, wall carving and lattice work, and its representative of
traditional 19th century life. One of the early forms of " air
conditions" was the wind tower, a traditional landmark of local
architecture. This would act as a funnel, catching the breeze and
drawing it down it down into the cavities below, as well as allowing
the release of hot air like a chimney.
Tree of Life
Standing alone in the desert about 1.2 miles (two kilometers) from
the Jebel Dukhan, this flourishing mystic tree provides welcome
shade from the heat of the day, although its source of water remains
Oil Well No.1
As its name suggests,
this is the first oil well in the Gulf. "Spurted" on 16th October
1931, the well finally began to blow heads of oil on the morning of
2nd June 1932, too much celebration on the part of those involved in
the project. It is situated below jebel Dukhan, the Mountain of
Smoke, which, at a height of 134 meters (450 feet), is the highest
point of the island. Its name comes from the misty haze, which
frequently surrounds it on a hot and humid day.
King Fahad Causeway
Opened in 1986, this remarkable 15.5 miles (25km) feat of
engineering links Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It is one of the most
expensive bridges in the world. The causeway traverses Umm Nasan
Island, which is a sanctuary for wildlife, and at halfway point
there is a facility area, including a restaurant, which you can
visit even if you don't travel the whole distance to Saudi Arabia.
The house was built by Shaikh Hamad bin Abdulla Al Khalifa in 1907,
and was the birthplace of the present Amir in July 1933. When the
family moved to Riffa later in the 1930, the building fell into
disrepair, but they were restored in 1986 and are now open to the
Salman bin Ahmed Al fateh Fort
Standing on a low
escarpment, overlooking the valley between the east and west Riffa
the fort held an ideal strategic position during the 18th century.
In more recent times, it was used as a private dwelling, but it has
now been restored and is open to the public. A section in Arabic
calligraphy, including a beautiful display of illuminated Qur'an and
other religious documents, is breathtaking, and course of visit
world be complete without closer look at the traditional trades and
crafts which have been cleverly displayed in a reconstruction of a
typical soukh of the 1930s. There are also photographs and models
pealing exhibitions and artifact to represent the former source of
Bahrain's wealth before the advent of oil. Many, many more exhibits
add up to memorable experience, and a deeper understanding of the
fascinating history of the island.
The Middle East is renowned for its love of horses, and Bahrain is
no exception. There are a few stables to choose from, with mounts
for all ages and abilities.
Bahrain's love of all things equestrian is further revealed in its
splendid racetrack, together with a grandstand those seats 10.000
spectators. Meetings are held every Friday from October to March.
Car parking and programs are free; however, betting is strictly
Riffa Golf Club
Construction work has started on the first 18-hole green course in
Bahrain. US-based Karl Litton, one of the leading golf course
designers, has designed the BD 7 million ($18.6m) Riffa Golf Course.
The Riffa Golf Club is being constructed to professional Golf
Association standards with the first seven holes on a dramatic Wadi
terrain and remaining 11 holes lay out around and over four lakes.
The nearly 63 hectares (155 acre) site for the new golf course on
undeveloped land has been carefully chosen for both access and
terrain. The course is par 72 and is 6.286m (6.875 yards) in length
with some 24 hectares (60 acres) of grass and will landscaped with
palms and shrubbery to give a tropical feeling in the desert
terrain. Environment will be cheered to know that the green terrain
will be watered and irrigated by using recycled wastewater brought
in from the sea, factories and various plants, and not precious
water destined for public consumption. Doing what is ecological
correct has been as important to the committee as creating a course
of International caliber.
"History and ancient
history would suggest that diving itself was probably born in and
around the warm shallow waters of Bahrain. Recorded as far back as
5000 years ago, Pearl Diving has been Bahrain's heritage for
millennia and ,today,
these same productive oyster beds (the largest of their kind in the
world) continue to flourish, offering some very unique, rewarding
and exciting recreational diving opportunities all year round. With
water temperatures ranging from 34C in summer to 20C in winter,
providing comfortable diving conditions year round, up to 30 species
of coral and in excess of 200 species of fish can be found, in
particular, on the northern offshore reefs of Bahrain. Here, divers,
underwater photographers and snorkellers can discover a myriad of
Indo Pacific species including clown fish, trigger fish, surgeon
fish,turtles, rays, lion fish,grouper, snapper, crayfish and even
whalesharks; while tuna, mackerel, trevally and barracuda cruise
above. In addition to reef diving there are a number of wrecks
around the island, including ships, planes, tugs and barges that
have something special to offer the inveterate diver. Dugongs (sea
cows) can also be seen feeding on the sea grass in the southern
waters of Bahrain during the cooler winter months. Scuba and
snorkelling education, equipment, experiences and excursions are
available to an international standard through a PADI 5 Star Dive
Centre located in Manama".
Male traditional dress
consists of a or full length coat, made of dark wool in the winter
and white cotton during the summer. Beneath this is worn the serwaal,
which are rather like pair of cotton pyjama trousers . A light
woolen cloak, or bisht, of beige or black and usually edged with
gold embroidery, is worn on more formal occasions. The headdress
comprises a crocheted cap, or ghafeyah, on top of which is worn a
ghutrah , or scarf, held in place with an agaal, a black wool
Arabic Coffee & Hospitality
The drinking of coffee is a traditional part of Bahrain welcome, and
begins with the preparation of the coffee itself. Three cupfuls of
vaster and a rounded teaspoon of coffee (gahwa) are poured into a
saucepan and then boiled for about two minutes. Next comes the
"relaxation" process, which is very important, as it allows time for
the traditional exchange of greetings and welcome. After adding
cardamom and saffron in rosewater, the liquid is poured gently from
the saucepan into the coffeepot, or dalla, taking care that the
sediment remains in the pan. The coffee is then left to brew for
five or ten minutes before being served in a small cup, or finjan.
It is polite to accept a second cup if offered, but for third and
subsequent helpings, the shaking of the cup from side to side
indicates refusal. Coffeepots can be found in many shops on the
island, as well as in the soukhs. They make an ideal reminder for
the hospitality and welcome extended to visitors by the people of
Situated near "Oil Well NO.1" the museum was inaugurated on the 2nd
June 1992 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of
oil in Bahrain, the first country of 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". It houses
some fascinating exhibits, including drilling equipment, documents,
old photographs and a working model of an oil rig.