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  You are here : Home | World | Middle East | Bahrain
 
 

 

 

 

Bahrain

 

 

The Kingdom of Bahrain [1] is a Middle Eastern archipelago in the Persian Gulf, tucked into a pocket of the sea flanked by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It's an oasis of liberalism – or at least western-friendly moderation – among the Muslim countries of the region. It's popular with travelers for its authentic "Arabness" but without the strict application of Islamic law upon its non-Muslim minority. Case in point: alcohol is legal here. Although it has a heavily petroleum-based economy, its more relaxed culture has also made it a social and shopping mecca (so to speak), which has helped it develop a fairly cosmopolitan middle class not found in neighboring countries with just a rich elite and subsistence-level masses.

Regions
roughly north to south:

  • Muharraq - connected island northeast of the capital
  • Manama - the capital area
  • Northern Bahrain - northwest, mostly urban
  • Central Bahrain - just south of the capital area, mostly urban
  • Southern Bahrain - the southern majority of the island, mostly rural
  • Hawar Islands - island group off the coast of Qatar

Cities

  • Manama - capital
  • Hamad Town
  • Isa Town
  • Jidd Hafs
  • Muharraq
  • Riffa
  • Sitrah

Understand

Bahrain is the smallest of the independent Persian Gulf states, and has often had to walk a diplomatic tightrope in relation to its larger neighbours. The country has few oil reserves, however it has established itself as a hub for refining as well as international banking, while also achieving a liberal (by Gulf standards at least) political system.

Electricity
Officially 220V 50Hz. Most outlets are the British standard BS-1363 type. Generally speaking, U.S., Canadian and Continental European travellers should pack adapters for these outlets if they plan to use their electrical equipment in Bahrain.

Climate
The best time to visit Bahrain is November-March, with October & April being just bearable. Be sure to take along a sweater during December-March, evenings can be cool. Bahrain's summer, which is from May-September, is very hot and humid, though occasional cool northerly winds blow to provide some relief. More frequent are the qaws, the hot, dry summer winds that can bring sandstorms.

Buy
The Bahraini dinar is pegged at one to ten with the Saudi Riyal to facilitate tourism. Both nation's bank-notes are accepted in Bahrain. Since the Riyal is pegged to the US$, we can say the dinar is also linked to the greenback.

One dinar is equal to ten Saudi Riyals or to US$2.67. US$1 is equal to 0.375 Bahraini dinars.

A visit to the local suk (sook) is a must. There you can negotiate the price on “rolexes”, jewelry, and many other gifts. The suk is also home to many excellent tailors. If you're there for long enough (say a week) then you can take a favourite clothing item in and they will "clone" it precisely in any material you select from the huge range available.

Eat
Where food is concerned, a full spectrum of price ranges and cuisines can be found in Bahrain.

For food in the lower price range, the best places to go are the areas around Exhibition Avenue and Adlyia, as well as parts of Manama and the Souq. It should be noted that in Bahrain, low-prices attached to food do not necessarily denote quality or taste, as some of the tastiest meals on the island can be had for under a dinar. Of special note are "Habara Snacks & Fish," "Century Restaurant," and the somewhat pricier "Al-Abraaj." American fast food franchises such as Burger King and McDonalds are ubiquitous as well.

Western (mostly American) style-foods and franchises can be found around the malls and in the city center, offering food for upper mid-range prices. Restaurants carrying international foods can be found in these areas as well.

Higher priced food can end up running quite a bill in Bahrain, though the taste is very often worth it. Most upscale hotels have several restaurants, allowing you to sample things from all over the world. Of special mention are: "Lanterns", an Indian restaurant with great food and lovely decor next to Burgerland Roundabout in Budaiya. "Zahle", a tasty Lebanese place with daily buffets and live entertainment. And "Trader Vic's", a polynesian dining/drinking experience, located on the grounds of the Ritz Carlton

Drink
Although Bahrain – which has relatively liberal laws regarding alcohol – has long been popular with tourists from Saudi Arabia and other nearby "dry" countries, in May 2007 the government imposed restrictions that limit sales to bars in five-star hotels, and banned alcohol in restaurants near mosques, schools, or residential areas. It's unclear how strongly this will be enforced.

 

 
             
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