The name Manama might mean ‘Sleeping Place’, but Bahrain’s bustling capital does anything but live up to its title. This dynamic city is a playground for night owls, drawing scores of visitors each weekend in search of late night shopping, buzzing bars and lively nightclubs. During the day, there’s plenty to do too, from immersing yourself in Bahrain’s rich history to indulging in some retail therapy. Or, do both at the Manama Souk.
A visit to this labyrinth of twisting alleyways and bustling shops is an absolute must-do. It’s easy to imagine what it must have been like centuries ago, when traders sailed in on dhows laden with goods for the markets. Today, a visit to Manama Souk remains a rich sensory experience, a riot of sights, sounds and smells, from brightly coloured fabrics to the evocative aromas of the spice souk. Be sure to practice your haggling skills – bartering over the price of your purchase is part of the experience and should help you get a good deal – and ask the local porters for help if you get a bit carried away splashing the cash.
Culture & heritage
Trace Bahrain’s pearl diving heritage at the Museum of Pearl Diving or learn more about Islam at Al-Fatih Mosque. A must-visit though is Beit al Quran (meaning ‘House of the Quran’). Not only is this a striking example of Bahraini architecture, it is home to rare Islamic manuscripts and stunning art. Be amazed by the beautiful engravings of Arabic calligraphy that adorn its walls, and marvel at the stained glass dome – a fascinating way to while away an afternoon.
For perhaps the most fascinating (and famous) of Bahrain’s cultural attractions, you’ll have to head away from the city centre to Saar, near A’ali Village. Here, the surreal landscape is made up of row after row of ancient burial mounds. These intriguing remains date back to the Dilmun, Tylos and Hellenistic periods and are thought to be anything between 2,000 and 4,000 years old.
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