Home Outbound Attractions A Colourful Journey through Bahrain’s Culture and Charm

A Colourful Journey through Bahrain’s Culture and Charm


Bahrain’s twinkling lights lay out a warm welcome as I landed on my first foray into the Middle East. Deeply interested in experiencing authentic Arabic culture, I hope to discover its native charm beyond its gleaming exterior. As I ventured into the historic bylanes, I was transported into a world of enchantment, just like the captivating tale of Scheherazade. 

– Prativa Vaidya Bhalla

A small Arab state on the Persian Gulf, Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands. Its name comes from the Arabic term ‘al-baḥrayn,’ meaning ‘two seas’. The former capital, Muharraq, was renowned as a hub for the pearl diving trade. The discovery of oil and the subsequent economic boom propelled the city of Manama into prominence as the capital and chief port of Bahrain. The multicultural fabric of Bahrain is a harmonious blend of diverse Middle Eastern nationalities thriving within its borders. Engaging with locals from Yemen, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and even India, it is evident that they find contentment in Bahrain’s simple, seamless, and well-organised lifestyle.

An Ode To The Past

Bahrain’s charm originates from its deep commitment to honouring its historical legacy. While it shares the contemporary steel and concrete elements common to its Middle Eastern counterparts, Bahrain distinguishes itself by maintaining and showcasing its heritage. It seamlessly blends the towering skyscrapers of the business district with the ancient burial mounds of the Dilmun civilisation dotted along the city streets. It evokes the excitement of an ongoing excavation, not knowing which century-old masterpiece is waiting to be discovered.

The largest and oldest public museum in the Gulf region, The National Museum of Bahrain, showcases the island nation’s era of The Dilmun Dynasty. Unfolding a mesmerising narrative from over 4000 years ago, the museum chronicles history through ancient grave mounds, rituals, and urn burials, preserving the tales of a bygone era. Intriguing mythological stories are brought to life via sculptures and life-size installations, vividly recreating age-old Bahraini traditions of daily life. narrating lyrical tales of the past.

Qal’at al-Bahrain or the Bahrain Fort
Qal’at al-Bahrain or the Bahrain Fort

Qal’at al-Bahrain, or Bahrain Fort, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of the remnants of a fortress that dates back to 2,300 BC.  The excavated site reveals the fort’s importance in defence, residential, religious, and military purposes. Remains of the stable walls, reservoir for storing water, watchtower, and an ingenious system of extracting date syrup, tell the story of a clever and thriving civilisation.

The Al Fateh Mosque is a serene oasis that stands as a testament to the Bahraini faith. Dressed in our Abayas, as we wander its haloed walls, the magnanimity, sacrifice, discipline, and power of Islam can be felt. It is indeed a learning experience to be walking in the shoes of a community so easily judged by the rest of the world.

Bab-Al-Bahrain - Gateway to Manama
Bab-Al-Bahrain – Gateway to Manama

The Colourful, Historical Souks

Standing the test of time, the 43-year-old Bab al Bahrain is the gateway to Manama Souk. This spot is the perfect place to admire the past and the present, with the ultra-modern financial district on one side and historic Manama on the other. Once upon a time, the sea stopped just outside this gateway, through which traders entered Bahrain to conduct business and today, the financial district stands on this reclaimed land.

Colourful shops in Manama Souk
Colourful shops in Manama Souk

The aromatic Arabian scents wafting from the Souk entice visitors into a realm of rich perfume oils, bakhoor incense, fragrant spices, exquisite gold jewellery, colourful Bahraini souvenirs, textiles, and delightful local delicacies. Shopkeepers exuding enthusiasm, kindness, and a unique sense of humour create a comforting and enjoyable ambience. Tucked into a tiny lane lies the resplendent Shrinivas Temple, meticulously maintained by its devoted followers. A stroll down another quaint lane reveals the Haji Cafe and the Arabic café, both popular hotspots, seemingly frozen in time, filled with historical photographs and vintage artefacts.

Centre of High Octane Sporting Activity

For thrill-seekers, Bahrain offers an exhilarating array of activities. These include the exciting, simulated indoor skydiving at Gravity, the absolute thrill of go-karting on a world-class track at the Bahrain International Go Karting Circuit, and the high-speed excitement of Formula 1 racing at the Bahrain International Circuit. The acclaimed International racetrack features a highly acclaimed hairpin bend, personally designed by the racing legend Michael Schumacher, revered for its difficulty level in the racing world.

With exclusive permission, I was fortunate enough to visit the control centre, a hub pulsating with a subdued thrill, where multiple TV screens capture every angle and moment of the thrilling races.

The disappering Jarada island
The disappearing Jarada island
Pearling adventures in the Arabian Gulf
Pearling adventures in the Arabian Gulf

Kayaking in the crystal blue waters of the ‘Disappearing Island’, also called Jarada Island, was an unforgettable experience. Reachable only by a 40-minute private boat ride, with a restricted number of people allowed per day, it was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The island is a magical little strip of sand, playing hide and seek, appearing only in low tide and disappearing in high tide. The day tour includes a freshly cooked barbeque organised by the boat crew, looking for pearls in fresh oysters, kayaking, or just walking around the sand strip marvelling at the vagaries of nature.

The Food of Bahrain – Mashallah!

The culinary experience in Bahrain is simply exquisite; it captivates taste buds and nourishes the soul. Visitors are treated to a splendid array of delicacies such as Machboos, Falafel, Shishtouk, Biryani, Kebabs, and Balaleet, amongst others. The warm hospitality, generous service, and the hosts’ graciousness add to the whole experience.

Delectable Baharaini cuisine with Karak Chai
Delectable Baharaini cuisine with Karak Chai

For foodies, the variety of options presented is like entering Alibaba’s cave of riches, with Naseef at the Marina, Wahed Falafel at Manama, and the Attic at Block 388, just to name a few. Experiencing the traditional style of relishing meals while seated on the floor at a tiny local Muharraq eatery offered a dreamily flavourful experience. Not to be missed is the Karak, an aromatic rendition of Indian masala chai, capable of rejuvenating the weariest soul.  Meandering through narrow lanes of souks, visitors can purchase local food souvenirs, including Halwa, Samboosa, Baklava, Spices, and various versions of Arabic coffee.

The Bahraini Charm

The tale of Bahrain remains incomplete without honouring its remarkable people—kind, polite, helpful, and filled with humour. Their warm greetings and quick wit, always aimed at ensuring comfort, made our visit immensely enjoyable and unforgettable. The enchanting Bahraini charm indeed worked its magic, embedding the melodious poetry of this small kingdom in our hearts.

Our exceptional tour guide, Eman Hasan Ali, guided us through a captivating journey, allowing us to immerse ourselves in the ancient world through experiences and flavours. Her profound knowledge and affection for her city were evident as she joyfully engaged with the locals and introduced us to the traditional treasures of her country.