As the name implies, Bahrain means “Two Seas” in Arabic, the country has a history that is intertwined with water. The focus is not the island’s minimal landmass since the country is the among the smallest in the world (the whole country is actually the size of the urbanized area of Kuwait, Google-map it!), but the water that laps its shores. It is so shallow that the inhabitants regularly “retrieve” pieces of land, filling in the gaps between sand bars, as if winning back lost territory. Yes! the country grows in size each year.
When to go
Probably you want to avoid visiting the place in summer and that is due to the intensely hot summer months (early June to mid-September), when the sea is flat and vaporous, the cold tap runs hot and even the grass is too peppery to walk on.
Should you decide that heat and humid are not your worst combination and you want to go anyway, the best time to visit is November to March, avoiding Ramadan and Eid holidays, when an influx of Saudi tourists can make it hard to find a room.
Where to Stay
Bahrain does not have much areas and/or suburbs to choose from since the urbanized land of the country is tiny. However, there are three interesting areas that I have personally have the chance to visit.
Juffair area is good for tourists and short-stay visitors due to its close proximity to restaurants, cafes, and nightlife attractions (for those who seek such type of fun of course). It is loaded with hotels and hotel-managed furnished apartments that are affordable and very neat. Al-Seef area is also super nice and posh and it is adjacent to Bahrain’s best malls such as: City Center and Al-Seef. Hotels at this area are mostly five-star hotels with exposure to the sea.
Bahrain National Museum: It is the most popular tourist attraction in Bahrain. A good place to start for an intriguing, well-labeled introduction to the sights of the country. It’s housed in a fine, post-modern building with landscaping that brings the waterfront location up to the windows. It has a collection of archaeological finds from ancient Dilmun and includes beautiful agate and carnelian beads and earthenware burial jars – used for the body as well as its chattels. It also outlines the history of pearl fishing with a delightful diorama of a dhow, complete with divers and pullers, sharks and angel fish.
Al-Fatih Mosque: There are dedicated guides that lead visitors through the mosque while explaining aspects of the religion’s etiquette. Very informative and fun! I enjoyed it.
Beit Al-Quraan: It has a wide selection of striking collection of Qurans, manuscripts and woodcarvings. It functions as a good introduction to Islam in general, and Islamic calligraphy in particular.
Bab Al-Bahrain: It means the gate to Bahrain in Arabic and was built by the British in 1945. The building houses The Tourists Departments and a small gift shop for souvenirs.
Museum of Pearl Diving: Built in 1937 to accommodate the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, The rooms inside, which can be seen within an hour, contain displays of Bahrain’s pearl-diving and seafaring heritage, exhibits of antique weapons, traditional games, medicine, costumes and musical instruments, as well as the various uses of the date palm.
Muharraq: It is Bahrain’s old town. Amazing narrow alleys loaded with small shops that selss the famous Bahraini sweets (Halwa). Taking a walk around is a must.
- (Forigners beware! my fellow Kuwaitis, you know the drill) Often you will be served traditional Arabic coffee, the original form of the beverage, and drinking it is part of a ritual. Take the cup in your right hand and always accept two cups (one will embarrass the host, while three will embarrass everyone else).
- Bahrain is very permissive when it comes to alcohol, but public intoxication is illegal and is often severely punished.
- Most restaurants add a service charge between 10 and 15 percent, so tipping is usually unnecessary. Also avoid tipping taxi drivers as they often overcharge foreigners.
- Muslims are required to fast during daylight hours throughout the holy month of Ramadan. It is important for visitors to respect this tradition by not eating, drinking, or smoking in public throughout the month.
So you decided that you want to spend your weekend away from [C]uwait, however you want to spend as less as possible (don’t we all). Here is a breakdown for a super cheap trip, money-wise, yet very comfortable and decent.
You would wanna travel by car. Road trip is always a nice experience, nonetheless I promise you no exciting sceneries along the way except for few herds of camels here and there. Personally, I found the vast emptiness of the Saudi desert exciting and a reminder of simpler times when my ancestors roamed those lands in search for food and water. The cost of a round trip to Bahrain (including all the fees, tariffs and car fuel) is 15 KD.
Now, where to stay is not a challenge at all as most of the places in Bahrain are affordable and decent. Especially at Juffair area since most of the hotels there are local hotel-chains and very tidy. The average cost of a double room at this area is 25 KD. So the average cost for a weekend trip (two nights) would be 50 KD.
Food and miscellaneous activities cannot be tagged a price as interests and activities differ from one to another. But a day-out in Bahrain shouldn’t cost you more than 15 KD at the most (for meals at decent restaurants available at the malls, but of course if you decide to stick to a fast food diet the expenses won’t exceed 7 KD a day). So three days expenses would be 45 KD* per person.
So the total trip cost (assuming that two persons are traveling together) will be = 77.5 KD**
*The first and last day is a half day so it shouldn’t be included. However, I mentioned it for good measure.
**Prices of the transportation and lodging are divided between both the travelers.