Favorite thing: This is the best-known roundabout in Manama and in Bahrain and one which made it into the world news. Pearl Roundabout was the centre during the Bahraini prostests of the Arab Spring in 2011 and the conflict is - as of 2012 - still going on. Protesters had occupied the square for several weeks in February and March 2011 until the square was cleared by Armed Forces on March 16th and only two days later, the Pearl Monument was demolished. It was said that the was destroyed to make space for a new city building project.
Pearl Roundabout is still full of military checkpoints and if you do not want to answer some questions, I do not recommend to go to this square. Of course, photography is completely forbidden. As of mid-2012, the square is still being rebuilt, but not opened to the public. It is planned to be named Al Farooq Junction, a name which sounds like a provocation to the Shiite majority who has their cause in the uprisings.
The Pearl roundabout is depicted on the 500 fils coin (1/2 BHD), but they were being taken out of circulation in 2011. During my stay in Bahrain, I only got 1/2 BHD bills and smaller coins as change and never saw the mentioned coin.
The Royal Family
Favorite thing: During the Bahrain uprisings, the Royal Family as been subject to criticism of the Shiite majority. Demonstrations didn't only take place at the Pearl Roundabout, but also in front of Gudaibiya Palace, the city centre residence of the Al Chalifa Family. I do not want to criticize the Royal Family or judge any side in this conflict. So please, for more background information, inform yourself at serious media stations.
What I want to say with this tip is that pictures of the Royal Family were present all over the place ar the time of my visit. There are pictures virtually everywhere - I never have seen a similar amount of pictures of the respective Royal Family in Qatar or UAE. And of course, I am curious to know, if this presence has increased because of the 2011 uprisings.
For those who don't know the three most important members of the Royal Family: In the middle, we have King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa who became Emir of Bahrain in 1999 and declared himself King in 2002. His reign saw an increase of living standards in Bahrain and a non-nonsense politics compared to neighbouring Qatar and UAE. However, his reign also saw the uprisings of 2011 where protesters were killed. To the left, there is his uncle Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister of Bahrain and the only person to have held this office since the country's independence in 1971. As of 2012, he was the longest-serving prime minister worldwide. To the right of the King, there is the King's Son, Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain. He is seen as a wise future leader, but as he was the deputy commander of the defence forces, his involvement in the clearance of the Pearl Roundabout remains unclear.