Bahrain National Museum is a great place to visit, especially on Friday when almost everything else is closed - or else to spend some nice time while avoiding the city centre clashes (2012), This first-class museum opened in 1988 and focuses on the history of the country, which is actually more than pearls and oil.
The exhibit on the Dilmun burial mounds, downstairs, is excellent, as it shows you what there is hidden inside those burial mounds. Upstairs 2 large rooms are dedicated to the countrys folklore: from traditional colourful clothes to local trades of the past, including several life size recreation of traditional life in Bahrain.
Entrance is 200 fils - though the man at the ticket booth let us in for free. Come with a sweater, as the air-conditioning is set to chilly all over the place.
Isa ibn Ali Al Khalifa house
Isa ibn Ali Al Khalifa house is the house of former ruler Isa ibn Ali Al Khalifa and it is located in the Muharraq district. He ruled Bahrain from 1869 until his death in 1932 - thus making him one the longest reigning monarchs of the region - though offically he stopped ruling in 1923, when the British forced him to abdicate... local people, however, never recognised his abdication and still looked upon him as their appointed ruler.
His house, though empty inside, is quite interesting, as it shows you how the house was laid out - one area for the slaves, one area for the visitors (with a direct access to the next door mosque) one for the family and one for the children
Entry is 200 fils.
Hidden away in one of the tiny alleys in Muharraq, you can visit the very interesting Kurar house. This house, one of the areas restored traditional houses, has become the home of Kurar... Kurar is a traditional form of embroidery using a golden thread, so this home is now both a museum AND a place where older women display their art and try to pass it on to younger ladies.
If you want to watch ladies doing Kurar work, then come on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursdays between 9 and 12 am. it is well worth a visit.
Siyadi House, also known as Bayt Siyadi is one of Muharraqs many restored ancient homes ad historic buildings. This is what guidebooks said... but when we arrived there we discovered that this restored house was... well, being re-restored and it was closed to the public. You can however admire this amazing building from the outside, and if you walk to the back of it, you can take in many intricated ornaments that can not be seen from the front.
Attached to it there is also a tiny mosque, which is significantly older than the house itself.
Arad Fort, located not too far from Manama airport, is a 15th century fort built before the Portuguese invasion. it is an islamic fort - one of the countrys many defensive forts - and it is built mainly in coral stone. The plant of the fort is square with a tower in each corner and a trench all around it.
Unfrtunately the fort is a bit of a empty shell, once you get there, you discover that there is really nothing inside,,, just coral stone and a well. The Entry Fee is 200 Fills.
Beit al-Quran is the house of the Quran, a 1990 museum dedicated all to the Holy Quran. The main point of visiting it is to take in the sight of ancient manuscripts from all over the Islamic World (including one only 4.7cm by 3.2cm.), but there are also other artefacts on display. This is the place to admire Islamic calligraphy at its best.
Bab Al Bahrain
Located in Customs Square, Bab Al Bahrain means gateway of Bahrain. In fact it is te gateway to Manama souk. it was designed by a British architect called Sir Charles Belgrave, and was completed in 1945.
The name Gate of Bahrain comes from the fact that this arched building one stood on the waters edge, while now it is about 10 minutes on foot onland. The reason? Land reclamation...
Ahmed Al-Fateh Islamic Center
Ahmed Al-Fateh Islamic Center is huge building next to the Al-Fateh mosque... attached to it, but hidden at the back of it, there is a tiny and interesting building which is the library of Ahmed Al-Fateh. The architecture is great.
Al-Fateh Mosque is the Grand Mosque of Manama. Modern but imposing; it can accommodate more than 7000 people at a time. We arrived at 4.30 PM when the mosque is already closed for visitors - but we were kindly let in and a young guy offered to guide us around. The main decorative piece is a huge chandelier coming from... Austria! And the carpet on the floor, the very soft carpet... it comes all the way from Ireland. What else? the The marble used in the floors is Italian and the chandelier is from Austria. The teak doors come from India and the marlbe floor from Italy. We found it surprising that the architect wouldnot choose local art and materials.
Women beware: you need to wear an abaya to enter the mosque, but they are on load at the entrance
Bahrain Fort and archeological site
"Qal`at al-Bahrain – Ancient Harbour and Capital of Dilmun" is the name of Bahrain's first UNESCO World heritage site. It is commonly known as Bahrain fort. There have been settlements in this area since at least 3000 BC, the first fort dates from around 2300 BC. Several civilizations have occupied this place until the 18th century. They left their traces in the fort and the city until the city was abandoned. Bahrain Fort reflects the history of Bahrain as no other site on the island (well, maybe with exception of the national museum, but that does it in another sense). At the time of my visit, archeological excavations were going on in the fort as well as in the archeological site of the former city.
As of early 2012, entry for the fort itself and the archeological site is free. An audioguide can be hired at the reception desk of the neighbouring museum for 500 fils (you will need an identification like passport or national ID card for that). This audioguide is highly recommended as the information is really good and there is no information in the fort itself. The entry for the museum is 500 fils, see separate tip for more information on that. Walking from the city is not recommended, taxis are available for around 5 BHD. To get away from the museum, you will have to call for a taxi or arrange it via the reception desk of the museum as taxis in this area are hard to find.
- Castles and Palaces
- Museum Visits
Bahrain Fort Museum
The Bahrain Fort Museum houses an extensive collection about the items found in the fort and in the city (presumed to be the former capital of Dilmun) that surrounded it. The large hall has an exhibition on the several civilizations which left their marks at Bahrain Fort. Of special interest are the "snake bowls" which were offered to local deities. Although the museum looks quite big, the exhibition is rather small - you should plan 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your interests. There is also a smaller hall which often includes art exhibitions.
As of early 2012, the entry fee was 500 fils. At the museum, you can also hire an audioguide for the fort itself for further 500 fils (you will need an identification like a passport or national ID card for that). Entry to the tour itself is free, please see separate tip for more into on that. Walking from the city is not recommended, taxis are available for around 5 BHD. To get away from the museum, you will have to call for a taxi or arrange it via the reception desk of the museum as taxis in this area are hard to find.
Museum and fort a located in an usual neighbourhood. From the museum and the fort, you can have a look at some of the houses which have colorfoul murals.
- Museum Visits
The souq in Manama has lost some of its original flair, but it is still one of the more authentic ones in the Gulf region. Most shops are run by expats from the Indian subcontinent. They offer quite everything from spices and household goods to clothes and souvenirs. Close to Bab al Bahrain, at Bab al Bahrain Avenue, you will find a modern building with a couple of more established (and more expensive) shops as well as an art exhibition space and a café in the middle. It reminds me a little of Doha's Souq which is also a postmodern attempt to revive the 19th century flair of an Arab Souq. Wether in the modern Bab al Bahrain Avenue or further inside the Souq - as a Westerner you are immidiately identified as a potential target and the shopowners will try to pull you into their shop. If you are not interested, decline their offers politely. If you want to buy something, don't forget to haggle. It is well expected and the money you save on one purchase might help you and another trader on a second one.
- Arts and Culture
Bab Al Bahrain
Although looking like a structure from Victorian colonial times, Bab al Bahrain (Gate of Bahrain) is rather new - finished in 1945. The building was once located close to the water and marked the entry into the liveliest part of Manama, the souq. Land reclamation projects have changed the shape of the coastline so that Bab Al Bahrain is quite far away from the water now. The building was once used by the British customs authorities and now houses the tourist information as well as a souvenir shop.
Bahrain Financial Harbour
Bahrain Financial Harbour is a building complex located in Northeastern Manama, close to the Bahrain World Trade Center. It is built mainly on land reclaimed from the water. The best-known skyscrapers of Bahrain Financial Harbour are "Commercial East" and "Commercial West" and the term "Bahrain Financial Harbour" is often used for those two buildings only. Bahrain Financial Harbour however consists of several buildings, both commercial and residental. Commercial East and Commerical West are the tallest buildings in the country. With a height of 260 metres they are only slightly higher than the twin towers of the Bahrain World Trade Centre.
There is a pedestrian bridge close to the Regency Hotel leading over King Faisal Highway connecting Bahrain Financial Harbour with the city centre. As of early 2012, this bridge was under renconstruction. For pedestrians, there is no nearby alternative to that bridge.
Bahrain World Trade Center
In a region where there are hundreds of skyscrapers, it takes something special to built a recognizable design. The people who designed the Bahrain World Trade Center (BWTC) did the best of their work with the first skyscraper to integrate wind turbines into the design. Together with other features like reflecting glass items and a shape which feeds the turbines with more wind, the BWTC is a highly energy-efficient building which has won many awards on ecology and sutainability. A real jewel of modern architecture!
As of 2012, its tow towers were the third highest buildings in Bahrain after the twin towers of the Bahrain Financial Harbour.