Bahrain Travel Guide - with Wired Destinations
Discount Hotels in Bahrain : Manama
Bahrain is comprised of a group of 33 islands, with a total area of 707 square kilometers. The state, situated in the Arabian Gulf just off the east coast of Saudi Arabia, takes its name from the largest island, Bahrain (586.5 square kilometers). It is linked by causeways to Muharraq (international airport) and Sitra (industrial area and tank-farm). There are numerous smaller islands, but they are mainly uninhabited and are best known for the variety of migrating birds which pass through in spring and autumn.
Find more information on Bahrain travel with Wired Destinations' Bahrain Travel Info, our Bahrain Travel Guide and Bahrain Travel Tips. Also check out comprehensive facts about visiting Bahrain and recommendations for Bahrain hotels, Bahrain Sightseeing and Bahrain Diving.
Bahrain is derived from two Arabic words "thnain Bahr" meaning "two seas" and refers to the phenomenon of fresh water springs under the sea which mingle with the salt water. This largely believed to be responsible for the unusual luster of Bahrain's natural pearls, which were the country's major source of revenue before the advent of oil. In addition, the land was once blessed with a remarkable number of natural springs, which irrigated the fertile north and western regions for centuries. The central area is low lying barren limestone rock covered with saline sand, which supports only the hardiest of desert vegetation. The highest point of Bahrain is the Jabel Dukhan, 134 meters above sea level. The majority of Bahrain's oil wells are in this area. The country offers a fascinating blend of eastern and western cultures; high rise buildings vie for space with more traditional dwellings; ancient traditions and historical sites meld with modern developments and cosmopolitan lifestyles. Bahrain's population of close to three quarters of a million consists of an appreciable percentage of expatriates from all over the world. Bahrain's inherent charms and excellent infrastructure are attracting an increasing number of regional and international tourists each year.
Wired Destinations' Bahrain Info gives you an overview of Bahrain's rich and varied history, replete with ancient civilizations have only recently been discovered by international archaeologists. It's believed that for tens of thousands of years, nomads traveled over Bahrain's desert; the discovery of primitive flint tolls, testify to this history. Recent digs lend credence to the suspicion that Bahrain was indeed the site of the lost civilization of Dilmun dating from the third millennium BC, often refereed to as the fabled Garden of Eden and described as "paradise" in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The land is repeatedly mentioned in Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian inscriptions as an important seaport between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, due to the abundance of freshwater. By 600BC, Bahrain was absorbed into the new Babylonian Empire and once again flourished as a prosperous entity. In 323BC, two of Alexander the Great's ships arrived and new trade routes opened, resulting in such a strong Greek influence that Dilmun was renamed Tylos. Bahrain was also the site of the largest prehistoric cemetery in the world. At one stage an estimated 170,000 burial mounds covered the central and western regions. Archaeological finds have shown evidence of two distinct civilizations, the Dilmun and the Tylos - two thousand years apart, dating from the third and first millennia, respectively.
No stay at a Bahrain hotel would be completed without a trip to the souk. These are the markets that cater to everyone and everything - a veritable sensual overload with its profusion of colors, sounds, and aromas. Bartering is expected, and indeed turns the whole experience of shopping into a playful challenge to see who can obtain the best price. The central market, completed in 1978, provides modern facilities that were lacking when the market took place in the souk. It is well worth a visit, if only to enjoy the brightly colored display of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as the scents of the herbs, nuts and spices. Find out more about Bahrain Travel with Wired Destinations' Bahrain Travel Tips and Bahrain Travel Info.
The Gold Souk
Bahrain gold is available in an infinite number of styles, including traditional Bedouin designs as well as the more contemporary European jewelry. If you can't see what you want, order the piece you desire, although it is wise to confirm a price before the craftsmen go to work.
The Cloth Souk
Materials of all textures, colors and origins are available here from silk to cotton and wool. If you have a sketch or an item to be copied, any number of tailor shops, which are dotted throughout the souk, can make you a new suit or outfit at a fraction of the original price!
This is one of the most impressive examples of a 19th century home built by the pearl-merchant Ahmed Bin Qassem Siyadi and has many fine features to look out for, including ornate ceilings, stained-glass windows, carved screens and a large safe set into the wall of a small, upper reception room.
The twin minarets of this ancient mosque are easily identifiable as you drive along the Sh. Salman Road. It is considered one of the oldest relics of Islam in the region. The foundations are believed to have been laid as early as 692AD. An inscription found on the site, however, suggests a foundation date sometime during the 11th Century. It has since been rebuilt twice in both 14th and 15th centuries, when the minarets were constructed. The mosque has recently been partially restored.
The first dwellings on this site are believed to have been constructed around 2800 BC, but were subsequently overlaid by numerous fortified settlements. The last was built in the early 16th century to defend Portugal's acquisition of the islands (it is also known locally as the Portuguese Fort). Numerous excavations have uncovered a variety of relics from the forts past.
Excavations, which began in the 1950s and 1960s, have revealed three stone-built temples dating from the second and third millennia BC. It is believed that they were built as a place of worship for the God of Spring Waters, Enki. A sacred well within the complex supports this theory.
Museum of Pearl Diving
The 'Museum of Pearl Diving' building is regarded as one of the most important and historic buildings in Bahrain. Its importance derives from being the first official centre for the Bahrain Courts. Additionally, it bears witness to what Bahrain has achieved throughout history as concerns the application of civil law and the establishment of the principles of justice.
The building was opened by the late H.H. Sh. Hamad Bin Essa AI-Khalifa, then governor of Bahrain, in the Hijra year 1356 (Islamic Calendar), October 18th, 1937. The building at that time consisted of four Supreme Courts, in addition to three Directorates. In 1984, the building was transformed into the Traditional Heritage Center. Its departments and rooms were dedicated to the display of various traditional aspects of Bahrain's heritage, with the exception of the Supreme Court room, which has not seen any significant change for 65 years.
The current 'Museum of Pearl Diving' building is under the authority of the Directorate of Archaeology and Heritage, which is one of the major Directorates of the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and Information. The 'Museum of Pearl Diving' building is a source of pride to Bahrain, for it contains the story of Bahrain, its governors, and its people from the past till the present.
Bait Al Qur'an
The House of the Qur'an was built to accommodate a comprehensive and valuable collection of the Holy Qur'an and manuscripts, a concept which is unique in the Arabian Gulf. All visitors are welcome, and the complex comprises a mosque, a library, an auditorium, a school and a museum with five exhibition halls.
This 16th century Arabian fort is probably one of the first landmarks you will see upon arrival to Bahrain due to its proximity to the airport. It has undergone extensive restoration and is now illuminated at night presenting a magnificent sight. Little is known of the fort's history, and there is no evidence of the precise date of construction, but comprehensive excavations have been undertaken in order to discover its past.
Shaikh Isa's House
Shaikh Isa's house, in the old town of Muharraq, was once the home of the Amir`s great-grandfather, Shaikh Isa Bin Ali Al khalifa. It provides a fine example of local architecture, complete with wind tower, wall carving and lattice work. One of the early forms of "air conditioning" was the wind tower, a traditional landmark of local architecture. This would act as a funnel, catching the breeze and drawing it down into the cavities below, as well as allowing the release of hot air like a chimney.
Tree of Life
Standing alone in the desert about 1.2 miles (two kilometers) from the Jebel Dukhan, this flourishing mystic tree provides welcome shade from the heat of the day, although its source of water remains a mystery.
Oil Well No.1
As its name suggests, this is the first oil well in the Gulf. "Spurted" on 16th October 1931, the well finally began to blow heads of oil on the morning of 2nd June 1932. It is situated below Jebel Dukhan, the Mountain of Smoke, which, at a height of 134 meters (450 feet), is the highest point of the island. Its name comes from the misty haze, which frequently surrounds it on a hot and humid day.
King Fahad Causeway
Opened in 1986, this remarkable 15.5 miles (25km) feat of engineering links Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It is one of the most expensive bridges in the world. The causeway traverses Umm Nasan Island, which is a sanctuary for wildlife, and at the halfway point there is a facility, including a restaurant, which you can visit even if you don't travel the whole distance to Saudi Arabia.
Salman bin Ahmed Al fateh Fort
Standing on a low escarpment, overlooking the valley between the east and west Riffa, this fort held an ideal strategic position during the 18th century. In more recent times, it was used as a private dwelling, but it has now been restored and is open to the public. There is a section depicting Arabic calligraphy, including a beautiful display of illuminating Qur'an and other religious documents. For a closer look at traditional trades and crafts see the reconstruction of a typical of the 1930s souk. Many, many more exhibits add up to memorable experience, and a deeper understanding of the fascinating history of the island.