FACT brings you the inside track on unique things to in Bahrain that only locals can tell you about.
This month we’ve been investigating. We’re the Woodward and Bernstein of lifestyle, the Holmes and Watson of entertaining attractions, the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys of cool cultural experiences. But, enough of that self-aggrandising nonsense. What we mean is, we’ve been snooping about undercover to uncover some of the most interesting and unusual places and adventures in the Kingdom. And we’re sharing them with you over the coming pages.
FOOTIE WITH A DIFFERENCE
If you love both golf and football, why not combine the two with a game of Foot Golf at The Royal Golf Club, home of the Kingdom’s only grass course? It might sound a bit mad but apparently players observe the rules of golf but using a football. Certainly sounds like fun. And, if you’re not up for that and still want to get a round in without frying in the sun, you can play regular golf at night on the floodlit courses, perfect for the hotter months.
GO: Call 1775 0777 for more information.
STEP INTO THE WILD
Talk about islands around Bahrain and everyone thinks of Jarada, the tidal island much loved by boat owners, and Al Dar, an offshore haven for sun seekers. But head a bit further afield and you will reach the Hawar Islands which are a haven for wildlife fans with their rich biodiversity. Here you’ll find one of the world’s biggest colonies of Socotra Cormorants as well as native animals such as Arabian oryx and sand gazelle. Plus, you can take a boat trip out into waters that are home to a wide range of marine life, including the largest population of dugong outside of Australia. There’s a hotel on the main island, make it a holiday break.
GO: Call 1764 1666 for more information.
It seems logical in the horse-loving Middle East, but we’d been here years before we discovered the Rashid Equestrian & Horse Racing Club. Founded in 1977 it’s easy to locate, once you know it’s there, between Sakhir and Riffa. There are two turf tracks of around 2,400 metres and a 3,000-metre sand track. There’s also grandstand viewing for 3,000 people and. on a busy race day, you will find whole families there enjoying the great atmosphere. Bahrain International Trophy was founded in 2019 to showcase the very best Bahraini horses with international visitors also on the tracks, so it’s a prestigious day out in November. Racing usually takes place between November and April and though there’s no betting you can try to predict the winners.
GO: Call 1744 0330 for more information.
PEARLY KINGS AND QUEENS
For more than 2,000 years Bahrain’s pearls have been prized as some of the best natural pearls in the world! In the past pearl divers went out to sea for months. They were lowered on weighted ropes and remained underwater for over a minute with nothing but a nose peg to control their breathing. Thankfully, these days it’s a whole lot easier to find a genuine Bahraini pearl all of your own. Scubalife offers you the opportunity to hunt for pearls right here in the amazing waters of Bahrain. Professional instructors will guide you through the experience and you will have the chance to collect up to 60 oysters that you open on the boat in the hope of finding The One. Of course, there are no guarentees that you will find pearls, but the expert guides will do their utmost to take you to the best locations. And, when you do, the feeling is amazing. And, if you’re going to do that, The Museum of Pearl Diving’s building is regarded one of the most important and historic buildings in Bahrain, since it was the location of the Bahrain Courts prior to becoming a museum.
GO: Call Scubalife 1700 3636 for more information.
THE HOUSE THAT PEARLING BUILT
No, we’re not talking about The Pearling Trail, though that definitely deserves a visit (or several) but another historical house that you really should see which tends to get forgotten. Head towards Manama Souq and take a browse at the Khalaf House or Bait Khalaf, one of the few traditional pearling merchants’ houses to be found in the Kingdom. The house was built by Bahraini pearl merchant, Mohammad Salman Khalaf, 100 years ago. It was presented to Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities by his family and turned into a landmark representing the Kingdom’s strong historical connections to the pearling industry.
GO: Call 3824 3823 for more information.
A traditional Japanese tea shop might not be the first thing you’d expect to find in the middle of Manama, but head for Chawan and prepare to be surprised. Found close to Andalus Gardens, it’s been described as being a little piece of Japan which is based on the 500-year-old Way of Tea. A Japanese tradition, where life with tea is a mindset of appreciating the little things in life, connecting with nature, and being in the moment. It offers traditional tea ceremonies, pairing tea with handmade Japanese sweets, and also offers a Kimono experience (the traditional Japanese garment and dress of Japan), as well as shodo (Japanese Calligraphy workshops).
GO: Call 3991 7719 for more information.
BAG A BARGAIN
Bahrain Young Ladies Association is not just an organisation that promotes the rights, welfare and empowerment of women and girls across the Kingdom. It also runs designer sales, featuring Boutique Al Nahda’s new and very lightly-used items. The events usually take place twice a year, during the summer and in December, and are often a well-kept secret until the last minute. So, keep your eyes on local media for adverts. And, if you love a bargain, keep your eyes peeled for news of big sales in which department stores and representatives of multiple brands hire out spaces, such as hotel conference rooms, to sell off their end-of-season stock.
GO: Call 1726 2237 or 6690 0482 for more information.
They say giving back is a great way to feel better and we couldn’t agree more. There are multiple charity and aid associations across Bahrain that can always do with an extra pair of hands whether it be help with fundraising, general admin or more hands-on activities at one of the various animal rescue organisations. Walk dogs at the BSPCA or BARC (Bahrain Animal Rescue Centre), foster felines for Rescat, as they get ready to travel to their forever homes overseas; or simply just spend some time socialising with rescue animals to help them become more homeable. There are plenty of ways to make a difference.
GO: Call BSPCA 1759 1231, BARC 3944 6907, Rescat 3711 9590 for more information.
REACH FOR THE STARS
If all the news of supermoons, asteroids and space travel has given you an interest in the heavens, then Bahrain Stargazers Astronomy Club might be the place for you. Bahrain stargazers is a club managed by the Stargazing Center For Astronomical Science and the International Astronomical Union Office for Astronomy Outreach – NOC Bahrain. Its vision is to help educate and raise awareness and to grow a community of like-minded individuals striving to collaboratively learn about astronomy and its field. The members even have lookout points around the island to observe significant space events.
GO: Visit https://stargazersbh.wixsite.com/bsac for more information.
No, we’re not joking! As you’ll have, no doubt, discovered by now, Bahrainis love horses and find lots of ways to share their lives with their equine friends. From racing and endurance to simply hopping on for a trot round the block. However, the Bahrain Cowboys are a group apart. They’re a collection of riders who dress in Western gear, often riding on traditional Western saddles and adorned in cowboy hats. The best place to encounter them, certainly during the cooler months, is at Nurana Island, off the coast near Karranah, on a Friday afternoon. While you’re there, at low tide you might also spot flamingos and other wading birds who swoop in to take advantage of the food-rich sands. There’s no official contact for the Cowboys but there is a shop selling all the gear and they pop up on social media from time to time.
Take the opportunity to play chess with giant pieces on the oversized outdoor board at Bahrain Bay Park – it doesn’t matter if you’re not very good, it’s a great space for pictures and a lot of fun too. While you’re there, make sure to check out the giant artworks, graffiti under the bridges and hidden installations in the small green spaces and pay a visit to The Art Space, a gallery, creative hub and café in Bahrain Bay Wharf where you’ll find works by local creatives and an ongoing events calendar.
GO: Call The Art Space 6665 5505 for more information.
Yes, Bahrain is a Muslim country but it’s also known for its tolerance and religious diversity. And this is no better demonstrated than at the Hindu Shrinathji Temple which was established in Manama in 1817! The temple is dedicated to Lord Shrinathji, a form of Krishna manifested as a seven-year-old child. It’s the oldest Hindu temple in the Gulf and can be found down a narrow alley in the heart of Little India, in Manama Souq. A gate opens into a courtyard overlooked by a painted two-storey building with decorated Indian elephants marching beside colourful red, yellow and pink floral patterns. In the courtyard, shrines with images of Hindu deities sit in the open as worshippers pay their respects.
GO: Call 1725 6131 for more information.
HOP ON BOARD
There are many boat trips available around the Kingdom, some to the surrounding islands, others to see the local wildlife but this one is in the heart of the city and affords wonderful views back to the island and its impressive skyline. You can hop on a boat from Bahrain National Museum to visit the Bu Maher Fort. Built in 1840 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012 as part of the Pearling Trail for its part in showing the Kingdom’s history of fishing and pearling. Enjoy a cultural exploration as you discover the fort’s architecture inside and out.
GO: Visit culture.gov.bh for more information.
We know we’ve talked about this before but it’s so good we’re mentioning twice, particularly with the Kingdom opening up after lockdown and the prospect of tours being back on again in the near future. You’ll discover truly unforgettable sights and experiences on a Mangrove Tour at Tubli Bay which features a great mix of well-protected green mangrove forests. It’s a one of a kind eco tour to explore Bahrain’s natural world.
GO: Visit https://portal.btea.bh/mangrove for more information.
DRIVE THROUGH THE OILFIELDS
Perhaps not an obvious one but we know it’s really off the beaten track since, when we go there, we barely see another soul and, in the dusk or very early morning light, it’s actually quite eerie. Head to Riffa Views and drive straight on past the golf club and you will find yourself out in the desert – but don’t worry, the roads are good and it’s pretty well sign-posted. You can follow the road all the way down to the edge of the Bahrain Defence Force training ground close to Durrat Al Bahrain, or there are a number of offshoots that will take you back onto main roads. Make sure to take plenty of water in case you break down but, rest assured, if you do decide to get out of your car for a few minutes to look around, a friendly local will soon stop to make sure you’re OK and not stuck.
TAKE A VILLAGE WALK
OK, maybe not in the middle of summer but, when the temperatures cool, it’s worth putting your best foot forward for a stroll along the Nakheel Highway. Make sure to dress conservatively as you will be passing through traditional Bahraini neighbourhoods. As you reach Karranah you’ll find a wonderful shop, which is more-or-less a large traditionally-fired oven behind a hatch, where local breads are sold straight from the oven – it’s your reward for the energy you’ve expended and some of the best bread you’ll find in the Kingdom. In the early morning, you can spot it by the queue outside!