The 10 Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Bahrain
Comprising of more than 30 islands, and one of the most visited countries in the Middle East, Bahrain is famous for its impressive mosques, burial mounds and traditional markets. It's a country that blends modern Arab culture with ancient historic destinations that reflect 5,000 years of Bahrain civilization.
TREE OF LIFE
A couple of kilometres from Jebel, standing alone on a 7.5-metre sandhill, is the Tree of Life. This majestic 400-year-old, 10-metre high, knotty mesquite tree is considered to be a miracle and some even believe it is from the Garden of Eden. Incredibly it has survived centuries and its year-round lush green foliage proves it is still surviving in Bahrain's southern desert although there is no obvious source of water. Thousands of visitors come each year to take photos under the shade of the ageing limbs that spread out far.
Bahrain has long been at the centre of major trade routes and while its capital, Manama, is modern with skyscrapers and a dramatic twin-tower World Trade Centre you can still enjoy the atmosphere of traditional markets and souks.
Bab-Al-Bahrain is one of the most beautiful markets in Manama. Enter by the arched gate to find shops and stalls selling colourful handwoven textiles, shisha pipes, unique spices, fruit and vegetables plus gold and amazing pearls.
And in the back streets of the Central Business District, just behind Bab al-Bahrain, Manama Souq is a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways. It is also famous for its pearls and gold but you can also get everything from electronic goods to spices here too.
AL FATEH MOSQUE
This is Bahrain's grand mosque and it's a statement of stunning modern Islamic architecture. Al-Fateh is one of the largest mosques in the world as it can accommodate 7,000 worshippers.
Built in 1988 with Italian marble floors and Indian teak carved locally to create 6-metre high doors, it cost US$20 million and is the most sumptuous mosque in the country. The enormous fibreglass dome is the largest in the world and it looks outstanding when lit up at night.
AL-AREEN WILDLIFE PARK
The Al Areen Wildlife Park & Reserve is spread over seven square kilometres for visitors to discover the flora and fauna as well as animal species from Africa and Asia. In the Wild Birds Park you enter an area where over 80 species of birds fly freely from green parrots to Bahraini owls. And in the Wild Animals Complex, you can see everything from the Arabian leopard, Chapman's zebra and Arabian gazelle to the oryx, impala and ostrich. Children enjoy the goat enclosures and the flamingo lake in the centre of the park is always wonderful to see.
Dating back to the Dilmun civilisation, Muharraq was once the capital of Bahrain. It is now the main transport hub and is home to Bahrain International Airport but the island city still has a unique charm. Muharraq's traditional souk sells foods and crafts and has plenty of cafes for mint tea. You can see local women producing traditional embroidery at Kurar House, and if you enjoy exploring winding narrow alleyways and seeing traditional Bahraini houses, you will want to see the Sheikh Isa Bin Ali House with its ornate panelling and carved doors.
Next to Siyadi Mosque is another traditional building – Siyadi House – where a 19th-century pearl merchant lived. And another former home of a well-known pearl merchant, Bin Matar House traces the history of Bahrain's pearling industry.
Plus, if you enjoy the beautiful game, Muharraq is reportedly the best football team in Bahrain.
Just off the coast to the south of Bahrain International Airport in Muharraq, Arad Fort is a well-preserved 15th-century Islamic fort. Known locally as Qal'at Arad, it is one of the prominent defensive forts in the country. It's not as large as Bahrain Fort, but that simply means you can see it without the crowds. You can walk freely all over this archaeological site and there are seasonal festivals throughout the year. It has has been rebuilt and restored over the centuries – most recently in the 1980s – and it looks particularly beautiful when illuminated at night.
Once the largest city in Bahrain, Riffa is located in the heart of the main island. There is still plenty of old-world charm from the winding streets to the impressive 19th-century Riffa Fort.
The Riffa Bazaar and the Bukuwara Street Market offer local pearls and Middle Eastern spices plus crafts and clothing too. Do also see the Riffa Clock Tower in West Riffa as it looks stunning when lit up at night.
If beautiful greens appeal, Riffa has one of the most famous golf courses in the Middle East.
Qal’at al Bahrain, also known as the Bahrain Fort, is six kilometres from the capital city of Manama. One of the best-preserved sites of the Dilmun civilisation, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005. Qal’at al-Bahrain is perched on a 12-metre high mound and was the capital of the Dilmun culture. It is a huge seven stratified layered fort created from 2300 BC to the 18th century. Walking through the empty hallways of this ancient fort is quite magical.
This coastal village in western Bahrain has the Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre. Open since 1990, you can watch local craftsmen while at work on traditional arts and crafts. Workshops highlight skills and trades from pottery and woodwork to basket weaving and textile manufacture.
There is an excellent gift shop here and a calm central garden for relaxing too.
A'ali is famous for its ancient burial mounds. 170,000 tombs are scattered throughout the town centre amongst the present-day homes. They are shaped like rounded small hills and the royal tombs are the largest at up to 15m high and 45m wide. Some of the tombs date back to the Dilmun civilisation and the epic poems of Gilgamesh place the mythical Garden of Eden in Bahrain in the Dilmun era. It's an incredible sight but if you can't visit you can see artefacts found here, and one complete tomb from 2800 BC, in the Bahrain National Museum in Manama.
A'ali village also has many potters' houses which you can visit and buy souvenirs.
WHERE TO STAY
The award-winning Fraser Suites Seef, Bahrain is a great location connected to the Seef Mall with its numerous leisure and dining options. The 90 luxury serviced apartments here range from studios to penthouses. The two- and three-bedroom apartments are perfect for families who will also appreciate the children’s playroom. Or you can head to the gym, outdoor pool, jacuzzi or hairdressing salon to give yourself a treat. Stroll along Seef Mall that you can access directly from our lobby.
Written by Laura Porter - Travel writer for Frasers Hospitality