Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and Information
Bahrain Promotions & Marketing Board
PO Box 11299
WATA - JALAL TRAVEL AGENCY, MANAMA
The state of Bahrain (which means 'two seas' in Arabic) is named after the largest island on the archipelago, which is thought to have derived its name from the fact that sweet water springs from the middle of the salty sea.
Bahrain is an archipelago of over 30 islands situated on the western shores of the Arabian Gulf. It lies 14 miles off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by causeway, and 17 miles from the coast of Qatar. The islands cover a total land area of about 267 square miles, making it smaller than Singapore. Bahrain's largest island is connected by causeway, to Mubarraq, the second largest island, and to Sitra, which lies south-east of the capital, Manama.
Bahrain is exceptionally hot from June to September, although some relief is occasionally obtained from the shammals (cool, northerly winds). October to April is more comfortable, although you should have a selection of jackets or sweaters for the evenings, which can become quite cool. Dampness in the summer is mainly caused by the high humidity, particularly in August and September. Although what little rain there is generally falls in the winter, be prepared when the clouds open - an umbrella will definitely come in handy.
Bahrain's economy is based on oil and industrial diversification. Fishing and pearling were previously the backbone of the economy. Its tax-free environment, low energy and operating costs make Bahrain an attractive base for manufacturing industry.
The population of Bahrain is officially estimated at 568,063. The population of the capital, Manama is estimated at 136,999.
A brief history
The Garden of Eden, Bahrain has been an island since 6000 BC when it was joined to the Arabian Peninsula. It has been on the 'world map' for more than 5,000 years, since the Sumerian civilisation in the third millennium BC, when it was known as Dilmun, the paradise described in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Blessed by abundant sweet water, it was a popular haven on the trade route between Sumer and the Indus Valley civilisations.
Islam is practised by 85% of the population. Bahrain society permits worship of other faiths, including Christianity, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism.
Languages spoken by nationals
The official language is Arabic, but English is very widely spoken.
Greenwich Mean Time, plus three hours.
The legal currency is the Bahraini Dinar (BHD). There are no restrictions on the import or export of either local or foreign currency.
All offices and shops are closed. Friday is the weekly holiday. There are two holidays, Eid Al-Far and Eid Al-Adha, the exact dates of which depend on the lunar calendar. The state also celebrates National Day on 16 December.
A'ali Burial Mounds
Probably the largest prehistoric cemetery in the world. Archaeologists continue to try and unravel this mystery which still provokes many unanswered questions.
Al Khamis Mosque
The twin minarets of this ancient mosque are easily identifiable as you drive along the Awali road. It is considered to be one of the oldest relics of Islam in the region, and the foundations are believed to have been laid as early as 692 AD.
This 16th century fort of Arabic construction is probably one of the first landmarks you will see upon arrival in Bahrain, due to its proximity to the airport. It has undergone extensive restoration, and is now illuminated at the night, presenting a magnificent sight.
The first dwellings on this site are believed to have been constructed around 2800 BC and have subsequently been overlaid by numerous fortified settlements.
Excavations, begun 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, and a sacred well within the complex strengthens this theory.
Museums, galleries, parks and handicrafts
If you are a visitor to Bahrain, or even a resident who would like to know a little more about what makes Bahrain tick, then a trip to the National Museum is essential. Situated on the intersection of the Mubarraq Causeway and King Faisal Highway.
Situated near 'Oil Well No 1' the museum was inaugurated on 2 June 1992 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of oil in Bahrain.
Bait Al Qur'an
The house of the Korans was built to accommodate a comprehensive and valuable collection of Holy Korans and manuscripts, a concept which is unique in the Arabian Gulf, if not the world.
Situated near to the Bab Al Bahrain, the Heritage Centre consists of an impressive collection of rooms, each depicting a scene from traditional Bahraini life, together with three rooms of archive photographs which are essential viewing.
Adhari Pool and Park
The virgin's pool is part of a landscaped national park, comprising a freshwater pool fed by the largest of Bahrain's natural springs and surrounded by groves and gardens.
Al Areen Wildlife Park and Reserve
Established in 1975, this unique experiment in conservation was inspired by the Crown Prince's long-standing interest in falconry and wildlife in general. It is also home to the Oryx.
Pottery at A'ali village
This time-honoured industry has been handed down from generation to generation and the pottery at A'ali is now run by three brothers who have learned the process from their father.
Weavers at Bani Jamra village
Here you can see threads, imported from India and China, woven into abbayas (cloaks) for women as well as a brightly coloured cloth which is made into a kind of sarong for men. Once the fabric is woven, it is stretched and starched until it is ready for production.
Basket makers at Karhabad
You will usually find the weavers sitting in the shade of the trees whilst they work the split lengths of palm into baskets, sofra (circular dining mats), chicken coops, date baskets and date trays. Sometimes the palm is dyed with colourings to give a decorative green or purple effect.
Located in the village of Al Jasra, the birthplace of the Amir Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Handicraft Centre enables you to see the practice of local crafts in air-conditioned surroundings.
Being an island, Bahrain has forged strong links with the sea, and nowhere is this more evident than the dhow builders' yards in Mubarraq and Manama.
Other places of interest
Bab Al Bahrain
Originally designed by Sir Charles Belgrave in 1945 to house the government offices of that time, the Gateway of Bahrain forms a symbolic division between the Manama of past and present.
Located near Ramada Hotels, the Guest Palace, or Gudaibiya Palace, was built in the 1950s, at which time it stood beside the sea.
Also known as Shaikh Hamad Palace, after the present Amir's grandfather Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa who had this residence built in the 1940s.
Shaikh Isa's House
Due to the climate prevalent in the Arabian Gulf, buildings have to be strong and well built in order to withstand the hot humid summers and cooler winters. One of the early forms of 'air conditioners' was the windtower, 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.
Dr Kadham Rajab, Bahrain Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and Information
Siyadi HouseThis is one of the mostimpressive examples of a 19th Century pearl merchant's house, 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 reception room.
The house was built by Shaikh Hamad bin Abdulla Al Khalifa in 1907, and was the birthplace in 1933 of the present Amir. When the family moved to Eiffa later in the 1930s, the buildings fell into disrepair but they were restored in 1986 and opened to the public.
Standing on a low escarpment, overlooking the valley between East and West Riffa, the 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.
Tree of life
Standing alone in the desert about two kilometres from the Jebel Dukhan, this flourishing mesquite tree provides welcome shade from the heat of the day, although its source of water remains a mystery.
King Fahad Causeway
Opened in 1986, this remarkable 25 km feat of engineering links Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It is one of the most expensive bridges in the world.
Most favourable time to visit
From October to May
How to dress
Warm clothes during December and January. Summer clothes are recommended for the rest of the year.
Main holiday sports
Swimming, fishing, water skiing, diving, boating, squash, tennis, bowling, horseriding, sailing, windsurfing and golf.
What to eat and drink
Most hotels and restaurants serve European, Oriental and American food.
What to buy
Handmade rags, woven baskets, traditional coffee pots, A'ali pots, jewellery and certain kinds of electrical goods.
Passports and visas
Valid passports are required from all visitors. Visas are required from everyone except:
Visitors will require a vaccination certificate against yellow fever if arriving from an infected area. Cholera and typhoid vaccinations are also recommended but not required by law.
Main travel routes
Bahrain airport is served by many international air companies with direct connections to most parts of the world. Gulf Air connects Bahrain to the other GCC countries.
The duty-free allowance is: 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 226 gm tobacco, 227 ml perfume, two bottles of alcohol (non-Moslems only). The following items are prohibited: obscene, indecent or seditious literature or pictures; dangerous arms or ammunition; pearls produced outside the Gulf; counterfeit coins and currency; food containing cyclamate; and goods boycotted by the Arab League.
Several international car rental companies are represented in Bahrain, alongside a number of local establishments. An international driving licence is required except for GCC nationals, and should be stamped by the Directorate of Traffic and Licensing. Driving is on the right-hand side, and signs are in Arabic and English. Petrol is cheap and comes in two grades - Mumtaz (premium) and Jayyid (regular).
Taxis are identified by their black-on-yellow number plates and orange side-wings. Fares are regulated, but you should agree on a price before booking (charges will vary, depending on where you take the taxi from, where you are going to and the time of day or night). Speedy Motors (Tel: 682999) offer a telephone booking system, and fares are charged according to the meter.
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