The kingdom of Bahrain is a popular tourist destination and multi-ethnic society in the Middle East. It’s also famous for its burial mounds, traditional markets, and impressive mosques. In this article, we explore the most interesting cities to visit in Bahrain and what makes them unique to help you plan your trip to Bahrain.
Bright lights, big city. Besides being Bahrain’s capital city, Manama is also considered the region’s party capital. Iconic to its skyline are two sets of twin towers – the Financial Harbor Towers and the World Trade Center. It’s easy to see that this is the financial hub of the Persian Gulf, however, the city blends tradition with its contemporary, sparkly skyline, and was even designated the capital of Arab culture in 2012.
If you really want to explore Bahrain’s culture, then peer into traditional Bahrain by visiting the Bab-Al-Bahrain market. It has a lovely an arched gate as an entrance and houses stalls selling everything from clothes and food to gold and pearls. The Al-Fateh Mosque, made of marble, impresses with its large dome made of fibreglass that glows at night.
Sitra is an island town located in the Central Governorate of Bahrain and is a mere five kilometres away from Manama. Sitra’s western boundary is covered by Tubli Bay. Bahrain is actually the smallest nation in the Arab world and made up of 33 islands, Sitra being one of them. As an oil port, Sitra handles the petroleum production of Bahrain and is an export centre for oil fields in north-eastern Saudi Arabia. The town has extensive tank farms, with an oil refinery located to the south-east on the Bahrain island near Awali.
Once the capital of Bahrain until 1932, this beautiful island city is now rather developed, with the Amwaj artificial islets surrounding it. The entire area of Muharraq now has a modern extension for the purpose of creating housing, beaches, and hotels. Do also head to the local souk, where you’ll find all sorts of traditional crafts and foods.
Another highlight has to be Muharraq’s traditional architecture that’s featured throughout the city’s several districts, like the narrow winding alleyways and traditional Bahraini houses replete with ornate panelling and carvings. Head to the Fareej Al Bin Ali district and also check out the Sheikh Isa Bin Ali House.
Only 20 kilometres from Manama and just north of Riffa, A’ali is one of the biggest towns in Bahrain. This is where you’ll find the famous burial mounds that date back to ancient times spread throughout the central part of the city. Cultural artefacts have been discovered in these burial mounds, and you may view them in the local museum that’s dedicated to the history of these mounds. A’ali is also dotted with pottery boutiques in which you can admire the renowned handicrafts the locals create. If you’re interested, you can even sign up for a pottery class!
5. Al Jasra
This coastal village is most notable for its traditional handicraft. Head over to the Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre where local craftsmen trained in age-old skills work on their creations and traditional arts. Many of them are potters working the clay or weavers making baskets. Besides these, these craftsmen also make dolls and model boats. The best part is that you can purchase whatever is made here. The centre also has a lovely garden where you can unwind and relax for a bit.
Now for the second-largest city in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Riffa has several historic jewels preserved through the centuries. Riffa Fort, also known as Sheikh Salman Bin Ahmed Al Fateh Fort, was once a royal fortress and built in a Bahraini-style architecture. Today, it houses a museum. Another tourist highlight here is the Riffa Clock Tower. This historical landmark stands in the western part of the city and it’s worth a visit. The tower rises above the city in white splendour and is an incandescent gold come nightfall – it’s simply stunning. The Bukuwara Street Market and the Riffa Bazaar are the best places to go find some souvenirs.
7. Hawar Islands
If you take a 45-minute boat ride from the southern city of Al Dur, you’ll end up in the Hawar Islands – an archipelago southeast of the mainland and close to Qatar. The islands have been transformed into a resort retreat, with hotels and water sports equipment for those wanting to have fun in the warm seas of the Persian Gulf. The eastern side of the island is lined with high cliffs.
8. Al Budaiya
Al Budaiya sits in a naturally rich part of the country and is believed to be among the most fertile lands in the country. Despite ongoing gentrification, Al Budaiya’s palm trees and vegetation still shade it from the scorching desert sun. Since Al Budaiya is a coastal town, many of the residents take part in activities like pearl-diving and fishing, although in much smaller numbers than they did at the beginning of the 20th century.
Although modern, Bahrain is a country that’s still conservative. Read up on these little-known ways you might accidentally step on someone’s toes:
9. Madinat Isa
Mostly a residential area, you can admire the traditional architecture of this town and also of the Isa Town campus of the University of Bahrain. The most notable sites here are the town’s Persian market that has more than 450 shops and is home to the Bahrain National Stadium.
10. Madinat Hamad
Madinat Hamad is a culturally-diverse city named after the current king of Bahrain –Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah. A fairly new town, it was built to cater to the growing number of residents. You’ll find beautiful homes in Madinat, and while you’re here, visit the Kanoo Mosque in the northern part of town. It’s resplendent both day and night and showcases the intricacy of modern Islamic architecture.