Manama may not be as shiny and slick as Dubai and co, but that’s part of its appeal. Bahrain’s capital pairs cloud-skimming skyscrapers with down-to-earth souqs, where you can see (and shop for) the country’s sense-awakening spices and famous pearls. With the national museum and theatre in the city too, you can discover just what makes Manama tick.
Bahrain’s capital is a captivating clash of old and new.
Things to do
Housed in a striking waterfront building, the National Museum is most visitors’ first port of call – and rightly so. The collection here traces thousands of years of Bahrain’s history, including some incredible archaeological finds. Lesser visited but no less fascinating, Beit Al Quran is worth some time too. Art (and architecture) buffs will enjoy La Fontaine Centre of Contemporary Art, with modern exhibitions housed in a grand 19th-century townhouse. Or you could see art in action in the studios of the Crafts Centre Gallery and Workshops.
When it comes to shopping in Manama, you’ve got the best of both worlds: modern mega mall or timeworn souq. In the sleek shopping centres you’ll find big brands. Or venture into the souq via the striking Bab Al Bahrain, grab a Chai tea and lose yourself in the winding lanes and heady scent of spice. If that sets stomachs rumbling, follow the locals to Manama Central Market to see stalls offering all sorts of delicacies.
Even if you don’t catch a performance here, take time to visit Bahrain National Theatre. It’s a breath-taking piece of modern architecture, created to appear as if it floats on the water, with design features that pay homage to ancient Bahrain traditions. If you do have a ticket to go inside, you’ll have one of the symbolic 1001 seats.
Embrace island life – Bahrain style – and visit its naturally beautiful (and beautifully man-made) islands, looking out for Jarada that comes and goes with the ebb and flow of the tide.
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