By Emma Lovell

When I first mentioned I was visiting the Kingdom of Bahrain, the most common response was “Where?” Bahrain is a tiny sparkling jewel situated in the Persian Gulf,rich in history and full of character –it’s the perfect introduction to the Middle East. Once a popular stopover for airlines coming from Europe, it’s often overshadowed by the dazzling tourist attractions of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.Why not try Bahrain? Experience the exotic culture of the Middle East with the laid-back vibe of an island getaway.

To learn more about the history of this country, you must visit The National Museum, Shaik Isa House and the Bahrain Fort.Visiting the museum will give you a wonderful glimpse into the history of not only this country but also the Middle East and the Persian people. Situated by one of the many waterfronts on the island, the building itself is a magnificent piece of architecture and a pleasant place to pass the afternoon.

Shaikh Isa House, the home of the longest reigning Bahraini ruler, is tucked away in the urban area of Muharraq. Step into a time gone by with this glimpse of 19th century life featuring period architecture, wall carvings and authentic design. Finally, whether you’re interested in history or not, the Bahrain Fort is a magnificent spectacle to behold. There’s something magical about visiting at night and being taken back through time to the once active fort. Lit up in all the right places — the fortress reveals its stories with every corner you turn.

One of the most famous tourist attractions in the whole country is the Tree of Life. This seemingly ordinary, yet handsome,tree stands in the middle of the desert. There’s no water for miles around. There’s barely any rainfall.And as far as the eye can see are the endless oilfields. So, how does this tree continue to live? The mystery has baffled people for hundreds of years and provides this legendary site with a hint of magic, even more so at sunset; the solo tree silhouetted against the backdrop of a technicolor sky.The area near the Tree of Life has become a popular desert camping ground where in the winter it’s cool enough for families to spend the night.Hundreds of large tents, Bedouins,are erected where large groups enjoy local cuisine and company under the stars.

Essential to the culture of Bahrain is the state religion of Islam. The Al Fateh Grand Mosque is a highlight of the tourist agenda and a place where visitors are welcomed to learn more about the Muslim faith.Never having been to a mosque, I didn’t know what to expect. I soon discovered not only is it an incredibly beautiful building which incorporates architectural design from all around the world, it’s also an amazing learning experience. Taking a guided tours allows guests to feel comfortable in this place of worship while gaining knowledge about Islam. The geometric design, the light casting magnificent patterns across the rooms and the sheer grandeur of the building must be experienced to be fully comprehended.

Whenever I heard someone talking about the Middle East, I couldn’t help but imagine the Disney film, Aladdin — with scenes of a bustling marketplace full of perfumes, exotic spices, glittering gold, bright fabrics and more. The Manama Souq fulfilled all my Arabian Nights fantasies with its scents, sounds and crowds of locals enjoying their shopping experience. For those who aren’t keen on the haggling and bidding of the markets,Bahrain has plenty of malls for an international shopping experience.They also offer a great place to escape the heat in the consistently warm weather.

A friend who once lived in Bahrain for work offered me one piece of advice upon hearing of my travels — eat! “Eat all you can”, he said. So I did! With an eclectic mix of ex-pats from rich backgrounds, the choice of foods is endless and the flavours a real ways authentic.I opted mostly for Persian style food such asshawarmas — a kebab like snack food, mint iced-teas and many, many plates of spiced, grilled meats.

After seeing all the sites, the Al Dar Island s are the perfect place to rest and relax. Explore Bahrain’s fascinating history of pearl diving, one of the country’s primary trades before the discovery of oil. The shallow waters and miles of oyster beds provide a unique diving experience in the tropical waters off the coast. Enjoy activities such as boat tours, jet ski rides, snorkelling or simply sitting back on the pristine sands and enjoying the ever warm temperatures of an island paradise.

If you’re planning a trip to this part of the world, add a stop or plan your entire trip in beautiful Bahrain. The magic, the mystery, the majesty of this Kingdom are not to be missed.


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