Bahrain is a small archipelago in the Persian Gulf, neatly situated between the Qatar peninsula and the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. At only 765.3 square kilometres in size, it is the third-smallest nation in Asia, after the Maldives and Singapore. In the late 1800s, after successful treaties with Britain, Bahrain became a protectorate of the United Kingdom, and in 1971 it declared independence. Previously an emirate, Bahrain became a kingdom in 2002 with its constitutional monarchy. The Kingdom of Bahrain was the location of the first ever oil well in the Gulf, and the first nation to experience a post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf. In recent years, many large financial institutions have a presence in the capital city of Manama and Bahrain is recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Bahrain also has a high Human Development Index.
Its capital city is Manama, the largest city in Bahrain with a population of approximately 157,000 people. Previously a key port for trading between Mesopotamia and Indus Valley civilisations, Manama today is still the focal point of Bahraini economy. From a booming pearling industry in the early 20th century, to the discovery of oil in 1932, to heavy industry and Islamic banking in recent years have helped Manama develop into a diverse, cosmopolitan city. Although Arabic is the official language, English is compulsory in schools and you will find that it is spoken widely.
Bahrain International Airport is located around 10km from Manama and approximately 40km away from Bahrain International Circuit. As few airlines offer direct flights from the UK to Bahrain, so be prepared for a stop-over on your flight. Gulf Air are based in Bahrain and offer flights from a range of countries across Europe, Asia and Africa. An alternative is to fly via nearby Abu Dhabi or Dubai and transfer at either of these major international airports to a low cost regional carrier such as Fly Dubai, Rotana Jet or Air Arabia.
From the airport, the express service 'Airlink' is serviced by the A1 and A2 bus routes, which run from the BIA terminal directly into Manama city every 20 minutes.
The majority of tourists visiting Bahrain need a visa for their trip, except for citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). However, in 2019 F1 fans holding valid race tickets were eligible for a FREE 14-day visa on arrival (VOA) in Bahrain. Be sure to check the requirements for 2020.
There are plenty of things to see and do in Bahrain. With a history dating back to the ancient, Bronze Age Dilmun civilisation, and with influences from past empires including Assyrians, Babylonians, Greek, Portuguese and British, Bahrain has a rich and diverse cultural history.
To explore the history of the kingdom, be sure to visit Qal'at al-Bahrain, a UNESCO Heritage Site located in Karbabad, approximately a 30 minute drive from downtown Manama. Considered the most important archaeological find in Bahrain, the history of this fort is believed to date back to 2300BC, and has been occupied by Kassite, Greek, Portuguese and Persian troops throughout history. Be sure to also check out Bahrain National Museum in Manama, the largest and oldest public museum in the country. We also suggest a visit south of the island to discover the magical Tree of Life, a 400 year old tree which survives despite the brutal conditions of its surroundings.
Architecture enthusiasts will enjoy the Al Fateh Grand Mosque in Manama. Built in 1988, this is one of the largest mosques in the world, with the capacity to accommodate over 7,000 worshippers at a time. Also the site of the National Library of Bahrain, the mosque is the one of the premier tourist attractions in the country, and a must-see on your travels!
To really soak up the rich culture of the country, visit a traditional souq. Manama souq is a perfect example of a traditional Arabic market. The narrow streets and alleyways sell everything from electronic goods to spices, but the real appeal of these bustling markets is that they have not changed over time; it still evokes the atmosphere of an ancient souq.
If shopping is your favourite activity on holiday, there are plenty of shopping malls to discover in the bustling capital of Manama. From City Centre Bahrain, Al Raya Mall and The Avenues, there are plenty of shops to explore!
Bahrain enjoys a hot desert climate, with very long summers and little rainfall. The average temperature during March is around 21 degrees centigrade, with the highest temperature ever recorded in March being 38 degrees centigrade. Overnight temperatures can feel chilly, so a coat or jacket is recommended for evenings. There is also a high chance of rainfall during March as it falls in the wet season in Bahrain. We therefore recommend packing waterproof clothing just in case!
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