Bahrain National Museum
One of the first museums in the Gulf, the Bahrain National Museum opened in 1988. The site itself, on the edge of the sea, is a tremendous attraction, adding to its contemporary ambience which is influenced by the white travertine façade and dramatic courtyard decorated with contemporary sculptures. The exhibition halls showcase artefacts uncovered in the numerous archaeological sites in Bahrain and underpinning the longstanding history of the island. The rich collection covers 6000 years of Bahrain’s history. In addition to the archaeological exhibits, two halls are dedicated to local customs and traditions, featuring clothing, housing, rituals and traditional crafts. Moreover, the art hall features a permanent collection of works by some of Bahrain’s leading artists as well as regularly hosting temporary exhibitions.
Adjacent to the National Museum can be seen the Art Centre and Cultural Hall, both of which host temporary exhibitions and concerts throughout the year. A new addition to this cultural compound is the recently inaugurated Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage.
Qalat al Bahrain site and museum
Known as Dilmun in ancient times, Bahrain’s rich trading history is reflected in numerous archaeological digs around the island. Qalat al-Bahrain site (Bahrain Fort site) is among the most exciting of them and is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The fort is located atop a 17.5 hectare artificial hill that has been built while enduring over 4,000 years of continuous occupation. It is also the site of the former capital of Dilmun and is one of the most prolific archaeological digs in the Arabian Gulf. Excavations over the past 50 years have revealed residential, public, commercial, and military structures that testify to the importance of that location over the centuries.
Open to the public since 2008, the site museum display area consists of 5 exhibition halls organized around the massive Tell Wall with over 500 artifacts showcased and many interesting layers of its historical legacy have been revealed which is further highlighted with the use of an audio guide available to visitors.
Additionally, a seaside café offers a stunning view of the fort and the surrounding palm groves.
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Located in the heart of Adliya, Block 338 is a charming pedestrian quarter crammed with international restaurants, art galleries, and small boutiques. As Bahrain’s hot dining district, Block 338 offers a wide range of cuisine that is sure to appeal to all tastes. Whether you are in the mood for a fancy feast, a more traditional Bahraini dish, or just a soothing drink and a chat, there is something for everyone.
In addition to the culinary delights, Block 338 boasts a number of interesting retail opportunities tucked away in the side streets that encourages a stroll around as an opportunity for discovery and has also grown over the years as a vibrant center for emerging artists. It is here that Al Riwaq Gallery exhibits works originating from up and coming artists in Bahrain, the Gulf, and internationally. Al Riwaq also has a very popular café in which patrons can enjoy a drink while discussing the latest in the art world.
Al Bareh Gallery can be found in the opposite corner of Adliya and is a notable private arts center that hosts exhibitions by leading regional artists. A diverse program of exhibitions runs throughout the year in the gallery while an adjoining space is devoted to a non-profit initiative, ABCAD (Al Bareh Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture). Devoted to artistic experimentation, ABCAD breaks art out of its human confines through work-shops, design focused film nights, and an outdoor graffiti wall. There is also a café with outdoor and indoor seating.
Boats Trips to Bu Maher Fort
The Bu Maher Fort Visitor’s Center is the starting point to discovering more about the Pearling Path that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The center contains a three-dimensional display that guides the viewer though the history of the path and the houses which formed it from the early beginnings to the main pearling traders.
Bu Maher Fort, which was built in 1840, is steeped in seafaring and pearling history and forms the first stop in the historical pearling path having once served as the main fishing harbor and gateway to and from the sea.
The visitor’s center can be accessed via the sea by boats that depart from Bahrain’s National Museum harbor and soon a pedestrian bridge will allow access as well.
Bab al Bahrain
Bab Al Bahrain is located at the entrance to the Manama Suq in Bahrain’s capital city Manama. Built in 1949, it once housed the government’s administrative offices and overlooked the sea. Bab Al Bahrain has undergone many big changes over the years but the Ministry of Culture undertook a project to preserve it as a cultural landmark and thus restored it to its former glory and eventually moved its tourism sector offices and visitor’s center into the building.
Behind Bab Al Bahrain is the old Manama Suq. The suq is a vibrant collection of shops offering a wide range of goods from textiles, spices, incense, perfumes, handicrafts and souvenirs, as well as more modern products from all over the world. There are also a number of traditional coffee shops.
The suq offers a unique shopping experience that brings to mind the style of commerce from days long past. The Manama Suq is a must visit while in Bahrain that visitors will be sure to enjoy.
Old Houses of Muharraq
Muharraq, the former capital of Bahrain, is known for its cultural contributions through the many restored traditional Bahraini houses that can be found amidst the narrow lanes and byways. The Sheikh Isa bin Ali House is Bahrain’s most impressive example of Gulf Islamic architecture featuring four courtyards, beautifully carved wooden doors, and perforated gypsum panels.
The Sheikh Ebrahim Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research provides an important insight into several particularly interesting aspects of Bahrain’s heritage. From embroidery at Kurar House to a splendid showcase of Bahrain’s pearling history at the Bin Matar House, the former home of a renowned pearl merchant, the various houses reflect Sheikh Ebrahim Center’s commitment towards preservation of both traditional architect and history.
The collection of houses include the Sheikh Ebrahim Lecture Hall, Iqra Children’s Library, Heraf al Diyar, Nukhida House (the first house to be restored along the Pearling Path), Kurar House, Abdullah al Zayed House, Bin Matar House, Bu Zaboon House, Mohammed bin Faris House that all showcase different aspects of Bahrain’s rich heritage.
Hosting regular art exhibitions and film screenings in the old city is Maison Jamsheer, another example of the traditional courtyard houses, which is situated a stone’s throw away from Sheikh Ebrahim Center.
Even if you are not a motor racing fan you will be caught up in the thrill and excitement of the planet’s biggest racing event, Formula One, that has been an annual part of Bahrain’s sporting scene since April 2004. Bahrain’s Grand Prix made history as the first Formula One Grand Prix to be held in the Middle East and was awarded the “Best Organized Grand Prix” by FIA.
Even when Formula One is not taking center stage at the Bahrain International Circuit, visitors can take the wheel themselves on its state-of-the-art karting track or enjoy a thrilling ride in the passenger seat of a Hummer on its Extreme 4×4 course. Of course, a visit to the circuit is a must so as not to miss the opportunity to test drive a race car on the F-1 track itself.