How to enjoy Bahrain like a local
Its welcoming restaurants and unique cafes are renowned for their first-class hospitality – but that’s not all the stunning country has to offer.
To get a true taste of Bahraini hospitality, be sure to eat where the locals do. Restaurants like Haji’s cafe are local favourites, offering back-to-basics dining, with a menu dictated by what’s already cooking in the kitchen, be it gently spiced biryanis, flatbreads or fresh fish and kebabs. The traditional Bahraini breakfast is a firm favourite. Come after the call to prayer, and you’ll strike up a conversation at one of its alleyway tables in no time.
The seeds of this culture of hospitality is best exemplified by a trip to one of the country’s historic souqs. At Manama’s Bab Al Bahrain Souq, you’ll find a lifetime’s worth of clothes, antiques, gold, pearls, electronics, incense and halawa, a moreish tahini and nut sweet. It’s a similar vibe further north at the Muharraq souq. Haggling is an obsession, so once you spark up a conversation, prepare for an assault on the senses from the friendly stall-holders.
As the smiling, joking boat captains will tell you on a walk along the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Pearling Trail, it’s easy to learn a local secret or two. But only if you ask. Strike it lucky, and you’ll be invited to get involved on a scuba diving pearl hunt, for no other reason than they’d love to share their culture with you.
If you’d rather stay dry, immerse yourself in learning about Bahraini culture with a visit to Manama Craft Centre, which aims to preserve traditional handicrafts and foster local creativity. Ceramics and wood can be painted and carved, while lectures and workshops can inspire you to turn the likes of palm leaves into a carefully constructed artwork.
Within just a few days, you’ll realise Bahrain knows how to put on a show. There are hundreds of ways – and opportunities – to experience it, be it through food, shopping or shared community. Seize as many as you can: because embracing Bahraini tradition enriches the here and now.