Things to Do in Bahrain
Although Bahrain is small in size, the possibilities for entertainment and leisure activities here are wide-ranging. Whether by public or private transport, the island is easy to navigate and most journeys will not take more than half an hour, traffic permitting. Whether you are an arts fan, a foodie, a techie, an adrenalin junkie or just seeking calm, Bahrain has it all, and we have compiled a brief guide to keeping yourself busy outside of your study schedule.
Being an archipelago of islands itself, Bahrain is also surrounded by a number of developed and undeveloped smaller islands around its coastline. Just off the south-east coast of Bahrain and accessible by private boat or water taxi, Al Dar Islands resort offers a great retreat from the city, with boat taxis running from Sitra Marina. The resort has chalets for rent, its own restaurant and organises a number of activities and excursions, including fishing, dolphin-watching, dugong-watching and pearl-collecting. Al Dar is often home to concerts and festivals during the spring season, allowing Bahrain's residents to escape city life for a day or two without air travel.
Hawar Island is around a 40-minute trip by boat from Bahrain's South coast and is home to a hotel resort currently under refurbishment.
Many smaller and uninhabited islands can be visited on private boat tours, organised by the likes of Bahrain Yacht Club, Al Bander Resort, the Marina Club, Amwaj Marina, with other companies offering island excursions by the day.
Sports and Social Clubs
With such a diverse expatriate population, it is no surprise that Bahrain contains a variety of sports and social clubs across various areas of the island. The Dilmun Club, Rugby Club, British Club and Yacht Club are among the longest-standing expatriate clubs on the island, with each having leisure facilities such as swimming pools, restaurants and sports fields for their members.
Coral Bay on the Manama shoreline also boasts a fully-equipped health club, pool and restaurant as well as its own beach, marina and diving centre.
For keen golfers, there are a number of options, including The Royal Golf Club in Riffa, home to the Colin Montgomerie-designed 18-hole championship grass course, and one of the oldest courses in the region in the Awali Golf Club sand course.
Bahrain International Circuit (BIC)
The self-proclaimed 'Home of Motorsport in the Middle East', the BIC has become a mainstay on the FIA Formula One World Championship calendar, hosting the annual Bahrain Gulf Air Grand Prix since 2004.
Understandably, the Grand Prix is the highlight of the year at BIC but the circuit also stages a variety of other international motorsport championships and local events. The circuit's extensive complex is a hub of activity all year round, featuring a drag-and-drift strip, a go-kart circuit and an off-road driving course.
As is the case in so many Middle Eastern countries, especially during the hot summer months, malls are the focal point of much social activity and Bahrain is certainly no exception. A variety of huge shopping complexes are located all over the country, with most containing a host of international high-street fashion brands, restaurants, supermarkets and other services.
The RCSI Bahrain campus is ideally located close to many of the country's most popular malls, including Seef Mall Muharraq, the recently opened Avenues in Bahrain Bay and Bahrain City Centre.
With the litany of malls around Bahrain, you will never find yourself too far from the nearest cinema complex. Most of the bigger malls have their own multi-screen theatres but if you're looking for something different, check out the more independent cinema in Juffair Mall, or the impressive IMAX experience at Seef Mall Muharraq.
Water babies among us will be happy to learn that Bahrain is home to two large water parks, namely Wahoo! and the Lost Paradise of Dilmun. Wahoo! was the Middle East's first indoor-outdoor waterpark when it opened its doors in 2009, and is located within Bahrain City Centre mall, with a 'sub-tropical paradise' theme featuring a host of popular rides, slides and other attractions suitable for all ages. With 70% of the park indoors and the remaining 30% outdoors, Wahoo! has the added advantage of being able to be enjoyed all year round.
The bigger Lost Paradise of Dilmun was opened is set over a whopping 77,000 square metres of desert oasis and features more than 20 extensive slides, pools and fountains. Taking its theme from Bahrain's rich cultural heritage, the park also plays host to a number of popular outdoor events during peak season, and hosts a ladies night once a week, where the park is operated exclusively by female staff and is closed to male visitors.
Bahrain has a rich history, which the Ministry of Culture and associated bodies work hard to bring to the public, with a number of accessible sites to visit:
- Al Fateh Grand Mosque - Named after the conqueror of Bahrain, this has been the country's largest mosque since its completion in the late 1980s. With a capacity of some 7,000 worshippers, the mosque is open for prayer throughout the day and has also established itself as a major tourist attraction. Guided tours are given free of charge and all faiths are welcome.
- Bahrain National Museum - A beautiful architectural achievement, located on the Manama corniche, the museum reflects over 6000 years of Bahrain's history, and regularly plays host to visiting artists, exhibitions and events.
- Bahrain Fort (Qal'at al-Bahrain) - First discovered in the 1950s in the Seef area, this archaeological site has unearthed antiquities dating as far back as 2300 BC. Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, it also features an impressive museum and has a picturesque walking track around the perimeter.
- Arad Fort - A typically-styled Islamic fort build in the 1500s, Arad Fort in Muharraq has become not only a historical attraction but also a venue of choice for cultural events and headline acts, including visits by Eric Clapton, John Legend, Seal and Rodrigo y Gabrielle in recent years.
- Muharraq Heritage Trail and Traditional Houses - This is the place to head to get a feel of what Bahrain was like pre-oil. A labyrinth of alleys and courtyards leads you among a number of Bahrain's most important heritage buildings, showcasing weaving, books and poetry - this was confirmed as Bahrain's second UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.
While the city of Manama - and Bahrain as a whole - has continued to sprawl to unrecognisable lengths over recent decades with further land reclamation, the Manama Souq remains the heartbeat of trading activity in the capital city.
The famous 'Bab al Bahrain' provides the entry to the souq, which contains a vast market spread over a web of narrow streets. Of particular prominence are the Gold Souq, a large spice and nut souq as well as a host of traditional fabric stores.
The Muharraq Souq meanwhile, is situated a short distance from the RCSI Bahrain campus and features a variety of boutiques, jewellery showrooms and abaya stores. Well worth a visit for those wanting a taste of what trading life was like before the birth of the shopping mall.
Adliya Dining District
Located in the centre of Adliya, block 338 is a charming pedestrian quarter, alive with international restaurants, art galleries and small boutiques. Offering a wide range of restaurants appealing to all ages and tastes, the block is rightfully regarded as Bahrain's premier dining district and, as such, is busy throughout the week. Aside from its eclectic mix of eateries, the area also contains plenty of hidden gem retail outlets and has subsequently emerged as a vibrant space for the arts.
Beach culture is still very much a part of life in Bahrain and can offer the perfect break from a hectic study schedule.
Many of the top hotel resorts have their own private beach resorts and facilities, which are accessible by day-pass or longer-term memberships, albeit at substantial cost.
Some of the island's most popular public beaches are located in Zallaq, Karbabad, and Amwaj and are very busy on evenings and weekends.
Marassi Beach and Budaiya Beach have emerged recently as alternative beach options, with a small fee charged for access to these private areas, complete with floating water-parks, restaurants and water sports available.
- Bahrain National Theatre - One of the largest theatres in the Arab world is built on an area of about 12,000 m2 overlooking the sea. The 1,001-seat theatre, featuring a unique architectural design and inspired by the tales of 1,001 Arabian Nights, plays host to a wide range of shows, concerts and conferences throughout the year from local and international artists.
- Spring of Culture - An annual festival organised by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, the Economic Development Board, and Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research and in collaboration with Albareh Art Gallery, Al Riwaq Art Space, and La Fontaine Centre of Contemporary Art has seen a multitude of international artists, poets and dance troupes visit Bahrain including Eric Clapton, Andrea Boccelli, Seal, John Legend and many more.
- Bahrain Summer Festival - An annual event starting in July and featuring top regional and international live musical and theatrical performances, alongside a wide range of artistic activities and creative workshops. Now in its 9th edition, the month-long event organised by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA) also features the popular Nakhool Tent at Bahrain Fort, offering a variety of free activities and workshops for children of all ages. Bahrain Summer also sees an exciting line-up of live shows from regional and international performers at the Cultural Hall.
- Art Galleries - Bahrain has a large arts scene, with many talented local artists bringing art of every genre to our galleries. Visit Al Riwaq Art Space and Al Bareh Art Gallery in Adliya, or the stunning La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art (also home to a beautiful spa) in Manama.
- Indoor Skydiving - For the more extreme among us, take a trip down to Zallaq to experience Gravity, Bahrain's indoor skydiving experience, located in Gravity Village, opposite the BIC. The facility is state of the art and provides memorable experiences of flying without having to jump out of a plane!
- Extreme Sportz Beaucraft - This water-sports company, based at Lagoona Beach hotel in Budaiya, is perfect for thrill seekers and specialises in Flyboards, x-Jet sidewinders, Jetovators, hoverboards and everything in between!