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It may play host to a Formula One motor race each year but somnolent Manama, the capital of the Kingdom of Bahrain, has a slower pace, low-key charm, and more down-to-earth nature than its sleek, fast, Arabian Gulf neighbors, Dubai, Doha, and Abu Dhabi. Some would even argue that it's more authentic, offering an insight into what life must have been like in the region before the discovery of oil, particularly in its old souq area around "Bab Al Bahrain," the "Gateway to Bahrain." While Manama doesn't have nearly as many shiny new buildings and other signs of modernity as its Gulf sister-cities, it's probably the most modern-thinking, ...

It may play host to a Formula One motor race each year but somnolent Manama, the capital of the Kingdom of Bahrain, has a slower pace, low-key charm, and more down-to-earth nature than its sleek, fast, Arabian Gulf neighbors, Dubai, Doha, and Abu Dhabi. Some would even argue that it's more authentic, offering an insight into what life must have been like in the region before the discovery of oil, particularly in its old souq area around "Bab Al Bahrain," the "Gateway to Bahrain." While Manama doesn't have nearly as many shiny new buildings and other signs of modernity as its Gulf sister-cities, it's probably the most modern-thinking, democratic, and open-minded of all the city-states, with a tolerance and egalitarianism that's evident on the streets. Just take a look at who's driving the taxis — they're locals, an oddity in a region where foreigners normally perform the menial tasks. Bahrain is still a Sheikhdom — and a much-admired and respected one at that — with its roots in the rich tribal culture and traditions of the Bedouin, something the Bahrainis are most proud of. They are equally as proud of their long history. Bahrain was the location of the ancient Dilmun civilization, one of the region's most important, most evident at Al Ali Burial Mounds and the Bahrain National Museum. Whether you visit Bahrain for the speed of the racetrack and exhilaration of the motor races, or the slow pace of life and chance to relax and re-energize at its resorts and spas, make sure you visit its small but superb museums and explore its laidback souq to get a taste of old Arabia.

Lara Dunston
About the Expert

Lara Dunston and Terry Carter have traveled to over 60 countries and written more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Rough Guides, Footprint, and others on destinations in the Middle East, Europe, and South America.

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Lara Dunston for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Capital City of Bahrain, an archipelago in the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia.
  • Language: Arabic, English, Farsi, Urdu
  • Currency: Bahraini Dinar
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Winter (December to February) is when the weather is loveliest, then shoulder seasons of spring (March-May) and fall (September-November), although even those months are hot.