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Useful Local Info
As is the case in so many Middle Eastern countries, malls are the focal point of much social activity and Bahrain is certainly no exception. A variety of these 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. Among the most popular malls for Bahrain residents and indeed the most convenient to the RCSI campus are City Centre Bahrain and Seef Mall in Seef and the recently-completed Seef Mall Muharraq.
With the litany of malls around Bahrain, you will never find yourself too far from the nearest cinema complex, which is probably just as well considering how popular a past-time the cinema is for Bahrain residents. Most of the bigger malls have their own multi-screen theatres but if you’re looking for something different, check out the supposed ‘7D’ offering at Dana Mall or the impressive IMAX experience at Seef Mall Muharraq.
If water-slides are more your thing then you’ll be happy to learn that Bahrain is home to two extensive water parks in the shape of Wahoo! and the Lost Paradise of Dilmun. Set over 15,000 square-meters, Wahoo! was the Middle East’s first indoor-outdoor waterpark when it opened its doors in 2009. Located within City Centre Bahrain, the park is based on a ‘sub-tropical paradise’ theme and features 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 be enjoyed whatever the season. The Lost Paradise of Dilmun was opened in September 2007 as part of the US1.3 billion Al Areen Development. Set over a whopping 77,000 square metres of desert oasis, the Lost Paradise features more than 20 of 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.
Just off the south-east coast of Bahrain, Al Dar Islands resort offer a great retreat from the city, with boat taxis running through the day from Sitra marina. The resort has its own bar and restaurant and organises a number of activities and excursions, including fishing, dolphin-watching, dugong-watching and pearl-collecting. In recent years, the resort has developed beach chalets for overnight guests.
With such a diverse expatriate population, it is no surprise that Bahrain contains a variety of sports and social clubs to occupy most nationalities and interests. The Dilmun Club, Rugby Club, British Club and Yacht Club are among the longest-standing expatriate clubs on the island, with each boasting extensive facilities such as swimming pools, restaurants and sports fields for their respectively substantial membership base. Formerly known as Coral Beach Club, Coral Bay boasts a fully-equipped health club, pool and restaurant as well as its own beach, marina and diving centre. For any aspiring golfers, there are a couple of outstanding options to work on your swing. Retaining its full sand course, Awali Golf Club is recognised as one of the oldest clubs in the region. The Royal Golf Club in nearby Riffa meanwhile, is the all-singing, all-dancing option, featuring the island’s only 18-hole championship course, designed by the legendary Colin Montgomerie, a nine-hole par-three course, a gold academy and a country club.
The self-proclaimed ‘Home of Motorsport in the Middle East’ was officially opened in 2004 by His Highness Crown Prince of Bahrain, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Since then, BIC has become a mainstay on the FIA Formula One World Championship calendar, hosting the annual Bahrain Grand Prix during the early stages of the season. 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 track itself is designed to accommodate seven different layouts, while the extensive complex also features a drag strip, an off-road desert obstacle course and a go-kart circuit.
- Al Fatah Grand Mosque – Named after the conquerer of Bahrain, Al Fatah Mosque, 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.
- Bahrain National Museum – Reflects over 6000 years of Bahrain’s history. 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.
- Bahrain Fort (Qal’at al-Bahrain) – First discovered in the 1950s, this archaeological site has unearthed antiquities dating as far back as 2300 BC. Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, the site also features an impressive museum. Arad Fort – A typically-styled Islamic fort build in the 1500s, Arad Fort has become a venue of choice for cultural events and even hosted a performance by the great Eric Clapton in 2014.
- Muharraq Heritage Trail – 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, 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, the Manama Souq remains the heartbeat of activity in the capital city. The famous ‘Bab al Bahrain’ provides the face of 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 campus and it features a variety of boutiques, jewellery showrooms and abaya stores.
Located in the centre of Adliya, block 338 is a charming pedestrian quarter rammed 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 seven nights a 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.