8 Reasons Why Bahrain is 2018’s Most Surprising Middle East Destination
Sharm el Sheikh’s a ghost town, everyone’s been to Dubai and we’re very quickly running out of Middle East holiday spots...
When you think of Middle Eastern holidays most people revert to the Rolodex of standard destinations. Beach holidays in Egypt, glamour and bottle poppin’ in Dubai, the rich history of Jerusalem - you know the drill. But there’s a new destination on the block... Bahrain.
Admittedly, when MTV saddled up and prepared for a trip to the island country the first question many people asked was “why?” It’s certainly not one of the well-trodden paths and few people know too much about it (pearl fisheries, anyone?!).
So we’ve done the hard yards, plunged the depths, seen the sights and can report that there are actually loads of reasons to go to Bahrain. Here’s just 8 of them...
Pearl diving sounds like the sort of activity that goes on in a Disney film and, while you’re unlikely to find a mermaid paddling around, your chances of finding a pearl are actually pretty good.
Admittedly we’re not talking about the sort of pearl that’s going to make you rich but who are we to turn our nose up at gemstones.
Rooftop bars are all the rage the world over and Bahrain is no exception. For those less fond of heights, the Hazel Rooftop Lounge at Block 338 (more on that later) provides food, drinks, a lively atmosphere and some pretty enthusiastic live saxophone at a sensible height.
At the other end of the scale is Alto Rooftop Bar standing tall on floor 25 at the Downtown Rotana hotel. Here’s a view that’s pretty hard to rival along with barmen who paid short shrift to the menu by offering to make any drink that comes to mind. Shisha makes an appearance too, if that’s your thing.
There are many more options throughout the country’s capital Manamar but a special shout out for Wolfgang Puck’s Blue Moon Lounge at the top of the Bond-villain style Four Seasons hotel. It’s actually inside but at 50 floors up it’s pretty damn high.
This is where Bahrain really sets itself apart from the likes of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the purpose built tourist destinations of the Middle East. As you’ll see below it’s got the glamour, but there’s culture too.
A view of the city skyscrapers from a fort built more than 4,000 years ago provides a symbolic juxtaposition, while the Grand Mosque along with Hindu temples add insight into the religions of the region.
Something the locals are particularly proud of is the Old Houses of Muharraq Pearling Trail which had fallen into ruin but have been reinvigorated thanks to some solid work from the government. Also, it’s in the middle of the city, keeping tedious coach journeys to a minimum - ideal!
As a collection of restaurants and bars within a neighborhood setting, Block 338 is something of a rarity in the Middle East. No need for taxis from hotel to hotel here, just wander along the safe streets to the next spot that takes your fancy.
Calexico, ATTIC and Hazel are some of the livelier spots while Masso, La Vinoteca and Madeleine are all about the food. In summary, there’s plenty to suit every vibe. Picture the proximity of London’s Soho with an added splash of cleanliness and quality. Most importantly, it just all feels very friendly.
It’s only on for one weekend a year but it’s certainly worth booking your trip around it. The place is buzzing, the weather’s ideal (good heat, low humidity) and everyone’s in an exceptionally good mood.
Frequent F1 visitors tell us that it’s a good grand prix to go to as well due to the equal mix of tourists, F1 superfans, corporate folk and locals. Plus, they put on some pretty solid entertainment too with Santana and Disclosure making appearances in 2018.
Even if you’re not that interested in motorsports, it’s one of those events where it’s good to just experience the atmosphere.
Fancy pads is an area where the Middle East has made a bit of a name for itself and Bahrain is no exception. All of the big names are here including the newly opened Jumeirah Royal Saray which has its own beach - something that’s surprisingly hard to come by here.
Hotels also tend to be where a lot of the best international food can be had. Whether it’s Trader Vic’s at Ritz Carlton, Teatro at Downtown Rotana or Cut by Wolfgang Puck at Four Seasons, there’s no shortage of high end cuisine.
It might seem excessive to single out just one eatery but it’s really worth it. Haji’s is in the middle of the souk and is filled with locals - the sign of any good eatery.
Think London’s Dishoom restaurants but rather than spending many thousands on authentic looking decor, they took the option to open in 1950. Two bits of advice, order a selection of everything and eat all the flatbread (which they make fresh to order).
It’s not for everyone but if you’re ever going to go karting then this really is the place to do it. It’s outside, floodlit and much, much bigger than anything we’d seen before.
Don’t just take our word for it though, the track is the first to be approved for night racing and the first to hold an official karting world finals in the Middle East. Anyway, as long as you can deal with the humiliation of getting overtaken by kids multiple times it’s certainly worth a visit.
MTV Flew With… Gulf Air – the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain with flights direct from London to Bahrain twice a day. Return flights from London to Bahrain start from £370 inclusive of taxes. If you’re taking our sage advice and going for the F1, booking a five-night stay at the Ramada City Centre, Manama with direct flights with Gulf Air and 3-day Grand Prix Grandstand tickets costs £1,299 per person. To book visit: HERE.