Bahrain may be small but that doesn’t mean the tourism and attractions are. Find out what we have done within the two days of our visit to Bahrain, 19-21 December 2010.
Bahrain, Mamlakat al-Bahrayn, literally means “Kingdom of the Two Seas”, is the smallest state in the Gulf, comprises of a main island and other 32 islands. The main island is only 55km by 18km.
My guide to Doha-Bahrain by road will take you from Qatar to Kingdom of Bahrain.
After 4 hours driving from Qatar border, we arrived at Passport Island – a manmade island located at equal distance from both Bahrain and Saudi on King Fahad Causeway. We initially planned to visit Saudi Tower on Saudi border area in the island. But we missed the direction so that we changed our plan to go directly to Manama, the capital of Bahrain. Finished with all immigration processes in Causeway we headed eastward to Al Juffair, East Manama, where our booked 2-bedroom apartment is located at.
Al Jaberiya Suites 1 we booked through booking.com is good enough; it is spacious, full furnished, and in excellent location – few hundred meters from Al Fateh Grand Mosque.
Day 1 – Afternoon/Evening – Southern Bahrain & Bahrain Tower
We used to travel in a crash mode; sweeping all must-see attractions in limited time. It may not be your mode but we just love it. So wasted no time we started our tour in Bahrain just couple minutes after check-in. We had our takeaway fast-food lunch as we headed to southern Bahrain; the other half of Bahrain where you can really feel away from the city.
1. Bahrain International Circuit
“Welcome to the home of motorsports in the Middle East” says a welcome board in the circuit entrance. Bahrain has now become part of the annual Formula 1 agenda, inviting thousands of motor-race fans visiting Bahrain on March each year. Even if there is no race, you can still enjoy the thrilling experience by enrolling to a tour or testing one of the go-karts.
Bahrain International Circuit is located at Gulf of Bahrain Avenue, Sakhir; only 2 km from Al Areen Wildlife Park.
Coordinate: 26 02’13.60”N 50 30’18.29”E (Entrance where welcome board located at)
2. Al Areen Wildlife Park
Al Areen Wildlife Park is the only Nature Reserve in Bahrain. The park covers more than 8 square kilometres and has an impressive collection of birds and mammals, many of which are native to the Arabian Gulf Region.
Tickets cost 1 BD adult and 500 fills children. This includes a bus tour at indicated time on the ticket. When we arrived at a quarter to 2 pm, time slot for 2pm and 3pm were used up already and we ended up with 4pm tour. With 2 hours on hand we decided to go to nearby tree of life, and oil museum (see below).
Back to the park, while waiting for the bus tour to start we wandered around the area around the reception buildings that beautifully landscaped with trees, flower, ponds (and its water fowls such as ducks, pelicans and flamingos) and decorative water features. Near bus stop, there was an Arabian tent that also provided with photo opportunities with Falcon (at a cost of 500 fills each).
The bus tour took 45 minutes in an air-conditioned bus with driver and guide that gave us commentary in Arabic and English. The tour snaked around open areas that mimic native habitat for exotic birds, gazelles, Oryx, wild sheep, ostriches and more. We stopped at water pond complex for 15 minutes before ending the tour at wild animal complex building. From here, we walked back to reception building. The wild animal complex houses several wild animals in glass-protected cages.
Though Al Areen Wildlife a really wonderful place for families and animal lovers to explore and enjoy don’t expect this park to be on par with Taman Safari. May be my expectation was too high but seeing only few rare animals, not-so-interesting wild animal complex it is worth the rating.
Coordinate: 26 00’54.8”N 50 29’41.1”E (Al Areen Reception Building – Ticketing Office)
3. Tree of Life
The route to Tree of Life is not easy to explain as we need to twist and turn around oil field’s narrow streets and direction signs are rare making it a little tricky to get to. So it’s best to go with GPS.
The Tree of Life in Bahrain is a 400 year-old mesquite tree which lives in the middle of desert. The mystery of the survival of the tree has made it a legend. A legend is also attached to the place where the tree is located. The local inhabitants believe with heart and soul that this was the actual location of the Garden of Eden.
The Tree of Life or Sharajat-al-Hayat, as the Arabs call it, is located 1.2 miles or 2 kilometers away from Jebel Dukhan. The tree stands solitary splendour in the heart of desert, on top of a 25-foot-high sandy hill with nothing else but desert for miles around. The tree has continued growing-despite the extremities of the climate. At present it is 32 feet in height.
The tree’s source of water is mystery. Plant scientist may say that its roots go very deep and wide to get water from the reserves of sweet springs kilometers away. (Wikipedia). It is also thought the tree is being supplied by an underground stream, but that doesn’t explain the total lack of plants around it.
The tree is covered with graffiti from its fans unfortunately.
Coordinate Tree of Life: 25 59’38.9”N 50 34’58.5”E
4. First Oil Well, Oil Museum and Jebel Dukhan, and those spaghetti oil pipelines
Five to six kilometers from Tree of Life, below Jebel Dukhan situated the first oil well. As its name suggests, it is the first oil well in the Persian Gulf. It was operated by Bahrain Petroleum Company. Oil first spurted from this well on 16 October 1931, and the well finally began to blow heads of oil on the morning of 2 June 1932. The initial oil flow rate was 400 barrels per day; by the 1970s the well produced 70,000 bpd, and after that it stabilized at circa 35,000 bpd.
Bahrain was the first place on the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf where oil was discovered, and it coincided with the collapse of the world pearl market (Wikipedia).
The nearby oil museum – Dar An Naft – (unfortunately closed while we were there; theoretically open from 10-17 on Thurs and Fri) allows you to trace the discovery of what’s become the region’s best-known export. It is said that exhibits at the museum include drilling equipment, photographic history of the oil industry in Bahrain and a working model of an oil rig.
Jabal Dukhan is the highest point in the country. It stands at 134m above mean sea level. It is named The Mountain of Smoke as such because of the haze which often surrounds it on humid days.
An interesting scene in southern Bahrain is to see how oil pipelines laid out like spaghetti ; from the wells that located just few meters beside public roads. These pipelines are also spanned side-by-side with allocated winter camp sites!
- First Oil Well & Oil Museum: 26 01’38.8”N 50 33’05.5”E
- Jabal Dukhan: 26 02’20.00”N 50 32’34.8”E
5. Al Jazayer Beach
The sun has just set and dark fallen when we finished our tour in Al Areen. Out of curiosity we decided to head southwest to Al Jazayer Beach. Nothing special in this beach; in fact parking lots were without lighting at all although playground and seating areas were provided with flood lightings. Some peoples do jogging and walking and some were barbecuing. Kids played in the playground while I took couple of shots of them, then we enjoyed some snacks and drinks. Good enough to recover after quite a long trip from Qatar.
Visit this beach only if you have much time.
Coordinate: 25 59’37.2”N 50 27’54.6”E (one of the parking lots in Al Jazayer Beach)
6. Bahrain Tower in Causeway
From Al Jazayer Beach I drove my Outlander to Causeway. Go home? No, no, no. As we missed the Saudi Tower during our arrival we determined to not miss Bahrain Tower. These two towers are high tower restaurants in the border station (commonly known as Passport Island). Well they’re not restaurant per se. It’s just a small counter selling hot tea/coffee and burger like food. So it’s easy to be missed.
To go to Bahrain Tower we need to pay causeway toll 2BD before entering causeway and driving west to Saudi. Please make sure that you know how to go back to Bahrain not to departure gates. The key is to trace back your arriving route until you find traffic light and then left to go back to Bahrain.
The Bahrain Tower is 65m high. After paying 200fills per person we transferred to viewing platform through an elevator. Hampered by stained and cloudy glass window, you’ll get the view to bustling activities in the border. That evening we saw traffic rush from Saudi side going to Bahrain. I am thinking that 6-7pm is probably not good arrival hours.
Coordinate Bahrain Tower: 26 11’06.9”N 50 19’43.0”E
7. Restaurants: Cypres Garden and Iskenderun
The first dinner in Bahrain was planned to spend in Cypress Garden, on Budaiya Highway, Jannusan (north-west Bahrain). Cypress Garden is a complex housing several restaurants and nursery. In here you can find Turkish, Thai, Chinese, Spanish, Italian restaurant, café and pastry shops, and more. It seems a good location to dine in until we found that there were only minimal numbers of diners. So we made U-turn.
We elected then to pick any restaurant on the way back to hotel. From Budaiya Highway on the north west of Bahrain we drove eastwardly until we met Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Highway and followed this highway all the way to Manama center passing several malls on the right and left, then financial harbor on King Faisal Highway. With desperate hunger we made the right decision, probably the best during our stay; to turn right from Al Fateh Highway to Tarafa bin Alabd Avenue and then you go: a small Turkish restaurant thronged by food enthusiast who come and go uninterruptedly. Good sign.
This Iskenderun Grills Turkish restaurant has a slightly different taste of spices. It’s more Indonesian than original Turkish like we tried few months back in Istanbul. Never did I find Turkish grills taste like this! Recommended! While waiting for your order to prepare you can lively watch your chefs make fresh Turkish bread and grills name-the-meat on long barbecue grill. For one mix grill, one chicken grill, one portion of rice and one big mango juice it costs us only about 70 QR.
….and we slept like a rock afterward for exhausted and satiated
Coordinate Cypress Garden: 26°13’3″N 50°29’8″E
Coordinate Iskenderun Grills: 26°14’3″N 50°35’48″E