Bahrain

The Middle East’s only island country is a mesmerising archipelago comprised of 33 islands which sits in the heart of the Arabian Gulf. Evidence of its rich history, which dates back 4,500 years when it was the capital of the powerful Dilmun civilisation, sits alongside impressive 21st century architecture, a Formula 1 Grand Prix track as well as relaxed private beaches.

Manama, the country’s charming capital and main tourist hub, has a variety of attractions including the deservedly popular National Museum, which tells the story of Bahrain’s heritage within a series of majestic halls. Ten minutes drive from central Manama is the Bahrain Fort (Qal’at al-Bahrain), a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is best viewed at sunset when floodlights turn its ancient arches golden.

The country’s second UNESCO World Heritage site is at the ancient capital of Muhurraq, where visitors can embark on a fascinating journey through the country’s pearl trading history and follow in the footsteps of esteemed jewellery designer Jacques Cartier. The site includes a collection of listed buildings including a palace, mosque and opulent merchant’s houses.

While the Grand Prix itself takes place under the stars at the impressive Bahrain International Circuit each March, the BIC is open for business every day and also boasts a karting circuit, perfect for any aspiring Lewis Hamilton’s! Thrill seekers can also head into the desert for some 4x4 dune bashing, discover an array of watersports, join a pearl diving tour or for something more sedate, embark on an Arabian horse riding experience. Alternatively, why not island hop to the family-friendly Al Dar islands, to stunning Jarada Island for a slice of paradise or, to the Hawar Islands where you can watch for dolphins while flamingos stalk through the shallow waters.

The ancient Manama Souq provides an authentic place to shop as hundreds of traders vie for your attention with clothing, spices, handwoven carpets, pearls, gold and exquisite silk prints. Modern day air-conditioned malls also tempt you with designer fashions, accessories and gadgets.

Bahrain also has a thriving foodie and art scene, with trendy Block 338 in Manama at its heart. This easily-strolled quarter is crammed with international restaurants, shops and small boutiques.

Add to this a wide selection of fine hotels, brimming with world-class facilities, distinctive restaurants, friendly hospitality and offering private stretches of pristine sands where you can laze the days away, and Bahrain really does offer all the ingredients for a perfect Middle Eastern holiday.

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