General Bahrain Overview
General Bahrain Overview Reviews
Jun 23, 2007
This particular trip was organised by a hotel group and was over 5-days including a trip to Bahrain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 9 UK based event organisers were invited and all expenses were paid, as we all met for the first time at Heathrow airport and flew over to Bahrain (9 hour flight) with Gulf Air (very comfortable airline).
The oddity of being in such a foreign & alien destination, climate and culture for the first time, was accentuated by the fact that I was with 8 people I had never met before. Shame is, I have lost contact with most of them and we had a whale of a time.
This review won't include any pricing, as it was comlpetely all expenses paid, and I have no idea of what the individual prices were. However, Ritz Carlton is one of the most exclusive hotel chains in the world, and you can easily be paying upwards of £400 per bedroom per night to stay in one!
Bahrain is an island situated off the East Coast of Saudi Arabia, to the north west of Qatar, possibly comparable in size to Jersey. The hotels are of a high standard and the conference facilities are exceptional, particularly at The Gulf Hotel and Le Royal Meridien Beach Hotel & Resort, which are the largest for meeting space on the island and can house up to approximately 700-800 theatre style. The island has an excellent 18-hole golf course with a small restaurant on the 1st floor and a bar / clubhouse on the ground floor. There are also a number of museums with local artefacts and historical data / information, that are very interesting to visit, providing a number of intriguing facts about local history. i recall when the local travel management company took our group to the museum mid afternoon, I was happy to get out of the searing heat as my little bald head was frying under the rays of the sun!
List of companies included in review:
1. Le Royal Meridien Hotel
2. Riffa Golf Club
3. Destination Management Company (DMC) - Bahrain International Travel
Population / Cultural Details:
Bahrain has a population of 620,000 inhabitants, of which about 50% are less than 25 years old. Manama - the capital - is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Gulf, and attracts many western business people and workers from other countries. As a result, nearly 50% of Bahrain's residents are non-Bahrainis or ex-patriots.
The people of Bahrain are very affable, welcoming and hospitable, and are the reason behind why the country is also known as the 'Island of the Golden Smile'.
Bahrain occupies a strategic position on the great trade routes of antiquity, with good harbours and abundant fresh water, and its people have always been natural merchants.
Bahrain was the first place on the Arabian side of The Gulf where oil was discovered. Fortunately for the local economy, the discovery of oil coincided with the collapse of the world pearl market. Since pearling had been the mainstay of Bahrain's economy until that time, oil offset the pearling trade and slipped comfortably into the role as the nation's main economic asset and chief export. Today, Bahrain refines the oil produced by Saudi Arabia. No more pearl necklaces for the locals, just spurting oil !!! hehehehe (Was that one just a little too risqué?!!!) ;-D
Arabic is the official language but English is also widely spoken among the cosmopolitan population. Even Scouse was quite widely spoken due to the number of ex-pats ... we migrate everywhere us lot you know !
The Bahrain Dina is the currency of the Island and was roughly equivalent to £2.00, when I visited in the Island on 08/06/01.
Visa Required - payment on entry into the country (at the airport) -, costing approximately £10.00. A full 10-year passport is required and must be valid for a minimum of 6 months after your planned departure date.
Pros of Destination:
- The Sun / Warmth
- Service: Very high standard
- Easily accessible
- Good incentive destination
- Ample Conference Facilities
Cons of Destination:
- Humidity and Heat
- Cost ~ Although, comparatively speaking, Dubai is very expensive
Bahrain International Airport is located approximately 10-15 minutes by road from the city centre (Manama) and is serviced by British Airways and Gulf Air from Heathrow daily.
Hotel Shuttle buses provide a regular service and also taxis are abundantly available at a reasonable cost.
Bank / Religious Holidays:
Some holidays within the region are not fixed dates and vary from year to year !
I have detailed below what they were in 2001 and 2002 as I did for my work review, as I cannot find any current infromation on the web ... I may be looking in the wrong oplace, but the below will give you some guidance at least;
Eid Al Adha (Sacrifice feast for pilgrimage to Mecca)
04/03/01 - 06/03/01
21/02/02 - 23/02/02
Al-Hijri (Islamic New Year)
Ashoora (Shi'ite days of mourning)
04/04/01 - 05/04/01
24/03/02 - 25/03/02
Prophet Mohammed's Birthday
Lailat Al Miraj (Ascension of Prophet Mohammed)
Ramadan (Holy month of fasting)
16/11/01 - 15/12/01
05/11/02 - 04/12/02
Eid Al Fitr (Feast after Ramadan)
16/12/01 - 18/12/01
05/12/02 - 07/12/02
National Day (Fixed Date)
New Year (Fixed Date)
Typhoid and Hepatitis A are both recommended by your doctor, but not essential if you are staying in first class accommodation. However, it is recommended that you do not drink tap water and keep to drinking water out of bottles.
I recall taking the safe option and having the jabs ... when i went to the doctors and said "Go on then jab me" ... the bastard just kept punching me in the face. I actually had to ask for the typhoid and hepatitis A vaccination!
Weather - High & Low Seasons:
As you may imagine in this part of the world, it becomes very hot and humid at certain times of the year.
August is probably the hottest month of the year and temperatures can climb as high as 45-50 degrees Centigrade (approximately 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit - or to put it another way … bloody hot!!!!). The humidity is also very high and is a wet humidity as opposed to the dry humidity we experience in Britain.
The temperature can drop to between 8-15 degrees Centigrade (approximately 46-60 degrees Fahrenheit) during December, and sometimes a little lower. Poor Arabs ... I really don't know how they cope ! God, or should I say Allah, love them.
Even if your skin type is dark and you have dark hair, I would start on a higher factor sun cream, because it's amazing how quickly the sun burns through to your bones ... yeah ... your bones !
Government / Political Situation:
Bahrain is ruled by the emir, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. He replaced his father Shaikh Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa (try and say that if your drunk … or scouse!!), who died in early 1999. Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa is the Prime Minister, and Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa is the Crown Prince - Confused?!!!!
There is 40-member Consultative Council, which initiates debates, drafts laws and makes recommendations to the government.
Main Hotel Groups Represented:
Hotels / Venues Visited:
1. Le Royal Meridien Bahrain (Now the Ritz Carlton Bahrain)
- Group: Le Meridien (Now Ritz-Carlton)
- Modern 5 Star Deluxe Resort & Conference Hotel conveniently situated 10 minutes drive from the international airport and 6 minutes drive from Manama city centre. It is adjacent to the Bahrain International Exhibition Centre and close to the diplomatic district of Manama. This, along with its excellent conference facilities, makes it ideal for the discerning businessman (or woman).
- 232 standard deluxe and studio rooms and 32 luxury suites. Every room offers satellite TV, direct international dialling, built-in safes, Internet access and a fully stocked mini-bar (though surprisingly easy/quick to empty!!), 24 hour room service. The Royal Club Floor features an exclusive lounge offering complimentary breakfast and cocktails.
- Conference Facilities - Conference centre / Auditorium - accommodates up to 1000 delegates, along with Grand Ballroom and foyer - accommodating up to 1200 delegates and divisible into 4 sections. 3 multi-purpose conference rooms from 20 delegates upward.
- Bars / Restaurants - With 3 bars and 4 restaurants to whet your appetite, every taste is catered for. Enjoy light refreshments in the sunken Tea Lounge; relax in the colonial style surroundings of the Plantation Lounge or amidst the dignified elegance of the Burlington Club. Chefs from all corners of the globe provide a range of culinary delights, from exquisite Italian cuisine in sophisticated surroundings to the finest Mughali dishes in a truly regal setting. Live music will also often entertain guests as they dine or sip drinks.
- Leisure - The hotel has very extensive leisure facilities. The only hotel on the island with a private beach, which is truly magnificent. The Royal Sporting Club offers an indoor swimming pool, fully equipped gymnasium, spa, sauna, and massage facilities. In addition, there is an outdoor pool, bar, tennis court, along with various water sports and beach activities to enjoy.
In fact, I have a story about the outdoor pool ... one of the girls who I was on the trip with suggested that we go skinny dipping at 3am when we (the group) were returning to the hotel after a night out on the tiles ... of course, as I quite liked her, I said yes, but as we were both sneaking off together, we were accosted by the other 7 and had to spend the night in one persons room, telling jokes !! It was a really good bonding session with the whole group, but I was a little gutted I wasn't getting up to no good outside !! hehe
It would have been perfect for such an occasion, and the outdoor pools have secluded areas on the tip on the sea, with landscaped gardens surrounding.
2. Riffa Golf Club Bahrain
- Group: Independent
- 18-Hole Golf Course - The Riffa Golf Club enjoys pride of place among Bahrain's golfing fraternity as the country's first 18-hole Championship golf course.
- Located - just 15 minutes from central Manama, the club is "…a remarkable oasis of luscious fairways and immaculate greens blooming in the arid desert landscape south of historic Riffa.
- Club House - Overlooking the golf course on 3 levels is Riffa's Clubhouse, described as modern Arabic architecture, designed to blend naturally with the contours of the surrounding landscape.
- Meeting & Dining Facilities - The Clubhouse houses an informal spike bar, 'Braids', which serves refreshments and light meals all day and 'Juliano's', a New York Italian restaurant with outdoor terraces serving dinner every evening and lunch on Fridays. On the uppermost level, the Riffa Suite offers an exclusive venue for private functions, meetings and small conferences.
This was actually a very entertaining visit, even though I am not a golfer. We had a quality lunch in the golf club and then ventured out onto the golf course, where each of us was provided with a golf buggy! Now, picture the scene ... we are a group of mostly young English boys and girls, all hung over from a late night out in Bahrain, where none of us have ever been before, and we have all been up until 5am telling jokes in one of the girls' rooms ... and now, we have individually been put in charge of 9 golf buggies on one of the worlds most salubrious and expensive golf courses ! Carnage? Mayhem? .... I can without doubt say that this was one of the most humorous experiences of my life, as we all set off in a line, literally racing one another round the golf course, as puzzled members looked on wondering who all these mad English people were, playing bumper cars with golf buggies and driving one another off the greens and fairways, over quite considerable drops onto the paved walk / driveways !!
3. Bahrain International Travel (DMC)
- A DMC run and operated by 'Christine Metzger', a German national who married a local Muslim and settled down in Bahrain.
- The DMC offers a full service, including finding locations for special meetings / dinners, providing transfers, organising incentives, touring local museums, arranging flights and so on.
- A number of different excursions can be organised for incentive groups or as delegate spouse programmes, such as : 'Magical Capital', 'Culture & Religion', 'Treasure Island', Fascinating Journey Into The Past', 'Desert Miracle', 'Excitement At The Arabian Horse Race'.
What to see & do:
For a relatively small country, Bahrain packs in an amazingly large number of tourist attractions, such as, Oil Museum, Currency Museum, Bahrain National Museum, A'ali Pottery & Burial Mounds, Basket weaving, Saar Settlement, Barbar Temple, Desert Camp, Heritage Festival, Riffa Fort, Dhow Building, Museum of Pearls and Diving, Bahrain Fort, Arad Fort, Shaikh Isa bin Ali House and many more.
In addition to the many places of historic interest, there are an abundance of shops to scour for bargains. Although, it is more of interest to visit the Sukh markets rather than the large purpose built modern shopping centres / malls.
Manama is definitely the place to go clubbing, but Thursday night is the Arabic Saturday night, as Friday is the Muslim day of rest.
Therefore, our group ventured out to a local club on the Thursday evening, which was full of air crews, American and British ex-pats, where we had a wild time. However, on the Friday evening, we ventured out to a different club, and we made the total club attendance up to about 15 on that night !!
In fact, I have a story about Sambuca and Tequila from this trip !! I was dancing with two of the girls, as the rest of the group were getting the drink in and standing around a small circular table. Louise re-joined the group, leaving Jo dancing and me. Once I was a little tired, or disinterested in the music, which had turned from UK funky house to lord only knows what, I returned to the bosom of the group, where some drinks sat on the table winking at me. I saw a brandy glass turned upside down, with a clear thick liquid filling the stem, with a shot of tequila, some salt and a lime sat beside. "Scouse, you have to do the tequila slammer and then snort the Sambuca!" ... "I have to do nothing of the sort I retorted", as Paul rallied "Everyone else has done it you big Jessie !", continuing to the rest of the group... "There's always one wuss isn't there?!" ... Bowing to public pressure, I duly licked the salt, down the tequila, sucked the lemon and proceeded to snorting the Sambuca up my right nostril, as my eye immediately started to twitch and tears streamed down my right cheek ! "Dick head!!" I heard one or two of the guys shout, as the girls howled with laughter!! "What?" I proclaimed .... "Only Paul did it you idiot and he was sick and had an instant nose bleed!" commented Louise .... "Err.... thanks guys!" I retorted.
Anyway, Manama is definitely a place to go for a mad night out in Bahrain, but generally speaking, Thursday is the night to do it !
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!