Modernity is what constitutes Manama's skyline.
There are holidays in the sun, there are sun-drenched destinations, there are sunny climes, and reliably hot countries, but to date, nothing has come close to experiencing the crushing heat of Bahrain, the Middle East's only island nation. Getting attuned to the temperature was an ongoing process and a traveller's challenge of acclimatizing in a climate of extremes, although largely of the 'upper temperature scale' variety. Manama, the island's capital city, is sure to be any visitor's first port of call in Bahrain, and the city's impressive skyline is an indication of this pocket of wealth, and a desire to establish itself alongside nearby Dubai as a city with historic roots engaged in a dynamic headlong rush towards the future.
Elegant houses in Bahrain suggest how some residents have benefited from the oil boom.
Manama souk is as good as any other place at which to commence a city tour, and this bustling commercial area is where the city's most afforadable purchases can be bargained down to even more affordable prices, with some (window) shopping thrown in at the nearby gold souk and Gold city, depending on your budget. The city's Al Fateh mosque is the largest of its kind in the Middle East, and the Adliya district is a perfect spot for an evening stroll, where a variety of restaurants and craft shops abound, making for a satisfying shopping and / or dining experience. Shopping malls have also proliferated in Manama in recent times, and the city's newest addition, Manama city centre mall is a colossal and impressive offering, replete with 'Wahooo!' indoor water park, another 'cooling down' option if air-conditioned buildings do not quite provide refuge from the outside heat.
Very Arabian-style shopping mall in greater Manama
Relying on public transport in Bahrain is an option so ill-recommended that a rental car will easily provide all your means of getting around the island, which is compact enough to journey around within a couple of days. Dotted around the island are places of interest ranging from the natural (Tree of life) to the man-made (great 'Lost Paradise of Dilmun' water park), but for my money, the truly exhilerating Bahrain experience must surely be a few laps around the go-karting track at Bahrain's International Circuit, the absolute pinnacle of speed-driven experiences appealing to both first-timers, and diehard petrolheads. Given the status of Bahrain as the location of the Middle East's very first 'nodding donkey'-style oil well, an oil museum documents the drilling of oil through the ages, and the oil fields in rural areas are a reminder of how the country's wealth was generated and made it the prosperous nation it is today.
The clock roundabout in the Hoora district of Manama
All in all, this 2-part jaunt around the Middle East felt like an integral part of the travel jigsaw for which pieces are forever being added to the 'work in progress' picture, and whether or not places of this ilk actually appeal to the uninitiated, it cannot be denied that, certainly from my angle, the glut of experiences and along-the-way purchases which the trip came coupled with easily made the whole venture well worth the asking price.