Bahrain, a small island kingdom in the Persian Gulf, is famous for its oil and pearls, and it's also a shopping Mecca for the budget traveler. While the markets of neighboring gulf countries attract the elite, local souks in this archipelago are a paradise for the cosmopolitan middle class. These souks, or commercial areas, house imported luxury products that can be within many budgets, provided you're up for a little bargaining. Travelers can also purchase traditional items including authentic red clay pottery, weaving products, traditional clothes, and baskets. The Bani Jamra and A'ali village are excellent places to buy traditional local items. The Bani Jamra, a village situated in the north west of the island country, is popular for its fabric weaving, and the local weavers sell intricately woven fabric to travelers at an affordable price. The A'ali village in Bahrain is famous for its red-clay pottery. The ancient process of creating Bahraini pottery work is still followed by the local potters in the village.
For those who are looking for a more expensive Bahrain travel souvenir, it's worth visiting the boutiques in the Osama Bin Zaid Road in Manama. It houses some of the best designer outfits, accessories and jewelry. Travelers looking for the best in high-end luxury goods should head straight towards the Moda Mall, which is located in the first floor of the 787-foot Bahrain World Trade Towers in the capital city, while those interested in gold will enjoy wandering through the glittering Gold City in central Manama. Travelers can purchase some of the finest gold bangles and accessories from a variety of gold shops in Central Manama's Gold City.
Besides shopping, there are numerous things to do during vacations in Bahrain. Water sports in the gulf's warm waters are especially popular, and tourists often spend time surfing, scuba diving, and sailing. There are plenty of hotels, and there is also an international 18-hole grass golf course, which is located twenty minutes away from the capital city of Manama. Known as the Royal Golf Club, this par-72 championship course resembles an exotic oasis in the desert plains and features numerous date palms and artificial lakes.
A trip to the nearby Hawar Islands can also be an excellent option for Bahrain holidays. Situated in the Gulf of Bahrain, these islands are home to many endangered wildlife species, including the beautiful flamingos and dolphins frolicking in the calm gulf seas. In 2002, the Hawar Islands were recognized as a World Heritage Site because of its unique habitat for endangered species. Travelers can access this group of sixteen islands by taking a 45-minute boat ride from Bahrain.
An archipelago of more than 30 islands, Bahrain was the first country in the Arabian Gulf to discover "black gold," and it has remained famous for its oil. On October 16, 1931, an oil well was found near the Jebel Dukhan hill, and today there's an oil museum located close to the site. A trip to the oil museum is an excellent way to learn about local history during vacations in Bahrain. The museum exhibits underground rock samples and old drilling equipment, as well as detailed information about companies that helped in the exploration of the oil well. The oil museum attracts thousands of tourists who are keen to know about the history of oil in the Middle East.
Non-Muslims and Westerners are welcome to spend their vacations in Bahrain, and its more Western-friendly tourism industry may feel more comfortable than what is found in other Middle Eastern countries, due to the kingdom's not applying Islamic law to visitors. Compared with other gulf countries, this island kingdom's laws are liberal about social behavior such as drinking alcohol. It is always wise to be respectful, however, and keep in mind that both consuming alcohol in public, and drinking and driving, are illegal and may bring fines or even jail time.
Bahrain travel is most popular during the months of November through March, when the sweltering heat subsides and the cool climate greets travelers. If you have trouble with hot weather, it might be best to avoid visiting between May and September, as the high temperatures and hot sun might hamper your trips to the marketplaces and other areas of interest. Air travel is typically the easiest option to reach the country. The Bahrain International Airport is located outside the capital city in Muharraq and offers flights via Dubai and other destinations. Once in the country, the best Bahrain travel options are taxis, buses, and rental cars. Buses are by far the cheapest option, but however you choose to get around, you're sure to find this archipelago to be an intriguing destination and a fascinating introduction to the Middle East.