Manama became the capital city of Bahrain in 1971, and since then its thriving economy, events, and attractions have drawn numerous expatriates and travelers. When roughly translated in English, the city's name means "sleeping place" and there are plenty of fine hotels in Bahrain, but due to its excellent nightlife and late-night shopping opportunities, Manama Bahrain might be better known as a city that never sleeps.
Travel to Manama provides unique shopping experiences, and the Bab Al Bahrain's souk, or market, area in Manama Bahrain is well-known for its cheap stalls selling traditional clothes, spices, fruits, and souvenirs. Travelers can also buy gold ornaments and pearls at reasonable prices. Situated in the city's central business district, Bab Al Bahrain means Gate of Bahrain; it was built in the mid-1940s and refurbished in 1986 to include Islamic architecture features such as minarets and arches. Today, the huge arch of the monument is the entrance to the Manama souk.
There are several attractions in Bahrain that never go unnoticed, even by first-time visitors, and the enigmatic Tree of Life is one such sight. The Tree of Life in Bahrain is a more than 100-year-old mesquite (Prosopis cineraria) located approximately one mile away from Jebel Dukhan. Known as the Sharajat-al-Hayat in Arabic, the Tree of Life is considered a natural wonder by botanists, as it is located in the middle of a barren desert with no clear source of water. Perched on top of a 25-foot hill, the tree looks like a tiny green spot in the expansive white desert of Bahrain.
The 32-foot tree survives heat, dust storms, and drought, but it never withers and continues to grow despite the difficult climate. Scientists assert that the Tree of Life in Bahrain is over 100 years old, but the Arabs believe it to be more than 1,500 years old. One local legend says that the site where the tree stands today was once the biblical Garden of Eden, while some Bedouins believe that the Tree of Life is blessed by the mythical Enki, God of Water, and that's why it flourishes. Whatever the cause may be, the Tree of Life in Bahrain attracts thousands of visitors who marvel at its exceptional survival abilities.
The National Museum of Bahrain is another must-see attraction to add to your Manama vacation itinerary. A treasure trove of ancient Bahraini artifacts and archaeological finds, the national museum is one of the oldest museums in the country. Located near the King Faisal Highway in Manama, the museum boasts remnants of the ancient Dilmun civilization; rare Babylonian, Assyrian, and Sumerian inscriptions' and an array of Bahraini crafts, paintings, ceramics, and exquisite illustrated Qurans. History buffs are sure to love strolling around the 290,000-square-foot complex consisting of nine galleries, a gift shop, a cafeteria, and an educational hall. Travelers will also enjoy the museum's Natural History Hall, which features rare specimens of the country's flora and fauna. Other exhibits include a Documents and Manuscripts Hall that houses rare astronomical and historical notes, ancient Quranic manuscripts, and other antiquities.
If you're interested in learning more about the history of Bahrain when you travel to Manama, it's well worth visiting the Museum of Pearl Diving, which displays the country's pearl diving heritage and exhibits traditional costumes and games, musical instruments, and ancient weapons. The building was established in the late 1930s as an important center for the Bahrain Judiciary and was transformed into a museum in the mid-1980s.
Manama is the capital of a relatively small archipelago, so getting around within the city won't be difficult. Travelers can get around Manama Bahrain by hiring a taxi service or renting a car, and they can also seek out the local bus services after landing at the Bahrain International Airport. Travel to Manama using bus services is far cheaper than renting a car or a taxi, so if you're traveling on a budget, it's a great way to save money for attractions and tours during your vacation to the Middle East.