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Bahrain

Flaga Bahrajnu
Official name: The Kingdom of Bahrain
Population: 1 865 000
Total area: 786 km²

, Bahrain, Compass Travel Guide

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Bahrain – tourist attractions

When I went to Bahrain I didn’t expect it to be so interesting. I believe that Bahrain should not be treated only as a transfer base because that small territory has a lot to offer. In that small area I saw old and modern cities, ancient forts, several nice beaches, desert nature and even a camel farm. The whole of Bahrain is 2.5 times smaller than Riyadh but it kept me busy for 12 days. Besides, Bahrain also doesn’t have such strict Muslim laws as Saudi Arabia. There are no megaphones on mosques, women don’t cover their faces, and people can drink alcohol and dance; but in moderation. (By the way, I asked an Arab from Saudi if he liked Bahrain. He said no because they dance and get drunk. Of course it’s not true but this opinion shows the differences in the neighbouring countries of the Arabian Peninsula.)

Bahrain cities

When it comes to the cities of Bahrain, the most notable is the capital Manama. I believe that a traveller should spend the most of his time at the old Arabian bazaar, the entrance of which is the Bab Al Bahrain. Getting off at the small Manama bus station on one side is a traditional bazaar and on the other side of the street there was a promenade by the sea called King Faisal Corniche. There were several impressive buildings, palm trees by the sea and wooden fishing boats, which I think that despite the modernity they wonderfully refer to the history of Bahrain. From this promenade one can see one of the symbols of Bahrain, which is the sharp twin skyscraper Bahrain WTC. This is the heart and soul of Manama, although there are also several other impressive buildings nearby, with pictures of the Royal Family of Bahrain.

The former capital of Bahrain, Muharraq was also interesting. The center is only one street, although in 2022 I saw that historic buildings were undergoing a major renovation there. Within a few kilometers from the Muharraq bus station there are three places worth seeing. Coming from Manama I first went to the Beit Al Quran museum, where for the first time since my trip to Persia I again saw decorated copies of Korans from the centuries ago. On the way to Muharraq one cannot miss the Bahrain National Museum, which is interesting inside and very impressive from the outside. A few kilometers from the museum is Bahrain’s largest mosque, Al Fateh. I believe that it is an architecturally and culturally attractive place.

Bahrain Manama.

Bahrain, Manama. In the photo an immigrant from Pakistan and the twin skyscraper Bahrain WTC.

As for other cities I wouldn’t call them cities but small settlements where travellers go to see something interesting that is nearby. Such places are for example Riffa where there is a spectacular fort, and Budaiya with its nearby beach. There is also Isa Town where I saw a football stadium but in my opinion it is just a convenient transfer base with a street bazaar. On the way back to Saudi Arabia I also saw the settlement of Al Jasra, near the King Fahad bridge. There is an interesting historical area called Al Jasra House and greenhouses with vegetables.

Bahrain forts and tombs

The big advantage of Bahrain are its forts. The most impressive fort is the fortified Bahrain Fort, with large towers, stone arches and a trench all around. Qal’at al-Bahrain is a 16th-century Portuguese fort, which is the oldest military structure in the Kingdom of Bahrain and today it is also an archaeological centre. I also really enjoyed the Riffa Fort (official name: Sheikh Salman bin Ahmed Fort). There is also a great Arad Fort close to the airport, which I think you should see first, right after landing. Also, from the Bahrain museum I took a boat to the small Bu Maher fort.

There is more history in Bahrain beside forts. I’m talking about the Dilmun, Sar and Janabiya tombs, some of which are over 4,000 years old. The largest ones however are in Aali town and are of course in the colour of the desert. Aali is interesting because the tombs are located in the town and they are large.

Beaches and nature of Bahrain

I think that the very well-kept Al Jazair beach is the best. Also in the same area there is Al Arin Nature Park and nearby the Formula 1 race track. I also really enjoyed Budaiya Beach, easily accessible from Manama. There is also an unattractive and littered Karbabad beach near Fort Bahrain, which is however a good place for picnics after dark. I also took the trouble to see Malqiya beach. There are many beaches throughout Bahrain, although I divide them into swimming beaches, fishing beaches and beaches for picnics where bars always open after dark. In addition, Bahrain also has a few islands, such as Al Dar, and the more distant Hawar islands with colonies of flamingos.

Muharraq, Bahrain.

The bay from the side of Muharraq, with a mosque and boats, and Manama in the distance. Bahrain.

I think you should also see the Janabiya camel farm. There you can enjoy their company alone, and a little further there are picturesque fields and palm trees that are taken care of by employees from Bangladesh. There is also a small zoo in Bahrain but I think it’s depressing. The camel farm is better.

Be sure to also see the enigmatic Tree of Life, which is located in the oil fields in the desert.

Don’t miss the short text at the end of this article: “Additional Note for the Author”, I plan to add them to each country’s page.

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Bahrajn – the current times

Economy of Bahrain

The World Bank has recognized Bahrain as a high-income economy, while the Economic Freedom Index ranks this small country fourth in the Middle East. Despite many attempts to diversify Bahrain’s economy, oil and natural gas still play a dominant role in the country’s revenues. According to the CIA World Fact Book: Oil still accounts for 85% of Bahrain’s budget revenues. In addition this very small desert country also has industries such as aluminium smelting, iron granulation, fertilizer production and ship repair.

Since the end of the 20th century, Bahrain has also invested huge amounts of money in tourism. I think that the pride of this investment is certainly the national airline Gulf Air, which makes Manama a frequent stopover point in the Middle East. Bahrain International Airport is one of the busiest in the Persian Gulf. (By the way, on my first trip to Asia in 2004, I flew with Gulf Air). For such a small country, I believe that Bahrain is very attractive for tourists, as I discussed in the chapter above.

Another branch of Bahrain’s national income is the banking sector, which was even named the fastest growing financial centre by the City of London. Bahrain is also one of the leaders in Islamic banking, what means banking and financial activities that comply with Sharia. Bahrain’s banking activities also include insurance; and off shore accounts, i.e. tax havens that allow for free investments and income for people with ambition and imagination. These are foreign accounts that the tax offices in the country of residence should not be interested in!

The showcase of Bahrain’s financial centre is the modern city of Manama, with its tall and uniquely designed skyscrapers covered with glass. The pride of Bahrain’s financial strength is also its national currency, the Bahraini dinar, which is the second most expensive currency in the world after the Kuwaiti dinar.

Bahrain is a very small but economically powerful country, with a small population but very rich natural resources. For this reason, there are no income or sales taxes in Bahrain, and no capital gains or estate taxes. So if an average person wants to work in Bahrain, they take their entire salary home. It is true that there is VAT, which was previously 5% and from 2022 it is 10%. Still, this is nothing compared to Poland where the state destroys entrepreneurial people.

In limited circumstances, taxes in Bahrain are levied on local and foreign companies that operate in the oil and gas sector or profit from the extraction or refining of fossil fuels. However, I don’t think that a poor immigrant worker from India, Bangladesh or Pakistan should worry about this.

To better understand the economy of Bahrain, it is necessary to take into account the fact that it is a desert located on oil and gas deposits. Only 3% of Bahrain’s territory is suitable for cultivation, so agriculture is of marginal importance for GDP. Despite this, the Bahraini government encourages the cultivation of citrus trees, bananas, mangoes, tomatoes, and of course dates. In Bahrain Arabs also raise poultry and cattle, but in very small numbers. Most products are imported.

Fishing is closely related to Bahraini culture, but the government has limited fishing due to nature conservation. Traditionally 200 species of fish swim in Bahrain’s territorial waters, although there are also crabs and shrimps. Before the age of oil most men in Bahrain engaged in fishing and pearl mining. However, oil and gas extraction has become such a breakthrough that Bahrain’s economy has been dominated by the mining industry, and only recently has the government been trying to diversify the economy.

In 2022 Bahrain’s GDP was $44.3 billion and is growing steadily, with a population of less than 1.5 million. Inflation is not even 1%, which, given high salaries, means a high standard of living and good prospects for the future.

Oil fields in Bahrain.

Oil fields in Bahrain.

World Economics reassessed Bahrain’s GDP, adjusting for any base year, age and size of the informal economy, to estimate PPP GDP at $107 billion – 37% higher than official estimates. Bahrain’s population is estimated at 1.5 million, giving a PPP GDP per capita of $72,164. (Source: https://www.worldeconomics.com/)
Inflation in Bahrain in 2024 was 1.2% but in 2021 it was only 0.61% (Source: https://www.macrotrends.net/)

Education in Bahrain

Bahrain has a well-developed educational system and the oldest on the Arabian Peninsula. The first public school for boys was founded in 1919. Education is free for boys and girls at primary and secondary levels, and compulsory for ages 6-14. In Bahrain, there are not only state schools but also many private ones, adapted to every budget.

Bahrain also has a high level of literacy, which is almost 96%. What I think is important in Muslim countries is that Bahrain also has the highest level of literacy among women in the Arabian Peninsula, which is 93.5%. The share of boys and girls in primary and secondary schools is slightly higher among boys, but this is a very small difference. Approximately 25% of students continue their studies at higher education level, with the majority of them being women.

Despite the many successes Bahrain undoubtedly has, there are also many problems. According to UNICEF, only 65% ​​of migrant children are enrolled in schools, compared to 98% of Arab children in Bahrain. I am not saying that it is Bahrain’s fault. From my experience in England, I know that many displaced people from more primitive parts of the world are not interested in learning. Private schools are better but also expensive. Some people believe that the problem in Bahrain is the low resources of teaching aids and the level of teacher training. Perhaps this is true, but this problem is common in many countries, and Bahrain fares very well among them.

There is also a small difference in dropping out of school among children who live in cities and those who live in remote areas. According to the World Bank, school dropout among urban children is 9.4% and among rural children is 6.8%.

Just a few decades ago, education in Bahrain was based only on teaching the Koran, but today Bahrain prepares its society to study in many practical fields and also has regular student exchanges with the USA. Despite a good educational system, only over 30% of women work. In comparison, men make up 85% of the workforce.

Bahrain has opened many higher education institutions, public and private. For example, the University of Applied Sciences in Bahrain offers studies in many fields in English, which until recently was much cheaper than studies in the USA or UK. However, Bahrain does not have the prestige that Western countries have, although I have increasing doubts about the quality of science in the USA and Europe. There is a big difference between education and the Marxist indoctrination with which British and American universities are literally infested. Bahrain is not fighting its own culture either.

As for the level of literacy I have no doubt that it would be 100%, but Bahrain, as an economically well-developed country has a very large number of economic immigrants, mainly from the Indian Subcontinent and less from Africa, where the level of education is very low.

Health system in Bahrain

Bahrain has a well-organized health system. There are as many as 22 hospitals in this small country and the health system is comparable or perhaps even better than in the UK. Health care is free for Bahraini citizens in government hospitals and health centres in all provinces, while for non-Bahrainis, treatment is also available but for a nominal fee. Travelers can, of course, purchase health insurance, but due to the high level of service, it is not even needed. The situation is different in Saudi Arabia, where health insurance is a condition for obtaining a tourist visa.

Medical centers are advanced, equipped with modern technology, a sufficiently large budget and a sufficiently large number of medical staff to match the number of inhabitants. Bahrain is easy to navigate due to its small territory and therefore the ambulance will definitely arrive on time. The situation is different in larger countries which also have good and high-quality health services, but in further regions it does not always guarantee that the ambulance will arrive quickly enough. An example of this is Oman.

The Royal family of Bahrain.

The nice guys. The Royal family of Bahrain.

However, the health system in Bahrain has some challenges, although in my opinion, in the case of Bahrain, the news is not always bad and I believe that this small, rich country will definitely cope. The population in Bahrain is growing, there are many young people and many older people, which requires programs aimed at these groups. The main health problems in Bahrain are obesity, diabetes, cancer, tooth decay and heart disease. Many of these problems could be significantly reduced by lifestyle changes.

Bahraini culture

Bahrain is a Muslim country and many laws, regulations and customs are based on Islam. Bahrain was one of the first countries in the world to convert to Islam, back in 628. Bahrain’s constitution states that Islam is the official religion and Sharia (Islamic law) is the main source of legislation. The largest mosque in Bahrain is the Al Fateh Mosque, which in my opinion is architecturally attractive and an interesting cultural experience. I had good contact with people there.

According to the World Religions Database from 2020: 85% of Bahraini are Muslims, of which 70% are Sunites and about 15% are Shiites. The remaining 15% are mainly Christians, but also Hindus and others. The official language is Arabic, although English is widely spoken. About 100,000 people also speak Farsi.

When it comes to family life, it is very traditional and based on the Quran. Families are maintained mainly by men, many generations often live together, and children only leave home when they get married. I describe the people of Bahrain as people of the desert whose culture is based on Islam.

In the section on economics, I mentioned fishing, which was the main source of income before the discovery of oil. Today, as the oil age dominates Bahrain’s economy, local Arabs still enjoy fishing. While walking on the bridge between Manama and Muharraq, I saw traditional Arab fishing boats that people sail for pleasure. Near Portuguese ports I also saw the same traditional boats displayed to emphasize national traditions. I saw exactly the same thing in Kuwait.

A popular food in Bahrain, apart from kebabs, is kabza. Kabza comes from the Arabian Peninsula, but in my opinion it is Pakistani biryani under a different name. Kabza is spicy rice with meat (chicken, lamb, fish) enriched with spices such as cloves, cinnamon and lime. After my 2-month trip through Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait, I was already fed up with cabbage. Anyone who has traveled to Lebanon has had enough of falafel, and anyone who has traveled to North Africa has had enough of cous cous for life. To sum up, kabza is very good, but only once a week.
Karak coffee and tea are also very popular in Bahrain.

Bahraini music is based on the folk traditions of the Persian Gulf. As in Kuwait, Bahrain is known for sawt music, a blues genre drawing from Indian and Persian music.

As in most countries, the most popular sport in Bahrain is football. However, as a traveller, I am more interested in local sports and traditions, not global ones. In many Arab countries, including Bahrain, camel and horse racing are popular. Camels are closely associated with Arab culture. I advise white travelers to also become interested in falconry, which has been popular on the Arabian Peninsula since the 7th century BC. Falconry used to be a way of hunting for Arabs, but today it is a popular sport of the elite and a symbol of social status.

Freedom of speech in Bahrain

In theory, freedom of press and speech in Bahrain is unlimited, but in practice it does not exist. The best proof of this is the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain on freedom of expression, press and communication. Please read the following articles carefully, which in my opinion make it clear that they can be interpreted in any way that officials wish.

Article 23 states that citizens “may freely express and publish their opinions, provided that they do not violate the fundamental values ​​of Islam or the unity of the country and do not give rise to sectarianism or national and ethnic distinctiveness.” This article means that you have to agree with Islam. Nevertheless, Bibles are legal in Bahrain and can be purchased in bookstores.

However, when it comes to sectarianism and violating national and ethnic distinctiveness, I agree with this law because, in my opinion, every country should develop a defence mechanism that will guarantee its national and religious distinctiveness.

View of a street in Bahrain far from Manama.

View of a street in Bahrain far from Manama.

Article 24 states that “freedom of the press, printing and publishing is guaranteed” – (but what if these guarantees do not meet the conditions of Article 23?)

Article 26 assumes that “freedom to use postal correspondence, telegraph and telephone is guaranteed and their secrecy will be maintained. Correspondence will not be censored and its secrets will not be disclosed, except in cases provided for by law” – (i.e. we are back to Article 23.)

In practice, however, all anti-government sentiments are brutally suppressed and activists and journalists are sentenced to death and beaten. Even doctors and nurses who helped beaten protesters were sent to prison. Many newspapers self-censor out of fear for their lives, to such an extent that a photographer who took photos at an anti-government demonstration was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Bahraini government also has absolute control over the internet and every website owner must register their business with the Information Authority. Every Internet service provider is controlled by the Telecommunications Office under the pretext of helping to protect intellectual property.

In Bahrain, you can go to prison for 5 years for criticizing Islam or criticizing the king, under the pretext of violating internal security or changing the government. Things are so bad in Bahrain that if someone disagrees with the government, they are sentenced to death in scripted court cases. However, if someone is innocent but the government wants him to be guilty, then the accused may be tortured into confessing and then sentenced to death. However, the situation is improving significantly and I do not think that it is an extreme situation in Bahrain.
– (Note! This is the case all over the world, including the so-called ‘democratic countries’, but some states keep the number of deaths secret and others don’t.)

For a country where in theory you can say whatever you want, out of 180 countries and regions Bahrain is in the red zone, in a well-deserved 173rd place. According to the ranking by Reporters Without Borders, even Saudi Arabia and Yemen rank better. North Korea is in 177th place, so very close.

Environmental threats in Bahrain

Like every desert country on the Arabian Peninsula, the Kingdom of Bahrain is a water-poor country. It is an archipelago consisting of over 36 islands, shallows and small islets located in the west-central part of the Persian Gulf. In Bahrain, annual rainfall averages 72 millimeters (2.8 in), and only in the winter months, which are very hot for Poles anyway. There are no permanent rivers or even streams on any of the islands.

There is only 3m³ of renewable groundwater per capita, compared to the global average of 6,000m³ per capita. The growing population combined with high demand for drinking water has led to the gradual depletion of groundwater sources.

Bahrain is therefore doomed to import water, even though seawater desalination is very popular and, unfortunately, environmentally degrading. The impact of brine and other waste products generated from it on the marine ecosystem is unfortunately very destructive, resulting in the mortality and extinction of marine organisms. Additionally, oil spills cause further coastal degradation.

Bahrain’s rapid development and economic expansion in the coastal zone have increased pressure on the marine environment, but especially on coral reefs, which are on the verge of extinction. On the coast of Bahrain, there has also been intensive sand dredging and reclamation of coastal zones.

Bahrain’s huge ecological problems include the constant desertification of arable land, which covers only 3% of the territory. Of course, in the hot desert climate there are also droughts and sandstorms. In Bahrain, there are land reclamation projects to control desertification and the use of organic fertilizers. Disposing of industrial waste is also a challenge.

Formula 1 race track in Bahrain.

Formula 1 race track in Bahrain.

I recommend to the king of Bahrain to plant forests and fruit orchards in the desert, which provide greater success in the desert climate. He has money so he could import the best soil, build an irrigation system and implement this project. I had previously seen fruit orchards and vegetable fields in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia. There are such projects in every Arab country, but in my opinion, on a too small scale.

History of Bahrain

The history of Bahrain dates back to ancient times and it was the main city of the Dilmun civilization. Numerous excavations and historical evidence prove that the strategically located Bahrain has always been on a trade route and a sea transit point between the East and the West. Such a small country has only recently become independent because over the course of history, its commercial popularity has also resulted in numerous occupations. As one of the most popular ports in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain was controlled by Arabs, Parsis, Babylonians, Assyrians, Sumerians, Portuguese, Turks and British.

Bahrain was a bridge connecting civilizations such as ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. Larger, stronger, aggressive civilizations fought with each other for influence over this small archipelago of islands in the Persian Gulf, which is today Bahrain. The Kingdom of Bahrain was called, among others, the “Land of Immortality” and the “Great Paradise”, due to its sources of drinking water, palm fields, fishing and pearl mining. However, taking into account the numerous wars and occupations, how else would I add the name “Archipelago of Blood”.

The key cultural role that has shaped Bahrain for centuries has been Islam. Bahrain was one of the first areas on the Arabian Peninsula to be influenced by Islam as early as 628, i.e. during the lifetime of Muhammad. Of course, the so-called The ‘religion of peace’ was not introduced to Bahrain peacefully but through the Arab conquests that began in the 7th century. From then on, Bahrain was Arab and Muslim, and if anyone had a different opinion, he said goodbye to his life.

Although the Arabs had a huge influence on Bahrain, Allah was not always on their side. After a period of Arab rule, Bahrain was ruled by the Portuguese Empire from 1521 to 1602. A remnant of the Portuguese rule is the popular tourist attraction Bahrain Fort, built in the 16th century. Although Portugal occupied the islands of Bahrain in 1521, there were many other attempts to gain control of the territory at that time. The Ottoman Turks also tried, unsuccessfully, to take control of Bahrain in 1559.

(Despite their defeat, the Ottomans managed to annex Al-Ahsa to their empire in 1550. Today Al-Ahsa belongs to Saudi Arabia, but historically it was part of Bahrain. Al-Ahsa is popular today as an oasis of 2.5 million date palms, which produces about 100,000 tons dates per year. In the 16th century it didn’t matter, but Al-Ahsa is also home to the largest oil fields in the world.)

Then, after a period of Portuguese rule, they were replaced by Persians. The Portuguese were expelled by Shah Abbas the Great from the Safavids of Iran, who ruled Bahrain from 1602–1783. However, in 1717, Bahrain was attacked by the Empire of Oman, which took over the area for only a few years, until 1725. Then, after years of chaos, numerous conquests, fighting for influence and the wealth of the region, Persia again took control of Bahrain in 1737. From then on At that time, Persia controlled Bahrain until 1783, when the current Al-Khalifa dynasty came to power through another invasion of Bahrain.

(The history of Iran’s rule over Bahrain, however, did not begin in the 17th century. From the 6th to the 3rd century BC, Bahrain was a key part of the Persian Empire ruled by the Achaemenid dynasty, and from the 3rd century BC until the 7th century, two other Persian dynasties ruled Bahrain: the Parthians and the Sassanids.) then, in the 7th century, Bahrain was conquered by the Arabs and introduced Islam.)

It should be noted that such an extremely inhospitable area as the Arabian Peninsula was difficult to control. Before the discovery of oil and with limited technology, great empires had no interest in conquering the hot desert inhabited by several Bedouin tribes. It was only profitable to conquer areas near the seas, take control of ports and pearl mining, as well as trade in African slaves. (Yes, Arabs have an extensive history of African slavery but in the times of ‘white guilt’ we only hear about European colonization of Africa). Expeditions deep into the hot desert would quickly prove to be a slow death.

Meanwhile Omanis and Wahhabis made various attempts to occupy Bahrain until 1828 and even briefly controlled Bahrain during these years. Once again, the Persians and Turkish Ottomans also filed claims against Bahrain, but to no avail. Then in 1820 and 1861 Great Britain signed peace treaties with Bahrain to protect the archipelago from external enemies, but in practice this meant that Bahrain became a British protectorate. However, Great Britain still officially recognized the Al-Khalifa dynasty as the rulers of Bahrain.

Arab woman in traditional costume. Bahrain.

Arab woman in traditional costume. Bahrain.

In 1867, war broke out between Qatar and Bahrain, resulting in British intervention and Qatar’s independence from Bahrain. The British appointed a new ruler from the Al Khalifa dynasty, Isa bin Ali. During Isa’s reign (1869–1923) there were no external challenges to Bahrain because it was defended by Great Britain. (To this day, relations between Qatar and Bahrain are rough for many reasons.)
The Ottoman Empire was also forced to accept British sovereignty over Bahrain through a treaty in 1913.

Bahrain gained independence from Great Britain in 1971. The king has become the supreme authority and members of the Sunni ruling family hold major political and military positions. In 2002, Bahrain, previously an emirate, was declared a constitutional monarchy and legislation was based on Sharia law.

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When writing about Bahrain, I thought that I would summarize my publication in just a few sentences because Bahrain is only a small archipelago of islands. Even though I kept it to a minimum, it turned out that I still had a lot to say. I believe that tourism, current times and the history of Bahrain should be related to the affairs of the entire Arabian Peninsula, and I recommend traveling to all its countries. I understand that there are more attractive and entertaining places than the hot desert inhabited by Arabs, but still, it is an interesting experience. This region also has a lot to offer.

Additional Note from the Author

When writing about economics, education, freedom of speech, social problems, culture, religion or political affairs in the countries I have visited, I do not exalt or justify European countries or other countries belonging to the Western civilization. Regardless of the political system and culture of countries, all governments are united by hypocrisy, greed and the desire to take complete power over people. It is always the same wherever I go. People in distant corners of the world complain about their governments and think that I came from the country of “freedom, democracy and prosperity”. In the so-called “democratic countries” people do not matter. All that matters is a narrow international elite that tailors education, freedom of speech, culture and the promotion of social problems to their own advantage. Through their power over global finance they control our governments and infiltrate key organizations in countries, and through their control of the media they shape public opinion. Figureheads in high positions have power over the smallest aspects of our lives.

We are all deceived, no matter what race or culture we are. Tragically however, based on my observation I came to the conclusion that most people are too immersed in the prose of life, too simple and too destroyed by propaganda to be able to cope with the truth. Many people don’t care about the truth either. A lie is sweet, the truth is bitter. When the belly is full and crude entertainment is provided, the truth could shatter a false sense of security. Others however, those more intelligent and interested in the world live in fear of: an Islamic or Zionist regime, a communist or fascist dictatorship, or a liberal-democratic totalitarianism where patriotism is illegal. Each of these systems requires victims, and where there are no problems and enemies, a given regime will create them itself.

Travel does educate but I’ve noticed that those who don’t travel have problems understanding people educated by travel experiences, because they consider distant countries, their cultures and customs through the prism of their own. Those who think that we are all equal are inspired by communism but they don’t understand it. If at least 10% of my readers can understand what I’m talking about, there is hope.

Map

Location

, Bahrain, Compass Travel Guide

Practical information

Tourist Visa: I got my tourist visa at the land border crossing from Saudi Arabia, at the King Fahad Bridge. I paid 5 BD ($14) for a single entry tourist visa and it allowed me to stay for 30 days.

If someone would like to stay in this very small country longer or make it a base for traveling around the Arabian Peninsula, Bahrain also grants multi-entry tourist visas for only 12 BD ($32). However, it is important to remember that in this case, although the visa is valid for 3 months, one can only stay in the kingdom for 30 days.

If someone wanted to get a visa to Bahrain before the flight from Europe, that’s also possible, although I can’t see the point in it. Then you must enter Bahrain within 30 days from obtaining the visa. A tourist visa can be extended at the immigration office.

Safety: Bahrain is safe for tourists. In my opinion people are helpful, peaceful and like to do business. Many times I experienced kindness of Arabs who like guests from Europe. As everywhere in the Arabian Peninsula there are a lot of workers from the Indian Subcontinent and the Philippines. I never encountered any signs of aggression, although one Indian lost his patience with me and I almost lost mine. . . In my experience Bahrain is safe.

On the other hand, according to information from the governments of Bahrain and the United Kingdom there is a terrorist threat in Bahrain. I didn’t experience it but according to these and many other sources terrorists attack government buildings, police and security forces. As you might expect the attacks are unexpected, but don’t get obsessed. I was in Bahrain for 12 days, it was very safe and I enjoyed it very much. There were no attacks in 2019 but there were in 2020. The Bahraini authorities have caught and tried many terrorists. In my opinion, this is an occasional threat.

One such terrorist group is ‘Beygada Al-Ashtar’ linked to Iran, which among other things plants explosives. Some sources say that Al-Ashtar also attacks hotels, bazaars, bus stations and places visited by tourists; but I don’t believe it. In my opinion this is a dirty and bloody political game between Iran and the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, but specifically against Saudi Arabia. I believe that although terrorist organizations operated in Bahrain, the Western propaganda tries to make Iran look as disgusting as possible.

The security services and police in Bahrain so not sleep. Once I was detained because I took a picture of the embassy and another time because I photographed the palace of the Royal Family. My reason was that they were very impressive buildings and I didn’t even know what I took photos of, until the police explained it to me.

In my opinion the biggest danger in Bahrain is the heat, especially in summer, as it can lead to dehydration and stroke. No terrorist has killed as many people as the hot Arab climate. I wish all a nice trip.

Moving around the country: Public transport has that advantage that it exists but it does not work with tourism in mind. In Bahrain there is a network of buses that can quickly and cheaply get to certain places of interest, but not many. The buses are slow and drive around. The most reliable, fastest and also fairly priced are taxis.

Considering that the traveller’s base is Manama, near the historic Bab Al Bahrain, it is worth discussing transport from this place. Unfortunately from Manama you cannot get by bus to such important places as: Bahrain Fort, Al Jazair Beach, Riffa, Arad Fort, ports to the islands or the Tree of Life. To all these and many other beautiful places you need to organize your own transport, and if there is no taxi,you have to stand on the road and count on hitchhiking.

There are also places like the Janabiya camel farm. It is possible to get close to the farm by bus from Manama on the way to Isa Town, but it’s a long drive and a waste of time to search for it. Better by taxi. Isa Town is a transfer base in Bahrain and from there one can also get to Hamad Town – not far from the Formula 1 race track. From Manama, on the way back to Saudi Arabia one can also get to the very attractive town of Al Jasra, but again the passenger feels as if he was travelling from Poland to Germany via Hungary. I think that I experienced the biggest disappointment when it turned out that there was no bus from Manama to Bahrain Fort.

Bahrain Fort.

Bahrain Fort and its stylish arches.

It’s not quite that bad, although even this is not much of a consolation. From the Manama bus station I recommend mainly 2 directions which are direct and fast: to the former capital of Bahrain Muharraq and to the pleasant town of Budaiya where there is also a nice beach. After arriving in Bahrain I bought a Go Card, which is a magnetic bus card. It pays off a lot. The card itself costs 500 fils, travel is cheaper than single tickets, and you can’t spend more than 700 fils in one day because there is a cap. There is also a 7-day ticket for 3 BD and a monthly ticket for 12 BD. The buses are clean and air-conditioned. Find out more at https://bahrainbus.bh/en.

For comparison I paid 2 BD for a taxi from Manama to Fort Bahrain or to Muharraq. For further destinations such as to Formula 1 or to the Tree of Life, taxi drivers want even 10 BD. Quite a lot if someone travels on a budget. I have very nice memories of hitchhiking thanks to which I also discovered many other places along the way.

There are also boats to the islands on certain days and times. For example I got to the Dar island for 6 dinars both ways.

Prices: (as of 2022 when 1 BD = £2.14) The Bahraini dinar is the second most expensive currency in the world, only slightly behind the Kuwaiti dinar. As in the case of Kuwait, the same in Bahrain, the highest note is only 20 dinars, while the lowest denomination is 0.5 dinars. In Bahrain, 1 dinar is divided into 1000 fils.

At the entrance to Bahrain I already noticed that there was a very convenient relationship between the Bahrain dinar and the Saudi riyal, which is about removing one zero. At the border I paid 5 dinars for the visa but I could have paid 50 riyals instead. On this small island there is regular traffic between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and that’s why sometimes when paying for a hotel or a taxi I paid either one or the other currency or a bit of both. They give change the same way. When I paid 10 dinars I paid 7 dinars and 30 riyals.

Although the Bahraini currency is slightly cheaper than the Kuwaiti currency, hotels in Bahrain are twice cheaper. In Kuwait I haggled 20 dinars for the cheapest hotel, while in Bahrain I paid 8-10 dinars. I would therefore compare hotel prices in Bahrain to those in Saudi Arabia. Hotel prices is always the biggest cost so it is important. Several times I also slept in a tent for free, with camels in the desert.

Food in Bahrain is cheap … as for the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Depending on the mea it can be from 1-4 dinars. For example glilled skewers with Arabic bread, hummus and a drink in Budaiya cost me 3.5 BD. I discussed the transport prices in detail above, in the section: moving around the country.

Climate: Bahrain has a dry desert climate, mild in winter but very hot in summer. In my opinion there are two main seasons in Bahrain: summer (hot dry) and winter (cooler but still warm and more humid). In summer temperatures in Bahrain range from 36°C-40°C, although once over 47°C was recorded. During the winter period, from December to February, temperatures are much more pleasant and wetter. With great luck the temperature in winter varies between 10°C-15°C but can reach almost 30°C.

In Bahrain the sun shines all year round and the sea is very warm most of the year. Annual rainfall is only 172mm, most of it in the winter. About 92% of Bahrain is covered with desert and there isn’t even one river, although there are valleys that temporarily fill with water after rainfall in the winter season.

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