How to Enjoy Bahrain like a Local
How to Enjoy Bahrain like a Local
Its welcoming restaurants and game-changing cafes are renowned for their first-class hospitality - but that's not all the stunning country has to offer
The first revelation about Saffron, a beloved restaurant in the restored Al-Qaisariya Souq in Muharraq, is it doesn’t have a kitchen. As the building dates to 1814, it’s one of the last structures left in the stored bazaar, with timeworn interiors and a low-key entrance squeezed into the retail arcade. That means the menu - from smoked meatballs to rot--rolled mihyawa (otherwise known as fishy bread) - is shuttled from next door. The second surprise the historic Bahraini madbasa, or traditional date juicer, which sits embedded in the floor. It was first discovered when the site was restored.

For the first-time visitor, this snapshot provides an illuminating lesson on the vitality and originality of Bahraini hospitality. There’s more to it, you see, than at first meets the eye. Ask a local and they’ll also tell you to prise it open like an oyster shell, an apt expression for an archipelago once wedded to pearl harvesting.

To get a true taste of Bahraini hospitality, be sure to eat where the locals do. Saffron is a favourite because of its emphasis on all day dishes such as a balaleet, sweet vermicelli noodles with eggs, but Haji Gahewa is equally welcoming. It offers back-to-basics dining, with a menu dictated by what’s already cooking in the kitchen, be it gently spiced biryanis or zesty salads. Come after the call to prayer, and you’ll strike up a conversation at one of its alleyway tables in no time.

The seeds of this culture of hospitality is best exemplified by a trip to one of the country's historic souqs. At Manama’s Bab Al Bahrain Souq, you’ll find a lifetime’s worth of clothes, antiques, gold, pearls, electronics, incense and ahalawa, a moreish tahini and nut sweet. It's a similar vibe farther north at the Muharraq souq. Haggling is an obsession, so once you spark up a conversation, prepare for an assault on the senses from the friendly stall-holders.

As the smiling, joking boat captains will tell you on a walk along the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Pearling Trail, it’s easy to learn a local secret or two. But only if you ask. Strike it lucky, and you’ll be invited to get involved on a scuba diving pearl hunt, for no other reason than they’d love to share their culture with you.

If you’d rather stay dry, immerse yourself in learning about Bahraini culture with a visit to Manama Craft Centre, which ams to preserve traditional handicrafts and foster local creativity. Ceramics and wood can be painted and carved, while lectures and workshops can inspire you to turn the likes of palm leaves into a carefully constructed artwork.

Within just a few days, you’ll realise Bahrain knows how to put on a show. There are hundreds of ways - and opportunities - to experience it, be it through food, shopping or shared community. Seize as many as you can: because embracing Bahraini tradition enriches the here and now.

Whatever you want from a holiday, discover the warmth of Bahrain. Find out what else it has to offer at
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