Manama - Abbey Travel, Ireland


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Welcome to Manama


First mentioned in Islamic chronicles in the year 1345, historical Manama is now the capital and largest city of Bahrain, at the north-eastern tip of the Persian Gulf island state. There is a strong colonial influence in the area, with Portuguese occupation in 1521 followed by Persian dominance in 1602. This lovely city is a great base from which to enjoy the stunning beaches, buildings and sites in the area. The economy of Manama was traditionally based on pearling, fishing, boat building and trade, displays of which can now be seen in local museums. In 1932 the discovery of petroleum boosted the city's economy, which has recently diversified into tourism and retail. Declared a free port in 1958, the facilities of the Mînâ Salmân port, in the al-Qulayah Inlet, have also aided economic growth and provided more access to tourists. Open-minded and tolerant of other cultures, Manama is visited by a large number of foreigners each year. These visitors can enjoy a vast array of attractions, from souks (markets) and shopping malls to forts and pearl museums, as well as the friendly nature of the locals. There is also an active nightlife with many popular restaurants, bars and clubs to choose from, making this a splendid vacation destination.

Information & Facts


Manama experiences extreme climatic conditions, with summer temperatures up to 118°F (48°C) and winter temperatures as low as 59°F (15°C), with occasional hail. Average summer and winter temperatures are generally from about 63°F (17°C) to 113°F (45°C). The most pleasant time to visit Manama is in autumn when warm temperatures are tempered by a soft breeze.

Arabic is the official language in Bahrain, although English is widely understood and is used by most businesses.

The official currency is the Bahraini Dinar (BHD), divided into 1,000 fils. Notes come in denominations of 20, 10, 5 and 1 dinars and 500 fils. The Bahraini Dinar is linked to the US Dollar at a rate of US$1=BD 0.375. Money can be exchanged at the airport, bureaux de change (which usually offer the best rates), commercial banks in Manama or at moneychangers operating in the souq. ATMs are available in the larger towns. Credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted at hotels and the larger retail stores, but smaller shops generally prefer cash. It is easiest to carry travellers cheques in US dollars to avoid additional charges. Most offices, businesses and government departments are closed on Fridays, as it is a weekly holiday. Banks are usually open 7.30am to 12pm and 3.30pm to 5.30pm, Saturday to Wednesday, and 7.30am to 11am Thursdays.

Local time in Bahrain is GMT +3.

Al Dar Island is Bahrain's best-kept secret: a Mediterranean beach resort with sparkling blue seas that offers activities like dolphin viewing, pearl collecting, fishing, scuba diving, boating and other water sports. Because Bahrain's beaches are notoriously poor, Al Dar is a popular excursion for both locals and tourists in Manama and all over the country. Though small, there are several beaches on Al Dar to choose from, none of which are overcrowded due to the strict limits regarding the number of visitors per day. The beaches are all clean and well-kept with good shower and ablution facilities, plus several decent restaurants and shops. The island is also known for its beach parties and a nightlife which in Bahrain terms is quite lively. Booking ahead is essential, as only 150 tickets to Al Dar are allocated per day, and international visitors are required to present their passports at the Port Office before embarking on the ferry to Al Dar. The Port Office is located in Sitra Fisherman's Port, a 20-minute drive from Manama.

The archaeological site of Bahrain Fort ( Qal'at al-Bahrain) is one of the largest in the country and has been listed as a World Heritage Site. As the capital of the ancient Silmun Civilization, this site represents Bahrain's role as a centre for commerce and cultural exchange. Excavations have revealed the ruins of six cities near the fort, dating as far back as 3000 BC.

Diraz Temple is made up of rectangular structures, all varying in size and purpose. It has rows of large cylindrical columns constructed in limestone, as well as impressive alters. Built in about 3000 BC, this ancient temple is definitely an attraction for history buffs but will intrigue most visitors.

A 40-minute boat ride from Manama are the Hawar Islands, a cluster of 16 islands known for their spectacular scenery and wildlife. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hawar Islands are home to playful dolphins and bright pink flocks of flamingos, and the islands' resorts offer the chance to relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings while indulging in activities like jet skiing, canoeing, bicycling and paddle boats.

At 439 feet (134m) above sea level, the Jebel Al Dukhan hill is the highest point in Bahrain. Translated from Arabic, Jebel Al Dukhanmeans 'Mountain of Smoke', named for the haze which often surrounds it on humid days. There are various undetermined caves in the area for visitors to explore. Not far away (2km), the Tree of Life stands alone in the desert, its water source a complete mystery.

On a swelteringly hot day, the perfect activity for both children and adults in Bahrain is a trip to the Lost Paradise of Dilmun. The biggest waterpark in the Middle East, The Lost Paradise of Dilmun has a number of water rides and attractions catering for all ages, ranging from lazy rivers to high-speed waterslides, man-made waves to the new Bumping Battle Boats. The park was designed to resemble Dilmun, an ancient kingdom in Bahrain that was said to contain the Garden of Eden. Guests can also relax by the pool in private cabanas. The park also has restaurants and souvenir shops. Though expensive by local standards and far from Manama (a 45-minute drive from downtown), the Lost Paradise of Dilmun is a great family excursion in Bahrain.

To experience the true flavours, scents and colours of Manama, a visit to the souks(local markets) are a must. Here visitors can experience and purchase everything this beautiful country has to offer, from a variety of cloths in different colours and textures to jewellery and local crafts. The best buys include exquisite Persian rugs and natural pearls. The fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs, spices and nuts available here are also outstanding, though less ideal as souvenirs.

The compelling past of this island nation is represented at the Museum of Pearl Diving, constructed in 1937 and one of Bahrain's most impressive and significant buildings. The museum was the first official centre for the Bahrain Courts, with four Supreme Courts. In 1984, the building was declared a Traditional Heritage Centre. Various aspects of life in the pre-oil period, such as pearls diving gear, national costumes, local musical instruments and archive photographs, are currently exhibited at the museum.

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