WanderlustKnow before you go: a guide to Bahrain

What to wear, eat, see and pack on a visit to Bahrain

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The Kingdom of Bahrain offers historical sights, world-class shopping, great beaches and tantalising cuisine. Before you visit, read our essential guide to find out everything you need to know about this island nation in The Gulf.


The basics

Language: Arabic
Population: 1.4m, 60 percent expat
Currency: Bahraini dinar

Famous for: Thanks to their radiance and purity of colour, Bahraini pearls are considered the finest in the world. The country has a centuries-long pearl fishing heritage. The archipelago is also blessed with an abundance of World Heritage Sites including the ancient Bahrain Fort. The capital, Manama, is home to the Bahrain Grand Prix.



Like most of the Middle East, Bahrain has a hot, arid climate with scorching summers and mild winters. Temperatures peak between May and September, when they can reach between 35 and 40°C. They hover around the mid-20s for the rest of the year. Temperatures are at their most pleasant between November and April.


What to see

From unearthing its fascinating history to its burgeoning cultural scene, Bahrain has much to discover. Bahrain National Museum is a great place to start, with its collection of Dilmun-era artefacts. The Dilmun controlled Eastern Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait from 4,000 B.C. to 500 B.C.. The ornamental Al Fateh Grand Mosque, which is open to non-Muslims, is one of the world’s largest Islamic sites of worship and there’s also the UNESCO-protected Bahrain Fort which is located in an area that has been inhabited for almost 5,000 years.

You can also indulge in excellent shopping by combining traditional with contemporary at Bahrain’s souks and glossy malls. Manama Souq is the capital’s oldest bazaar, bursting with nuts, spices and textiles. Get a hit of luxury at Moda Mall, a sleek shopping spot overflowing with designer brands such as Chanel and Armani.

Bahrain is comprised of over 80 islands. Charter a boat and hop your way around them in search of your own private beach. Watching the sunset over Manama’s skyscraper-filled skyline from the sea is a must.


What to eat

Because of its mercantile history as one of the most important trading ports in the region, Bahraini cuisine is a lively fusion of Arabic, Indian, Far Eastern and European flavours. Must-try local dishes include a sweet saffron-infused rice dish called machboos, which comes with chicken or lamb spiced with cumin, turmeric and cinnamon, and muhammar, a dessert of sweet rice with dates. You should also try a qahwa — a traditional Arabic coffee — in one of the country’s many coffee houses.



Bahrain is an Islamic country and it is important to observe local custom. The most common greeting is ‘Salam Alaykum’ meaning peace be upon you. Only use your right hand to shake hands and when dining with a host or in company, if refreshments are offered you should always accept.

Bahraini guides tend to stress the importance of dress codes. They are more relaxed for tourists and expats, but keep shoulders and knees covered when out and about. When visiting mosques, remove your shoes.


What to pack

Whenever you visit Bahrain, it’s going to be warm so opt for light, breathable clothing in natural fabrics like cotton. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat that shades your neck are a must. If you plan to explore ancient sites, take comfy, sturdy footwear. Both men and women should dress modestly, so include a selection of long, flowing trousers and long-sleeved shirts in your suitcase.