21 May 2019
Seef is the commercial district of Manama, the vibrant metropolis of the golden archipelago that is Bahrain. The district is a rich melting pot of cultures (Bahrain’s population is comprised of 60% expats), which has made it one of the most dynamic and enticing cities to explore in the entire Gulf. What’s more: it’s one of the Middle East’s better kept secrets, so expect to have its glittering shorelines and glamourous souqs all to yourself. From a morning at the malls to sunset at the bay, here’s how to spend a day in Seef.
About a ten-minute drive from Jumeirah Royal Saray is The Avenues Bahrain. The second of The Avenues’ complexes, the mall perches prettily on the waterfront of Manama’s diplomatic area. The mall itself is perfectly temperature regulated, with a large, open-air feel to it that makes the most of its iconic seafront location. The Avenues’ 21 restaurants and cafes overlook Bahrain Bay, and include amongst their number fine dining such as PF Chang’s as well as The Cheesecake Factory for those with a sweet tooth.
Families can also opt for the Seef Mall, which is Bahrain’s only family-owned shopping centre. The mall features an indoor theme park, Magic Island, that is replete with 3D simulators, bowling lanes, and even a haunted house--but let’s not forget about the mall’s 16 fine jewellery shops, or its five designer watch salons. Or there’s the City Centre mall, with over 340 brands and, incredibly, the world’s first ever indoor-outdoor waterpark.
For all their new-world comforts, malls may sometimes lack the exotic charm and instantly likeable charisma of the Middle East’s traditional souqs. One of the oldest in Manama is the Muharraq Souq, famed for its traditional wares, chief amongst them Bahraini sweets and spices. The souq itself is a stone’s throw away from traditional presses (madbasas), so make the most of the fresh-as-can-be date molasses on offer. The jewel of the souq however, is its oldest section: the Al Qaisariya Souq. This historic market is part of the World Heritage “pearling path,” which preserves Bahrain’s long-founded history of pearl diving. It might just be the best place to buy Bahrain’s lustrous, local pearls.
In addition, the Manama Souq is your quintessential Bahraini bazaar: alleyways packed with everything from souvenir t-shirts to fine rugs, jewellery, and pretty much anything you can think of. Each of its winding paths are lined with bright colours and a confluence of scintillating smells from the mall’s traditional eateries. And then there’s the thrill of bargaining.
Retail therapy, while it refreshes the soul, can tire the body. So, we recommend some high afternoon tea, a local favourite dating back to the archipelago’s British occupation, to tide you over until dinner. Nestled in the heart of Jumeirah Royal Saray’s oceanfront complex is the marble-clad Palm Lounge, one of the city’s premier afternoon tea spots. Light, breezy interiors here combine with turquoise views of the Gulf water to revitalise you, while the tea menu has any leaf you could possibly desire. If that’s not enough, look no further than the espresso machine, manned by baristas flown specially in from Colombia.
Sunset on Coral Bay
Where better to end your day that on the exquisite esplanades of Coral Bay? A fifteen-minute drive from Jumeirah Royal Saraway, Coral Bay is the hotspot for evening highlife in Manama. Famed for its Formula 1 after-parties and its watersports alike, it’s a place where Manama’s vibrancy shines. At sunset, the white sands of the pristine bay glow softly with the descending, reddening light, while the convivial conversations of cosmopolitan clientele across rows of oceanfront bars signal the evening’s coming glamour.