45 great Bahrain secrets

Outdoor cinema, chocolate shawarma, secluded beaches and more Discuss this article

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With F1 season upon us we fully expect bus-loads of tourists and motorsports fanatics to enter the island and we felt obliged to give them a proper welcome. But forget about all those regular travel hot spots you can visit and read about in every Bahrain guide (the ones us residents are tired of hearing about) because, in such a culturally rich island, there’s every need to take a trip to its underbelly and walk the unbeaten track. Here we reveal 45 of Bahrain’s hidden gems and who knows, even you island dwellers might learn a thing or two (we sure did!)…

Team Time Out Bahrain
We at Time Out Bahrain headquarters reached into the depths of our city knowledge to uncover our favourite island gems…

Al Arisha
Not even many Bahrain residents know about this Lebanese restaurant which hides in the backstreets of Umm Al Hassam. Al Arisha is spacious, with a great outdoor seating area (that’s also cooled during hotter weather), and fabulous food. Service is attentive, friendly, and you can get a very reasonably priced, decent glass of grape to enjoy with your shisha and authentic mezze.
Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-midnight. Umm Al Hassam, behind Roman restaurant (1772 5414).

Karaoke at Beijing
Who doesn’t like a bit of karaoke? Especially when you’re gathered together with a group of friends and family, in your own private room, and around a big table filled with authentic, tasty Chinese food? Well, that’s exactly what Beijing restaurant in Adliya offers. Everything from beef in oyster sauce to Buddha’s glory is available on that menu, plus plenty of other more adventurous menu items. Just make sure you book your own private room in advance, and remember they do have minimum spends (but it’s affordable!).
Open daily 11.30am-3pm, 6pm-midnight. Adliya (1771 7969).

Haji Gahwa
This traditional Bahraini restaurant is one of the oldest cafés in Manama so on that strength alone it’s a must-visit. However, add to that it’s extremely authentic setting in a back alley of the Bab Al Bahrain souq, the wonderfully hospitable service and fabulous food, and then you’ll never look back. There’s no menu, just set traditional Bahraini dishes depending on which time of day you go but you’ll never be disappointed. If you’re looking for something truly, deeply Bahraini, then look no further.
Open daily 5am-9pm. Bab Al Bahrain, Manama Souq (1721 0647).

Outdoor cinema
Sure, while the weather is stifling it’s hard to find outdoor cinema options but when the air is cool we do have some decent places to head to. For starters, the Royal Golf Club (1775 0777) in Riffa hosts free, weekly family movie nights in the country club gardens from 6pm with screenings of older family classics mixed with latest releases. Meanwhile, The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain (1758 6499) also organises separate movie screenings for kids and adults once a month (this month it’s April 24 and 25) to be enjoyed under the stars from their gardens. La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art & Spa (1723 0123) also does the same, hosting alternative film screenings from their beautiful courtyard at the venue, a fabulous renovated traditional Bahraini house. This month they’re screening ‘Le Petit Peintre du Rajasthan’ on April 5 and ‘Axis of Light’ on April 19.

Local talent
Bahrain might be the smallest GCC country but good things always come in small packages, particularly when it comes to local talent. Thanks to a huge array of cultural initiatives and great boosts to independent, small and medium enterprises in the country, we now have a wide spread of artists and entrepreneurs being innovative and creative in business. From the annual markets we’ve seen artisans pop up, focusing on everything from pottery to music, but we’ve also seen a surge in boutique shop owners, beauty enthusiasts, foodies, fashion designers and more. We particularly recommend heading to +973 Artisanat where young and creative Bahrainis showcase their handmade products and artworks. This initiative was set up by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and Labour Fund ‘Tamkeen’, to ‘nuture the entrepreneurial spirit and community participation of young Bahrainis in creative activities’.
Visit www.plus973.com

minimanama T-shirts
Speaking of local talent, one such group of people are ‘minimanama’ who started a stall in the last few months selling all sorts of bric-a-brac from the depths of the Manama Souq. Most notably, they have created a line of city T-shirts which are perfect for any tourists looking for a unique souvenir to take home with them.
The ‘New York, London, Manama, Tokyo’ is the signature look, and one we recommend.
Visit www.minimanama.com. You can find a selection of their designs at Dukkan3 in Al Riwaq Art Space, Adliya (1771 7441).

Fuji Sushi
Too few people are aware of this small Manama-based Japanese restaurant that serves up some of the best sushi we’ve had in a while. Fuji Sushi is located in Sheza Tower Hotel, in the heart of the Diplomatic Area, and it’s perched just above a rather decent seafood restaurant.
We go here, however, for the down-to-earth atmosphere, friendly service, intimate Japanese-style setting and, as we said, some fantastic, reasonably priced sushi.
Try the volcano maki – we promise you won’t be disappointed.
Open daily 12.30pm-midnight. Sheza Tower Hotel, Diplomatic Area (1753 3336).

Alternative medicine
Interestingly, Bahrain has a lot to offer in the way of alternative medicine practices with everything from Reiki to Ayurveda, nutrition to crystal healing. The beauty of this little island nation is in its open-mindedness, not only in medicine. Whatever it is you’re into, chances are you’ll find a little something on offer in Bahrain no matter how obscure. For example, try the tranquil Bahrain Meditation Centre in Umm Al Hassam (1771 2545) where you can enjoy a free session. Or 8 Mansions, in Budaiya’s Country Mall (1759 4575), has all the answers to crystal healing. On the other hand, for Ayurvedic medicine you’re spoilt for choice but one Time Out Bahrain team member recommends, first-hand, the Indian Ayurvedic Medicine Centre in Mahooz (1772 2060).

La Ventana
While this isn’t much of a secret between Bahrain residents, we had to include it during the tourist season as it’s surely a hidden gem. La Ventana is a homely, quaint café offering a range of wonderful salads, sandwiches and baked potatoes featuring a wide array of fresh, quality ingredients, alongside some seriously downright droolworthy homemade desserts. It’s also based in the heart of Adliya’s bustling restaurant district so make sure you stop by.
Open Sat-Thu 11.30am-11pm, Fri 12.30pm-11pm. Adliya, Block 338 (6637 1616).

Chocolate shawarma
You all know the beloved Middle Eastern snack of shredded meat or chicken in a wrap with delicious tahini sauce and pickles, right? Well, what if there was a delicious dish that replicated this as a dessert? Using chocolate. That’s what Bayti, the contemporary Middle Eastern restaurant by Bahrain Financial Harbour, set out to do. In fact, they had their own customised shawarma stand made so they could flake tasty chocolate scratchings over a crepe and serve it alongside ice cream, apple-cinnamon ‘chips’ and chocolate dipping sauce. Pair it with one of their gourmet shawarmas using a concoction of fillings and sauces, of your choice, and you’ll be laughing.
Open daily 7am-midnight. Next to Bahrain Financial Harbour, Manama (1722 9788).

Pearl diving
So you’re in the home of pearls and if you want a truly authentic experience then you definitely have to try diving for them. Al Dar Islands offers trips to a secret destination where you can snorkel for oysters which flourish in the shallow, clear waters. You’ll also see a historical shipwreck and any number of dolphins (depending on the day). Bahraini pearls are considered as some of the world’s finest and if you find a pearl while snorkeling, you get to keep it as a (possibly quite valuable) souvenir!
Al Dar Islands, the head office is in Sitra (1770 4600).

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By Time Out Bahrain staff
Time Out Bahrain,

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