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Article Index
Bahrain's must-see attractions
Museums and forts
Religion and culture
Heritage homes
Arts and crafts
Souvenir shopping
Other attractions

 

Manama Suq

Shopping excitement. The Manama Suq, located just beyond Bab al Bahrain, is the perfect first stop for shopping. Shops, ranging from tiny open-air stalls to leading department stores, are packed with everything from clothing to electronics, tobacco to incense and antiques to gold.

The bazaar, with its labyrinthine lanes and alleys is best explored on foot so, if you’re driving, remember to leave your car at one of the car parks near the suq. If you lose your way, just ask, "Wain Bab al Bahrain?" (“Where’s Bab al Bahrain?”), and you’ll be pointed in the right direction.

 

Natural pearls

Jewels from the sea. Oil may have brought newfound prosperity to the region, but it was pearls that a long time ago made Bahrain the richest country in the world on a per-capita basis. From time immemorial, the island has been known as a world-class pearling centre. Unlike the cultured variety sold around the world, Bahrain’s pearls are natural which accounts for their slightly irregular shapes. A string of perfectly shaped, round natural pearls can take years to put together which explains their premium value.

Pearls can vary in colour, from cream or white to ochre or even green. Tiny black pearls can be found, too, but usually aren’t put on sale.

The combination of gold and pearls is truly stunning and one which you should consider if jewellery is on your shopping list. Look for them in the Gold Suq.

 

Spice shops

Experience the flavour. The secret of Arabic cuisine, with its heavenly taste and aromas, is in the spices that go into the meal. If you’re adventurous enough to try your hand with a Bahrain recipe, visit one of the spice shops in Manama Suq. You’ll find yourself greeted with mounds of colourful, fragrant spices of every possible variety. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re not sure what to buy. Vendors are always more than happy to help.

 

Persian rugs

Magical carpets are a great buy. You’ll find some of the world’s most beautiful carpets in Bahrain. Carpet shops, many of them located in Manama and Adliya, carry exquisite Persian rugs as well as almost equally gorgeous – and less expensive – carpets from Turkey, Afghanistan and China. You’ll be able to find a large, handwoven carpet as a centrepiece to your living room or a small one that may even become a wall tapestry.

Unlike machine made carpets, which do not wear well and decline in value, hand-woven Persian rugs actually age wonderfully and appreciate in price. If you are unsure how to judge a rug, ask the store owner – they are more than happy to explain what to look for, usually over a cup of gahwa (Arabic coffee).

 

Flea market

Where the deals are always hot. The suq al haraj (flea market) in Isa Town is a popular haunt for antique collectors and bargain hunters. Items range from the old and unusual oddity to the easily available – but cheap. Remember: not all old items are antiques. If unsure of the value, consult a local friend.