You will quickly discover that life in Bahrain somehow revolves around this landmark. Bab Al Bahrain quite literally means Gateway to Bahrain.
When it was originally designed by Sir Charles Belgrave in 1945, it housed the government offices of the time and overlooked the sea. The sea has long been reclaimed (Government Avenue, which runs alongside Bab Al Bahrain, was built on reclaimed land), and the monument itself was refurbished in 1986 to incorporate Islamic architectural features.
The ground floor now houses the tourist information office and a handicrafts shop. (Timings: 0800-1200 and 1630-1800, closed on Fridays). Sightseeing bus tours depart from here daily at 0930 and 1530.
Bab Al Bahrain also serves as entrance to the souk (market).
Situated on the intersection of Muharraq Causeway and King Faisal Highway, the National Museum is not quite walking distance from Bab Al Bahrain, but is just minimum fare if you take a taxi.
Built in 1988, the $34 million complex offers a comprehensive view of Bahrain through the ages.
Arguably the most interesting of the exhibits is a reconstructed ancient burial mound dating back to around 2800 BC. The mound was actually plucked from the desert and reassembled in the museum.
The museum is a virtual treasurehouse of history and trust us when we say that even a day is too short to take in everything on display. All in all, this is one visit you will be telling friends about for a long, long time.
Way into the desert stands a broad, shady, mature mesquite tree in solitary splendour. The lone tree in a sea of sand almost seems like a mirage.
To this day, the trees source of water remains a mystery.
Some believe it gets its nourishment from an underground spring, but that doesnt explain the complete lack of vegetation in the area surrounding it.
...and ponder death in prehistoric times at the Aali Burial Mounds
Bahrain probably has the largest prehistoric cemetery in the world.
There are an estimated 170,000 burial mounds dating back to between 3000 BC and 600 AD. Each of these mounds covers a stone built chamber which formed the grave.
Few of these are intact today, many having been looted way back in the past, or destroyed over the years. The best preserved of the mounds can be seen at Aali village.
Make Bahrain Fort give up its ancient secrets
Historically, this is one of the most important sites in Bahrain. The fort, located on the north coast, was built in the 14th century, but excavations in the area reveal it to be the site of settlements dating back to the Dilmun era, or around 3000 BC.
The fort itself is very much a part of Bahrains history. In the early 1500s, the Portuguese saw Bahrain as a key point to protect their trade routes between India, Africa and Europe. They invaded the island and set up military base at the Bahraain Fort. They strengthened the perimter and erected new stone towers. The fort is still sometimes referred to as the Portuguese Fort.
Go wild at Al Areen
Located 20km south of Manama, this eight square km animal sanctuary contains rare and endangered species whose natural habitat is the Arabian peninsula. Inhabitants of Al Areen Wildlife Park include the Arabian Oryx, which is virtually extinct in the wild, the Persian gazelle, springbok and impala.
A bus tour of the reserve and film show on the park are highly recommended.
See the light at Arad Fort
This 15th century fort was built in typical Arab style.
Close to the airport, the fort has been extensively renovated and presents a magnificent sight when illuminated at night.
Gaze across the valley from Riffa Fort
Built in 1812, this fort offers a splendid view across the Hunanaiya valley. With Riffa being home to the seat of government until 1869, this fort was strategically important in its day.
Travel back in time with a visit to the home of Shaikh Isa bin Ali
Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa, the present Amirs great great- grandfather, ruled Bahrain from 1869 to 1932. His house in Muharraq provides a glimpse of royal life in the 19th century, complete with architecture and wall carvings belonging to that era.
It is also one of the best places to feel the amazing effects of the wind tower.
Walk in the footsteps of royalty at Beit Al Jasra
Built in 1907 using local materials, this was the birthplace of former Amir, Shaikh Isa bin Sulman Al Khalifa, in 1933, and is now a heritage museum.
One of the most enchanting rooms is one where dates used to be piled in palm baskets and left to ripen. The weight would make the dates at the bottom gradually surrender their juices which would then be piped into jars and used for cooking.
Visit Beit Al Siyadi for a glimpse into Bahrain's rich past
A short distance from Beit Al Jasra (Shaikh Isas House), Beit Al Siyadi once belonged to a pearl merchant in the 19th century. The house provides an excellent example of the best local architecture from that period.
Pearl Monument is a real gem
The impossible-to-miss Pearl Monument, which stands at the end of the Manama-Muharraq causeway is one of Bahrains most recognisable symbols. Six dhow sails float into the air, holding in their midst a giant pearl. Beautifully constructed and loaded with images of Bahrains past as a major pearling centre, it is easy to see why the Pearl Monument is a favourite with photographers. Take your camera!
Marvel at a place fit for kings
The Guest Palace in Gudaibiya, built in the 1950s, was on the seaside before land reclamation pushed it further inland. The palace is now largely reserved as the residence for heads of state and other top dignitaries. Visitors arent allowed in, but you can catch a glimpse of the palace and its beautifully manicured lawns through the iron gates.
With Bahrain gaining in popularity as a tourist destination, many tour operators have begun offering package deals with charter flights and hotel stay. Check with your travel agent, there are some real bargains to be had!