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!
The Manama souk, located just beyond Bab Al Bahrain, is the perfect first stop. The shops, ranging from tiny open-air stalls to leading department stores, are packed with everything from clothes to electronics,
tobacco to incense and antiques to gold. The souk, with its labyrinthine lanes and alleys is best explored on foot, so if youre driving, remember to leave your car in one of the parking facilities near Bab Al Bahrain.
The secret of Arabic cuisine, with its heavenly taste and aromas, is the spices that go into the meal. If youre adventurous enough to try your hand at a Bahraini recipe, visit one of the spice shops in the Manama souk. You will find yourself greeted with mounds of colourful, fragrant spices of every possible variety. Dont be afraid to ask if youre not sure what to buy, the vendors are always more than happy to help.
You will find some of the worlds most beautiful carpets in Bahrain. The carpet shops, many of them located in Manama and Adliya, carry exquisite Persian rugs as well as almost equally gorgeous (and certainly less expensive) carpets from Turkey, Afghanistan, Baluchistan and China.
While gold is hugely popular with residents and tourists alike, it is pearls which first put Bahrain on the map. From time immemorial, the island has been known as a world class pearling centre. Bahrains pearls are natural which accounts for their sometimes slightly irregular shapes. They also vary in colour, from cream or white to ochre or even green. The combination of gold and pearls is truly stunning, and one which you should consider if jewellery is on your shopping list.
Bahrains gold shops have always been a huge draw with visitors and it is easy to see why. The quality of the gold, excellent craftsmanship and low prices are an irresistible combination.
Unlike the West, where gold available is usually 18 carat or less, a lot of the jewellery here is either 21 or 22 carat, some even pure 24 carat gold!
The Gold Souk building near Bab Al Bahrain and the newly-opened Gold City (just a few minutes drive away) between them boast well over a hundred jewellery shops, and there are dozens of other stores in and around the area too.
Arguably Bahrains most popular shopping complex, Seef Mall combines both modern and traditional elements in its architecture.
It is also home to world-renowned stores like Debenhams, BhS and Marks & Spencer. The excellent food court and the superb new cinemas at the mall have only helped contribute to its popularity.
The Aali Mall is as good as any major shopping centre you might find in the West or Far East. But what makes it stand out is the Souke Al Tawaweesh section, which recreates the look and feel of a traditional open air souk within its air-conditioned confines. A glass roof, stores with old-fashioned Arabic wooden doors and carts selling souvenirs all add to the atmosphere.
The Gosi Mall on Exhibition Avenue was Bahrains largest shopping mall until newer complexes like AAli and Seef threw their doors open. While Gosi cannot boast as much shopper traffic as the other two, its distinctive and appealing Arabic architecture, good choice of stores and two mini-cinemas make it a mall worth visiting.
The Tourism Directorate makes it easy for visitors to shop for souvenirs all you need to do is go to its store in Bab Al Bahrain where you will find a huge variety of traditional items. These range from replica wooden dhows to camels made of leather.
If you plan to cook your own meals in Bahrain, a visit to Central Market is a must. The island is justly famous for its seafood and here you can buy fresh fish probably caught just hours earlier, as well as a choice of locally grown vegetables and fruit.
Adjacent to the Central Market, the souk al haraj (flea market) is a popular haunt for antique collectors and bargain-hunters. Items range from the old and unusual to the easily-available but cheap.
There is another flea market in Isa Town which is also popular with residents and tourists alike.
Twice a year, Bahrains shops slash their prices in a government-backed island-wide sales event. The sales (actual dates vary each year) last two to three weeks, and are a great chance to shop for bargains.
Electronic items are an especially good buy at this time of year and discounts of 60 per cent or more are not uncommon when it comes to clothes.
The Duty Free at Bahrain Airport has won numerous international awards and it is easy to see why. The relaxed setting, a choice of more than 45,000 quality items and low prices combine to make Duty Free a popular stopover for departing passengers. You can also enter the popular car draw, with a selection of top of the range cars on offer.