Fishing dhows at the harbour


We head off from here to Adliya, to visit Akram Al Samaei, the son of Yemeni silver merchant Ahmed who we met in Yemen earlier in the year. Akram has his own silver shop in Bahrain, Shibam Silver, which has some exquisite traditional Yemeni jewellery that you will not find elsewhere on the island.

From here we drive back to the east coast for lunch at The Fish Market at Al Bandar Hotel. This has to be one of the best seafood restaurants on the island. Like me you will probably want to photograph the amazing display of seafood on the counter before you sit down to enjoy the feast. That excellent meal warrants a little relaxation at the hotel, which is a beach and boating resort. After a welcome swim, we head off again to Manama, this time for a sunset and to see the dhows leaving from Manama harbour. It's a similar scene to the dhows leaving from Sitra, but made more dramatic as they sail off into a dusk coloured sky.

Ali arranges for us to take a small boat from the harbour, allowing us to photograph the scene from sea level, beneath the bridge between the city and Muharraq.

Dinner that night is at Lanterns, an Indian restaurant, before we head for the nightclubs. Since it is my last but one day here, it makes sense to have a late night out tonight rather than tomorrow when a good night's sleep will be needed before the flight home the following day. There are plenty of bars, discos and clubs to choose from in Bahrain, and the disco I know best is Barnaby Joe's or, as it's usually known, BJ's. It's very popular with the young folk of the island and the crowd is a complete mix of locals, expats and visitors. I must admit to being of an age now where discos are more for a brief visit than staying on all night long, especially with the volume turned well up as it usually is! I leave the place a little earlier than most as I don't want to be too tired for Friday, my final day on the island.


FRIDAY: Up close and personal with Arabia's famous falcons and race horses. It's a luxurious brunch on my last day at one of Bahrain's top hotels, the Ritz Carlton, which until last year was known as Le Meridien. A superb location, you are sure to be tempted by the huge inviting pool or the specially constructed sandy beach.

We head off after brunch to Al Areen Wildlife Park, 20 km south of Manama, in an area of semi desert. Most of the animals are fenced into individual large areas, and to see them you have to take the park's special bus, which drives around the whole area. It is not that easy to take good pictures because unfortunately (although understandably) you are not allowed out of the bus en route as this would alarm the animals. As is usual with wildlife, they will often be quite indifferent to a moving vehicle, but if a human steps out of that vehicle, that's quite a different matter and animals usually sense danger! This is a good tip to remember when photographing animals or even bird life.

Anyway, the wildlife at Al Areen is well worth seeing, especially as they include the Arabian Oryx, which is nearly extinct in the wild. There are also Persian gazelle, springbok, impala as well as ostriches, camels and smaller animals such as porcupine

By special arrangement, Ali and I are able to pay a special visit to the Falcon Centre, which is attached to the park but not generally open to the public. Here they look after sick or injured falcons whose owners bring them in from all around and even from other countries. I am allowed to take some close-up photographs outdoors, but had to do it quickly because it was a hot day and the birds needed to be kept cool. The falcons are indeed beautiful and elegant birds and having one or two owners available to be holding their birds was an extra bonus for me as I had long wanted to obtain such special shots.

From Al Areen, we drive further into the desert to see Bahrain's Oil Museum. Few countries in the world I'm sure will have such a museum, but it's interesting to remember that Bahrain was in fact the first country in the Gulf where oil was discovered, back in 1932.

The museum allows you to trace the discovery of what has become the region's best known export and you can see exhibits of drilling equipment, a working model of an oil rig and historical photographs. Close by is the appropriately named Oil Well No. 1, still working and almost a museum piece itself! It's quite small but has interesting old pipes and gauges so it's good to take photographs especially as you will be able to show your friends that you have pictures of the very first one.

We head back to town for lunch, after which it's a more relaxing last afternoon spent at the horse races in the town of Sakhir. This was fun for me because it's not a sport I usually follow. Once again, with Ali's help, we obtain permission to go near the racetrack for an opportunity to take close-up photos of the horses in high-speed action as they leave the starting gate and again at the finish. It's a wonderful experience and it's a good opportunity to give the auto-follow focus technology on my Canon EOS 3 a real test. This camera, apart from having auto focus, also compensates for fast moving subjects coming straight towards the camera. I must say it passed with flying colours!

It's my final evening, and we dine at the Le Jardin restaurant at the Ramada Hotel, after which it's the all-important shopping and sightseeing tour of the huge new malls which are springing up all around Manama. If I was forced to choose between shopping in the old souks or the new malls, I guess I'd pick the souks. That's because I'm a photographer and find those little streets and shops so attractive visually, as well as displaying many things that you probably wouldn't see in most European shops.

However, it must be said the huge new mall complexes are also very interesting visually in their modern way and my goodness, there is hardly anything that you cannot buy! Again these malls are further subjects for my camera, but with the larger format camera that I prefer for this work, together with tripod and flash, special permission is needed beforehand. So if you want to try serious photography of some of the awe-inspiring architecture don't forget to ask first.

So there we are, a week in Bahrain and certainly little time to get bored! I can absolutely recommend this friendly country to anyone looking for a destination with a difference. The word friendly almost defines the Bahraini people, who are always ready to chat, show genuine interest in wanting to know more about you, and guide you if you need directions somewhere.

Don't forget your camera, or simply buy one at duty-free when you arrive. Film of course is no problem, being readily available in this part of the world.

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PHOTO TIP: Use a polarising filter sparingly to improve the blue sky and clouds in your pictures. This is not always possible on modern fixed compact lens cameras but is more for keen photographers wanting not only bluer skies but clearing haze on distant scenes and improving the colours of foliage and landscapes by absorbing reflective light. Don't forget it only works mainly with the sun at certain angles usually behind and/or to one side of the camera.