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You can wander for hours through the Manama Suq along its narrow streets, ducking into small alleyways where you come across yet more interesting stalls selling everything from fresh spices in the spice suq – where the trick is it to make a multicoloured, spice pyramid – to exquisite Bahraini pearls.
It’s not simply about shopping, it’s an enriching cultural and social experience, and a great way to learn about the country’s rich trading history…not forgetting the fun of bargaining for that special souvenir. You will be drawn into interesting conversations, asked to sit down to partake of a cool, refreshing drink or perhaps sample some locally-picked sweet dates.
There are two main gold shopping centres as well as many, individual, attractive street-front gold jewellers. The Gold Suq, located on Shaikh Abdulla Avenue, is a two-storey, custom-built complex with a host of jewellers, many of them local. Prepare to be dazzled as 22-carat gold, used in Middle Eastern jewellery, has an extremely bright aura – especially when you are face to face with a window display full of it. Gold City, located between Al Khalifa and Government Avenues, is a suq within a suq, offering a dazzling array of jewellery – much with a strong, Middle Eastern flavour.
There are more mundane items on sale as the suq is very much a local market, where day-to-day purchases are still made. And you can bet that the latest gimmicks will be on show, whether it be the latest kid’s toy or a winning team’s football strip. You can even kit yourself out with a full Arabic costume (men, ladies and children). No offence will be taken, and what a great souvenir to take home for all those fancy dress parties!
As you meander along, the traders, each vying for your attention, will gently summon you, but there is no hard sell, If you say no, it’s accepted gracefully. When you do decide to take a closer look at their wares, be prepared – bargaining is de rigueur. You have to try it for yourself, but remember, the only rule is that the first price will definitely not be the last.
Major improvements are in store to enhance the suq while retaining its traditional atmosphere including the creation of ‘mini suqs’ such as an Indian bazaar and a renovated gold suq. Improved parking, provision of shade and air-conditioned rest areas will all make suq shopping more convenient and comfortable.
If you didn’t drive, hail a taxi from the rank, conveniently located at the Bab Al Bahrain, to whisk you back home.