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!

Warm, friendly Bahrain
is just picture perfect

FROM the moment my plane emerged from the blackness of the night sky to reveal the shimmering pearls of Bahrain's city lights, I knew I would love this country.

It reminded me so much of Chicago, where the brightly lit horizon holds the promise of excitement and brings a buzz of anticipation.

As it turned out, Bahrain is as far removed from Chicago as desert sand is from snow. But over the next seven days of my stay, I still proceeded to fall in love with this island country whose charm is sometimes impossible to translate into words.

As a travel photographer whose work takes me around the globe, you could say I have been around a bit. Bahrain, however, was about the furthest place from my mind when I received a call from Ali Mushaima, publisher of this guide. Ali was on a visit to my native Turkey when he happened to see some of my pictures in a tourist book. He must have been impressed for he asked whether I would like to shoot for a Bahrain travel guide.

I was unsure, but we agreed to meet, and Ali brought along copies of previous editions of the Visitors Complete Guide to Bahrain. Now it was my turn to be impressed. I'm not certain whether it was the quality of the guide or the description of the country that captured my heart more, but I found myself saying: Yes, Id love to come.

And so it was that I found myself waking up in Bahrain, hardly believing that while half the world was probably bundling into heavy overcoats, here I was enjoying weather good enough to play golf!

Which is precisely what dozens of people were doing when I visited the Riffa Golf Course, a new 18-hole complex that Bahrains residents are very proud of. And why not! This all-grass course stands out like an oasis in the desert, with facilities as good as any I have seen in Florida.

For a visitor with little knowledge about this part of the world, Bahrain can throw up a lot of surprises. Forget any misconceptions you may have about the Middle East - Bahrain is as much in step with the 21st century as any country in Europe or North America. From leisure facilities to telecommunications, this little island country of 600,000 people has a lot to be proud of.

But what makes it truly special is the old world charm that was evident everywhere, from the carpet-seller who plied me with tea while I looked around to the greetings from strangers at the coffee-shop.

And what great subjects for a photographer! My Horseman ultra-wide format camera, which takes 6x12cm slides, was just perfect for the job.

An amazing museum, the heavenly beach at Le Royal Meridien, the traditional souks and modern shopping malls, an incredible choice in watersports, the camel farms, the ancient Dilmun-era ruins being uncovered at SaarÉ everything cried out to be captured on film.

Even just going to the market was such a pleasure. The seafood here is truly out of this world, and I could hardly resist the temptation of buying farm-fresh vegetables and fruit!

Most incredible was the people - so many nationalities are represented and everyone is just so friendly.

Bahrain may be a small country, but there is so much to see and do that I have already begun planning ahead for my next trip!

" As told to Archie DCruz




Two Bahraini children enjoy a game at the dhow builders' yard in Muharraq

By Kadir Kir

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Turkish born photographer Kadir Kir's work has graced some of the world's top publications. Apart from the New York Times, where he has been a contributor for more than 12 years, Kadir's photographs have also appeared in magazines such as Art Decor, Cruising World and Sky Life.
His work has taken him around the world. A lover of classical music, Kadir derives inspiration from listening to the works of Bach, Mozart and Vivaldi.
He is a member of the American Society of Magazine Photographers.