By Roy Kietzman Ľ Itís hard to believe that a modest-sized country like Bahrain would have nearly a hundred hotels, dozens of blocks with attractively furnished apartments and guesthouses. Whether you want to stay near a beach, prefer a hotel that provides wi-fi or are organising a congress for thousands of delegates, youíll certainly find exactly the accommodation that suits your requirements.
From cosy guesthouses to luxury hotels with top-class business facilities, the selection is yours. To unwind from a day of meetings, most hotels have a swimming pool but a few offer full health-club services, too, including a spa to luxuriate in, to freshen up and reinvigorate the senses.
For those who arrive by air, thereís a wonderful hotel with class and style just metres from the airport, another just off the Manama-Muharraq causeway on the bay between two islands. Manama boasts seven five-star hotels but the four-and three-star properties have the amenities, too, to keep business people satisfied.
Besides scintillating entertainment and fine dining, Bahrain is a hub for meetings, conferences, conventions and major exhibitions throughout the year. Some of the hotels can easily handle modest-sized meetings, others major congresses with all the demands that such events make.
Gratefully, five-star hotels have uniform room rates for standard rooms so thereís no need to shop price but look at quality, choosing a hotel that suits your requirements. Corporate rates for a single are BD48 while a double is BD53. Deluxe rooms are BD59 and BD63 for a single and double respectively, or BD65 for an executive suite. (At the time of writing, there was talk of a modest increase being planned in room charges, so actual rates may be a little higher depending on when you book your stay). Add 20 per cent to these rates for service charge and government levy.
Featured here are some of the more popular accommodations in Bahrain:.
The 256-room Sheraton Bahrain Hotel is a few steps away from Manamaís shopping district. However, the hotel has its own popular shopping wing with dozens of distinctive shops vending everything from antiques and carpets to stylish jewellery and haute couture fashion.
The seventh-floor business centre provides complete services to the demanding businessman: Internet, personal computers (PCs), wi-fi access, secretarial services, photocopying, fax, even document lamination, binding and colour printing. The Sheraton can accommodate meetings from eight to 700 participants in its 13 rooms.
Of particular note is its Awali Ballroom done in a classic oriental style and taking up to 300 guests. Overhead projectors, liquid-crystal display (LCD) screens, microphones and speakers can be provided.
Image Spa is a wonderful place to get reinvigorated with its array of head-to-toe treatments. Basically a womanís spa, men should make a prior appointment. The health club has an outdoor swimming pool and, indoors, a steam bath and sauna.
All guest rooms have safety-deposit boxes, an iron and ironing board and tea- and coffee-making facilities. Deluxe rooms offer DVD players, and, in addition, executive rooms have a fax machine. Public areas, restaurants and rooms have wi-fi access.
The two tennis and badminton courts at the 250-room Hilton Hotel help guests to work off the stress. The water in the swimming pool is chilled during the hot summer months, but heated in winter.
Two plunge pools (or jacuzzis), a sauna, steambath and workout room are also available in the health club. A business centre provides PCs, Internet access, secretarial services and faxes. All rooms offer safety-deposit boxes.
Five meeting rooms can handle up to 25 participants each though the entire ballroom, which can be divided into three sections, as required, accommodates 400 persons for a conference. An overhead projector and LCD screens are available for meetings.
The 250-room Crowne Plaza boasts the adjacent Bahrain Conference Centre which has seven meeting rooms, handling from five to 60 participants. The main hall, however, can accommodate a congress for up to 1,700 delegates with teleconferencing facilities. Overhead projector and LCD screens are available.
In early 2005, the hotel plans to have a business centre, lounge and breakfast area on an upper floor, moving from a more basic business area currently off the lobby. PCs, Internet access, scanning and photocopying facilities will be available. Nonetheless, all rooms have an Internet connection and tea- and coffee-making facilities.
At the health club, two squash courts and a tennis court are available in addition to a swimming pool, sauna, steam bath and jacuzzi. Whether working out in the fitness centre or on the court, guests enjoy relaxing in Tracks, a sports outlet with a menu for the health conscious.
Diplomat Radisson SAS
All rooms at the 246-room Diplomat Radisson SAS Hotel have an Internet connection and tea- and coffee-making facilities. Suites are equipped with a VCR. Nine meeting rooms can handle 15-30 participants but the Grand Ambassador Suite accommodates 500 delegates.
The ballroom can be divided into four subsections, each handling 100-200 participants. Ample foyer space exists to have an exhibition outside the meeting area. A sauna, steambath, jacuzzi, massage salon, two tennis courts and two squash courts as well as a swimming pool are part of the fitness-club offer.
With 327 rooms, the Regency InterContinental pampers the executive with its summit executive seventh and eighth floors which have a dedicated check-in and check-out service. In the summit executive lounge, an Internet station is featured. Complimentary breakfast, evening cocktails and the executive-floor meeting room with butler service are available.
Suites offer an in-room safe, fax machines, high-speed Internet connection, DVD-VCD-CD player, an impressive mini-bar and electronic key lock. The first-floor business centre has a time-shared office adjacent to three private boardrooms which can be equipped with IBM computers and the latest business software.
Two hospitality lounges for coffee breaks, business meals and just plain relaxation are opposite the boardrooms. Off the lobby are a number of shops but the heart of Manamaís shopping district is just a few steps away from the Regency.
At the fitness centre, separate ladies and menís gymnasiums with sauna and whirlpool are available. The outdoor pool terrace boasts an all-year-round temperature-controlled swimming pool close to a children's pool with its tranquil waterfalls. An outdoor jacuzzi is part of the health-club facilities. For major conferences, Al Rifaía Ballroom, with about 800 square metres of space, can accommodate up to 1,000 persons. In addition, five meeting rooms are available, handling up to 100 participants.
The Gulf International Convention and Exhibition Centre (GICEC) is the crown jewel in the facilities at Gulf Hotel. The centre can handle a congress for 2,500 people just as easily as a meeting of 20 participants, and it boasts the Middle Eastís largest rear-projection system as part of its audio-visual equipment as well as satellite conferencing facilities.
GICEC has total surface space of 4,780 square metres, 1,604 of these in the main Al Dana Hall which can handle 75 stalls for an exhibition. Power-supply units, light rigs, a built-in stage, catwalk facilities and retractable partitions for dividing up the hall into separate conference areas are all available. The mezzanine provides four meeting rooms, for 10-190 participants.
Equipment for simultaneous interpretation into three languages for 100 delegates with a chairmanís unit and translation booths are part of GICECís offer. In addition, you can have tele- and video-conferencing, closed-circuit TV and mobile audio-visual systems (audio-rack system with CD player, double-cassette deck amplifier, Bose speakers, graphic equaliser, six wired microphones, one cordless mike and a 12-channel mixing console).
Portable AV equipment includes a 35-millimetre slide projector, an overhead projector, LCD panel, square screen, TV monitor, VHS video and an LCD projector. At the hotel itself, Awal Ballroom has space for up to 700 for a major conference along with a 2,580 sq m exhibition area.
The business centre has telex and fax facilities in addition to secretarial services and the use of adjacent boardrooms. On the executive floors, a private check-in at the Gulf Hotelís sixth-floor executive lounge is provided for executive-floor guests.
Airport-hotel transfers are made by limousine, and a swift check-out can be arranged upon request. Rooms are equipped with a computerised electronic safe, fax machine, direct telephone-fax line and VCR player.
A complimentary breakfast buffet or Japanese breakfast are served and a personalised butler service is provided. The spouse stays free in the same room, and a late check-out can be arranged, subject to availability, up to 6 pm.
The executive lounge features a fax machine, satellite channels, keyboard-controlled floor access, secretarial services, a PC with Internet and complimentary meeting facilities. Every executive-floor room is equipped with a large desk, fax machine, IDD telephone; Internet access, interactive television as well as an electronic safe. The health club for ladies or men at Gulf Hotel each have the latest workout equipment as well as steamroom, jacuzzi, sauna and massage facilities.
With 106 rooms, Mövenpick Hotel is ideal for the business traveller as Bahrainís first hotel with wi-fi facilities. Just beyond the airport, the hotel has more style and class than the conventional airport property.
In addition, a business centre has Internet, fax, B&W or colour photocopying and a small meeting room for two to seven persons. All suites at the hotel have a fax and printer and all rooms are soundproof and have a minibar and safe. Three-quarters of the rooms overlook the lagoon and pool.
The pool, referred to as an "infinity" pool, is considered one of the largest in Bahrain with 580 square metres and gives the impression of blending right into the lagoon. Mövenpick offers five meeting rooms which can accommodate up to 40 participants to a room.
LCD screens and overhead projectors are available along with flipcharts and technical equipment.
Al Bander Hotel & Resort
Al Bander Hotel and Resort underscores relaxation, and, after all, thatís why itís called a resort. A six-lane bowling alley, snooker hall, jacuzzi, gym, sauna and steam room are part of the facilities. But donít forget the marina itself where you can anchor your boat.
A beach and watersports are key to the lifestyle at Al Bander where sailing, canoeing, scuba diving and snorkelling are part of the offer at sea. Cabanas run BD35 for a one-bedroom to BD135 for a three-bedroom duplex with a private swimming pool.
You can even book a royal residence for BD300 with two bedrooms, a sea view and massage parlour. In such a relaxed atmosphere, it seems hardly the place to think of business. But several conference rooms can handle up to 25 participants though a marquise can be set up for 350 people. LCD screens and overhead projectors are available.
Gulf College Guesthouse
The Gulf College of Hospitality and Tourism, in Muharraq, operates a 17-room guesthouse where some visitors like to settle in. Many stay on a monthly basis but for BD8-BD10 per day you can have a single room, for BD15 a double.
With college students aiming to get high marks for their work, rooms are well maintained and tidy. While thereís no business centre within the guesthouse, manager Mohammed Khadim says that they try to accommodate the requirements of some guests. The college, of course, does have office facilities and could let guesthouse lodgers use the Internet, PC and do photocopying.
The Elite Hotel has a wi-fi facility as well as use of the Internet, scanner, photocopier, fax and printer and PC. Two conference rooms can handle from 25-150 delegates, depending upon the room.
Even the coffee shop can be converted to a meeting centre, handling up to 100 persons. On the ninth floor, a modest health centre has a five-foot-long swimming pool as well as a sauna and workout room. In addition, seven furnished apartment buildings around the country are part of the Elite group and are for those wanting a longer stay.
Located on an island south of Bahrainís mainland, the Hawar Resort Hotel has 40 rooms, four suites and 16 apartments and is a wonderful getaway for a weekend or longer. You can dock at the hotelís marina but if you havenít brought your boat with you, a bus at the Manama booking office on the eastern corniche will bus you in 35 minutes to Al Dur pier.
From there, a 20-passenger speedboat takes you 45 minutes to the Hawar archipelago. While itís an ideal spot to relax for families and visitors, Hawar Resort Hotel general manager Sanjay Uchil says the resort is also "a great team-building place" for those who want to have a workshop or seminar.
Away from 21st-century hassles and a fast-moving business environment, the resort allows managers and executives to work out plans, assess projects and develop strategies without interruptions and distractions. Three conference rooms can each handle 20-60 participants where OHPs are available. A business centre has an Internet connection, fax and photocopying facilities.
For sports types, two swimming pools Ė one with a water slide Ė jet skies, a sauna and jacuzzi are featured along with resort buggies to get around on. The hotel conducts regular tours of the island too.
Al Safir Hotel has a cyber-cafť where Internet stations are available with BD2 per hour rates including bottomless coffee and tea service. Two boardrooms can handle 10-20 delegates while the ballroom itself accommodates 150-200 for large conferences. Overhead projectors and an LCD screen are available.
The hotel has 120 rooms and suites at BD30 (single) and BD35 (double). A jacuzzi and swimming pool are available. Another tower, under construction, is expected to be completed in December 2005 and will have more extensive health and fitness facilities as well as business perks.
The Ramada Hotel, located on the outskirts of the popular Adliya restaurant-cafť-nightspot precincts, has become a favourite home to business people visiting Bahrain. Located across from the Prime Ministerís new court, the hotel has 123 rooms including a meeting room accommodating 25 participants.
Le Rendez-vous conference room can handle 60 delegates and is equipped with an overhead projector. The business centre has an Internet connection but fax, photocopying and scanning are also available from the reception or executive offices. A swimming pool, mini-gym and a massage parlour for men help relax after a stressful day.
Opening at the beginning of 2005 is the Mercure Grand Hotel Seef with 120 suites at BD80 for a double. The penthouse has a breathtaking vista from the 14th floor of Manama and the northern shores and bays of the Gulf.
The hotel is located in the heart of the burgeoning business and shopping precinct of Bahrain, just across the highway from Bahrain International Exhibition Centre and smack dab next to the handsome Al Ahli Shopping Complex. Two meeting rooms, with overhead projector, LCD screens and Internet connections, can each accommodate up to 100 participants.
Suites include a high-speed Internet access port, a personal safe, DVD players, stereo system as well as coffee- and tea-making facilities. A business corner has Internet, printing and other facilities. At the summit of Mercure is a workout room, swimming pool and sauna.
Located in the heart of Manamaís busy Gudaibiya district, Atlas Hotel has 12 suites which can be converted to meeting rooms for 10-15 people. A conference room accommodates 80 delegates with overhead projector and LCD screen available. The business centre provides fax, Internet, secretarial services, photocopying and scanning. The hotel has 40 rooms, with BD16 single, BD23 double, plus 15 percent taxes.
For young people Ė or anyone, for that matter Ė who want to experience Bahrain but are on a shoestring budget, theyíll find two youth hostels here that provide the basics in amenities. The one in Juffair has 54 rooms but can accommodate 300 persons while the hostel in Seef Ė tucked between Bahrain International Exhibition Centre and Bahrain Mall Ė has just 20 rooms, handling 36 guests.
"Our youth hostel in Seef has rooms better than in a four-star hotel," enthused Mohammed Abul, president of the Bahrain Youth Hostel Association. He said that facilities at the Seef hostel were to be outfitted in 2005 with a swimming pool, workout room, a sauna and volleyball courts.
Juffair, in any case, does have a modest gym, and anyone wanting to have a game of tennis can use the adjacent courts, Abul said. Coffee and refreshments are served in an Arabian-style tent. A meeting room handles 35-40 participants.
In a youth hostel, rates generally run per bed rather than by the room though guests can take a single or double room, quite often with bath or the use of a common bathroom. Rates begin at BD4.500 for a bed at Juffair. However, in Seef, a single room is BD18, BD30 for a double.
Novotel Al Dana
The Novotel al Dana Resort, just off the Shaikh Hamad Manama-Muharraq causeway, is a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere on the bay between the Diplomatic Area and the shores of Muharraq. The hotel seems to be nestled in a comfortable Arabian village. Three meeting rooms can accommodate 15-20 participants each while a ballroom can handle up to 100 delegates.
An overhead projector and LCD screen are available as part of a conference package of equipment and supplies. A beach is featured in addition to a swimming pool and a health centre with a workout room, sauna, jacuzzi and steambath. Rooms have a wi-fi connection.
The Captainís is an executive guest house where manager Susan Gronberg tells her guests, "Letís spoil you a little at your home away from home." Three suites and two double rooms are decorated maritime style with a multi-channel satellite-TV system, Internet and direct international-telephone access. Rates start at BD20 net per day.
Guests staying seven or 30 days or more have lower per-diem rates. You can have a dip in a modest-sized swimming pool. A business corner has an Internet connection while fax and photocopying are available, too, at the Captainís office. A meeting room could handle 12 participants.
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