Bahrain – a taste of the Kingdom of Bahrain

Keen to visit another Middle East country whilst in the region, and prior to our travels through Central Asia, we decided to have a two day stopover in Bahrain, a tiny little island to the north-west of Qatar. In addition, the local budget airlines Gulf Air conveniently flew to Shiraz in Iran, our entry to the Silk Road. It was only two days prior to our departure that we received a call from Gulf Air informing us that the capital Manama to Shiraz flights were no longer running for the past eighteen months. Luckily, Qatar Airways also flew to Shiraz, so we quickly booked the flight, it turned out we hadn’t quite left Qatar when we visited Bahrain.

We arrived in the evening and after checking into our hotel we headed to the Manama Souq. The souk is literally a functional market with many stalls and shops littered along narrow streets, contrasting the beautiful fairytale-like architecture that we were familiar with in Qatar. It was so plain, that as we walked around we wandered if we had reached the ‘souq’ yet.

The next day we spent visiting three main attractions, the National Museum, Al-Fatih Mosque and the Qal’at fort.

Bahrain National Museum

The Kingdom’s National Museum has a vast collection of archaeological finds on the ancient Dilmun civilisation, some of the interesting items were the vast amount of foreign artefacts found on the small island country (e.g porcelain from China), indicating the site of the city as a past trading hub.

Wooden Arabic door at Bahrain National MuseumSonya standing on a Bahrain aerial mapSonya sitting on a bench in the Bahrain National Museum
Some turquoise coins in a clay potStone with Arabic carvingsThe calligraphy and manuscripts section
One of the many beautiful QuransClay pot in the Bahrain National MuseumStone arrow heads in the Bahrain National Museum


Al-Fatih Mosque

The Al-Fatih Mosque, while not the most aesthetic of the mosques we had seen, though was enjoyable and eye-opening due to the very helpful guide that showed us around and answered all of our questions with respect to the Islamic faith, we finally learnt what was being said during the call-to-prayer, how the prayer times were calculated and how to form a tight line shoulder-to-shoulder when praying in the mosque.

Al-Fatih Mosque decorative windowsAl-Fatih Mosque internal courtyardSonya admiring the French lights, that resemble pearls


Qal’at al-Bahrain

The Bahrain Fort, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and located on a tell (layers of ancient sites). The location of the capital of the ancient Dilmun civilisation, the fort and tell are an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort complex is quite large and is surrounded by a moat, it took  a little while to walk the circumference. We didn’t spend too much time inside as we were rushed for time.

Bahrain Fort lookout towerQal'at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort)Qal'at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort)
BeetleBahrain flag on the Bahrain FortArches in the Bahrain Fort
View of Bahrain from the Bahrain FortTravis in front of the Bahrain FortThe Till site of the ancient Dilmun civilisation


Saar Burial Chambers

Located close to the fort is a complex of Dilmun burial chambers, still being excavated and restored, the many chamber mud-brick walls and rooms are visible.

Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar

Souq Waqif is one of my favourite places in Doha. Located in the heart of Doha’s old city, the souq area is a bustling marketplace and also hosts a number of restaurants, shisha lounges and coffee shops. The souq as a market site has been around for over a hundred years, but was restored a few years ago. Stepping into the souq overwhelms the senses – the smell of Arabic perfumes and oils, apple shishas and mint teas, the sight of the Qataris, men in their thobes and gutra, women in their abayas…

Narrow alleyways are lined with shops filled with spices, handicrafts, perfumes and sweets and all sorts of other household goods. There’s a pet souq with coloured chicks, miniature turtles and macaws (though unfortunately I haven’t heard positive things about the way animals are treated here).

We visit the souq quite frequently, whether it be for dinner with friends or an evening walk.

Below are some of the photos taken.

One of the many halls and archesBenches with tradition Bedouin designsHotel Souk Waqif
African Grey Parrot at animal soukBlue-and-yellow Macaw at animal soukJava Sparrows at animal souk
Red Parrot at animal soukBudgerigars at animal soukCockatiels/Weiros at animal souk
Green Parrot at animal soukDyed chicks at animal soukRabbits at animal souk
The animal soukThe animal souk bird sectionChildren look at the animals in the animal souk
One of Souk Waqif hallways, spices for saleOne of Souk Waqif hallways, fabrics for saleOne of the many Souk Waqif hallways
Qatari man sitting on benchLittle 'Aladdin' outfits for saleLine of wheelbarrows waiting to be used
People browsing cloths at Souk WaqifSome incense burning in one of the hallwaysTradition cloths for sale in on of the Souk Waqif hallways
Pashmina shawls for saleThe main street of Souk WaqifVarious knick-knacks for sale
The many souvenir shopsThe main street of Souk Waqif during the dayDrying linen in traditional Bedouin designs

Katara – Qatar Cultural Village, Doha, Qatar

Katara is Qatar’s Cultural Village completed in late 2010, situated to the north of Doha, Qatar between West Bay and the Pearl. It sprawls around a large artificial beach and includes many boutique societies (including the Qatar Fine Arts Society, the Qatar Photographic Society and the Doha Film Institute). Along the board walk, enjoying beach views are restaurants and lounges.

The Qatar Cultural Village consists of many beautiful buildings, including a mosque (dressed in traditional Persian mosaics), traditional Arabic pigeon houses, a Greek style amphitheatre and many smaller surrounding stores and restaurants. A walk through the maze of walkways and passageways between the buildings provides views of traditional Arabic architecture and features.

Local Qatari in traditional dress of the men’s thoub and women’s burkha add to the atmosphere of the area. Sometimes through the restaurant windows Qatari men enjoying shesha and coffee can be seen.

A popular venue for many of Qatar’s events and attractions, a main ground for the annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival and Traditional Dhow Exhibition.

Below are a few of our photos taken during our many visits. We suggest multiple visits to the area to get the full experience.

Hanging pot in basketsHarnessing the World sculpture - a veiled figure with the globe in a harnessKatara mosque with mosaics
Katara mosque minaret with mosaicsLe Vesuvio restaurantSide of the Katara amphitheatre with blue benches
Side of the Katara amphitheatreSide entrance to the Katara amphitheatreInside the Katara amphitheatre
Katara amphitheatre upper featuresKatara amphitheatre seatingKatara amphitheatre  upper features
The corridor leading down from the Katara amphitheatreOne of two traditional pigeon bird nestsOne of two traditional pigeon bird nests
One of two traditional pigeon bird nestsView from the Katara amphitheatre towards the PearlShade cloths
Shade clothsArched hallQatari lady on a bench
Minaret with gold mosaicsWooden door to MinaretLooking though the Katara amphitheatre

Qatar Ladies Open Tennis 2012

Last week we ventured out to watch the finals of the Qatar Ladies Tennis Open. The finals were between Belarusian Victoria Azarenka (ranked #1) and Australian Sam Stosur (ranked #5). As it was held on a work night, by the time we reached the match Azarenka was leading, with 6-1 in the first set. It was clear Azarenka was a stronger player, returning her shots with her infamous grunts – in the end it was a short but enjoyable game with Azarenka winning the title. Highlights included seeing Martina Hingis and Her Highness Sheikha Mozah who presented the trophies.

Victoria Azarenka with award talking to Her Highness Sheikha Mozah
Sam Stosur serve
Victoria Azarenka returning a serve
Her Highness Sheikha Mozah
Sam Stosur and Martina Hingis