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

State of Kuwait

Kuwait, not the first country that comes to mind when tourist destinations are mentioned, but given Sonya was there for a few weeks for work, with company paid hotels and flights, there was no reason not to check it out.

I arrived late on Thursday night (hours were wasted trying to get a VISA in the Kuwait airport) which gave us a full day on Friday and a half day on Saturday to explore Kuwait.

Kuwait Towers

The iconic Kuwait Towers stands 187 metre tall, the three spheres are decorated with sequins of multiple blue shades. We made our way up to the 123 metre viewing sphere which through the dirty glass, gave us panoramic views of Kuwait City

Kuwait TowersBlue sequins on Kuwait Towers' spheresKuwait Towers

Friday Market (Souq al-Jum’a)

One of the more interesting open-air markets, with everything from Bedouin décor to Afghan coats. The shear scale of the market was unlike anything I had seen before, and the majority of the goods were second hand, it didn’t matter if the cooking pot was rusting or the computer ten years old, it was there on sale. We even purchased an ornamental traditional Arabic coffee pot (Dallah) for five Kuwaiti Dinars.

Friday Market Arabic cushionsVarious coins at Friday MarketVarious brass knick-knacks at Friday Market

Souq al-Mubarakiya

Between around 11am to 4pm most places are closed, so we decided to visit Souq al-Mubarakiya, Kuwait’s Old Souq.  The under-cover souq supported much fresh produce, including fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. There where the usual perfume, watches and gold stores as well as souvenirs. Outside the souq we decided to have lunch, for roughly ten dollars we had fresh Arabic bread, with grilled skewers of chicken and meat kofta.

Souk Al-Mubarakiya Arabic figurine smoking ShishaSouk Al-Mubarakiya meat marketSouk Al-Mubarakiya vegetable market

Kuwait National Museum

One of the more official of the many Kuwait museums, Kuwait National Museum consisted of three separate buildings.

Al-Bader House

A collection of archaeological findings from Kuwait’s early history, pieces included early stone tools, ceramics and metal works.  Many pieces are from Failaka Island, which was inhabited from 3000BC.

Heritage Museum

In interesting museum that presented a diy tour through Kuwaiti Heritage, it starts with a showcase of various traditional items including coins, clothing, weapons and hand tools.  The ending finishes with a number of very impressive full sized dioramas with life-like statues portraying the early Kuwaiti way-of-life. Scenes included blacksmithing, basket weaving, praying and stores selling.


A museum unrelated to Kuwaiti culture but more on international space travel and our solar system, we didn’t spend much time there.

Naz Iranian Restaurant

One of the highlights (though it wasn’t even Kuwaiti), for dinner we ventured into Naz restaurant for some Persian cuisine. Our first taste of Iranian food, we ordered the Khoresh-e Ghormeh Sabzi (a stew of lamb, red kidney beans and copious amounts of parsley) , Kashk-e Bademjan (an eggplant spread) and tradition drink Doogh (a yogurt drink with mint). For desert we couldn’t resist the Persian rose flavoured ice-cream Faloodeh.

Naz Iranian Restaurant - AdasiNaz Iranian Restaurant - Khoresh-e Ghormeh SabziNaz Iranian Restaurant - Sonya enjoying Faloodeh

Kuwait House of National Memorial Museum

The following morning we visited the Kuwait House of National Memorial Museum, a museum detailing  the Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990, all that led up to the war and details of the post war destruction and rebuilding. The start of the museum is an automated sound and light tour with many miniature sized dioramas depicting the war, it ends with photos, some quite gruesome, in one of the rooms is a head from a statue of Saddam Hussein captured in Iraq.

Tareq Rajab Museum

One of the few museums that survived untouched during the war, we unfortunately arrived too late and it was about to close for the midday prayer.

Red Fort (Al-Jahra Fort)

Thirty kilometres west of Kuwait, when we arrived at 1pm the gates were already closed.

Dubai – our introduction to the Middle East

After an extremely long sixteen hour flight from Los Angeles we arrived at Dubai. We had heard that Dubai was a relatively liberal city compared to the rest of the Middle East but still strictly abides by Islamic law so we were anxious about visiting there.

It was an interesting experience riding in the taxi to our hotel, all the sandy coloured buildings, Arabic writings and mosques.

Our first night we had our first taste of Arabic cuisine, with dishes of lamb, hummus, chickpeas and olives.

Day 1 – Desert Safari

The next morning we where introduced to another Arabic culture, the dawn Islamic Prayer (Fajr), which is signalled via a ‘call to prayer’ (adhān) via loudspeakers. It also didn’t help that the mosque was directly outside our window.

We had booked a desert safari in afternoon which gave us the morning to start exploring Dubai. We walked along Dubai Creek towards the Gold and Spice Souks in the Deira district. We spent all morning looking for a clock tower which was somewhat of a disappointment on arrival.

The desert safari we booked with Oasis Palm Tourism via our hotel. The tour included dune bashing and more ‘traditional’ activities including a meal at a camp for 270 Dirham per head. The activities all gave us some pretty unique photos. The dune bashing, which was a convoy of SUVs driving up and down the dunes at ridiculous speeds, was a blast.  Many times I was concerned the car would roll, fortunately it didn’t. I don’t think any of the drivers got bogged once. At one spot we were given a chance to ‘sandboard’ which was literally a five second affair sliding down a dune.

On arriving at the camp which was reminiscent of a Bedouin camp, we were greeted by two camels who we could ride, this gave us some nice photos. Inside the very large camp were many areas for eating on the outskirts of a larger performance area for belly dancing, and also an area to try the tradition Arabic clothes (the male thawb and female jilaabah),  Henna painting, which Sonya later found out she would be displaying for a month and Shisha smoking of apple flavoured tobacco.

Dinner was a selection of barbeque meats, salads and breads.

Travis at dinner with a complimentary saladSonya at dinner with a variety of Arabic dishesSonya at the north side of Dubai Creek
Outside the Dubai fish marketsDeira clock towerTravis on a sand dune
Sonya and some sandSonya and with the Oasis Palm desert safari vehicleConvoy of vehicles
Many vehicles dune bashingTravis attempts sand-boardingA remote camel farm
CamelsSonya and a camelDunes at dusk
Sonya and Travis riding a camelSonya and Travis in the traditional Arabic clothesSonya getting Henna painted
Sonya's HennaBedouin esque campTravis smoking a Shisha

Day 2 – Downtown Dubai and Burj Khalifa

This day we spent exploring Downtown Dubai which includes the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and Dubai Fountain.

On arrival to the over-towing Burj our first thoughts were ‘wow, it’s big’. Out of pure luck we happened to be in Dubai a few days after the official opening and managed to go all the way up to the observation deck. The views on the observation deck were amazing, and it was a very surreal feeling overlooking all the other skyscrapers.

For the rest of the day we browsed the adjacent Dubai Mall, one of the largest malls in the world. The mall had a multi-storey indoor aquarium, waterfalls and even an ice-rink. The mall had all the western shops including luxury brands. We finished the day off with another visit to the gold, spice and perfume souks, before our flight back to Perth, which sadly concluding our holidays.

Dubai Creek with the skyline in the backgroundSonya and the BurjSonya and Travis and the Burj
Burj KhalifaBurj KhalifaSonya and the Burj in the background
Hotels surrounding Dubai FountainLuxury chocolatereExtravagant lobby
From the earth to the skySonya at the Burj observation deckTravis at the Burj observation deck
Looking down at the rest of Dubai's skyscrapersTravis with models of the construction stagesBurj escalator
Hotels surrounding Dubai FountainSonya and the Dubai MuseumSpices at the Spice Souk