It was a wonderful morning on our first day in Bahrain. We arrived the night before and if you want to see more of our accommodation (the wonderful Residence Inn by Marriott Manama Juffair) and the first restaurant we dined in then you can read the first part of our weekend trip here. I was surprised that I actually woke up really early on a Friday. I so wanted to stay in the soft, dreamy bed under my warm, clean comforter but the day’s sun rays were already pouring in the glass walls of my room and I know I have to catch the scenery outside in this ethereal, tantalizing glow. And so I did.
We had an appointment at 9:00 AM for breakfast so I had a lot of time to enjoy my room and our suite’s living room. I would have wanted to cook you know because the kitchen is so inviting and just looking at it reminds me of cooking shows I used to watch in the Food Network. Well, Reina might have a better luck at it because she’s the one into cooking. I settled myself in the business table and chair and proceeded to update The Pink Tarha’s social media accounts. I’m grateful for the peace and calm of weekend mornings no matter where I am.
Breakfast was served at the neighboring Marriott Executive Apartments (MEA). Their Skywalk Cafe is a contemporary yet cozy restaurant that serves international cuisine. While the breakfast selections are limited, they’re enough to satiate my hunger. Their freshly-made omelettes and waffles are delicious! Reina and I couldn’t get enough of their beef bacon too. And I kept on going back to the detox water and juices station; I kept on coming back for their watermelon juice (I decided to just get the big glass instead of using the smaller ones because the juice is so sweet and refreshing, I need it in my life!)
After breakfast, we visited Gloss Salon and Spa of inside MEA, because c’mon, our hair needed a little bit of pampering and styling before we conquer Bahrain! Haha! Gloss Salon and Spa is one of the most popular salons in the country. It offers luxury treatments at a very bright, chill, and exquisitely furnished setting. Apart from hair services, Gloss also offers manicure and pedicure, waxing, and body treatments. They also offer the L’oreal Steam Pod Treatment exclusively. Nabeel, their senior stylist, was in charge of my hair and I asked for large curls because it’s been a long time since I had my locks curled. The blow dry was amazing! It was fast and it really defined my waves and highlighted my hair color. Reina was under the skillful hands of Stefan and he also did a masterful work of straightening Reina’s hair and giving it just enough volume so it doesn’t look flat. Overall, four thumbs up for Gloss!
The ladies of Marriott gave us a quick tour of the Executive Apartments. Like Residence Inn, they also have huge rooms which are good for long stays, business trips and holidays. Families can really call this their deluxe home away from home. It has a full kitchen, a dedicated office area, spacious living room, wi-fi, and safe. The bedrooms are so homey and comfy with its lush bedding and warm lighting. Some rooms have a sweeping view of the scenery outside. It also has a swimming pool on the rooftop complete with lounging chairs and a fitness center. MEA is just 10 minutes away from the Bahrain International Airport and 20 minutes away from the Bahrain International Circuit.
We were also fortunate enough to see the opening of the Little Island Market in the nearby Al Raya Mall. Because it’s so near Residence Inn, it’s convenient to go to the mall and shop! No need to go to the bigger malls in the city center because if you’re looking for gifts and souvenirs that are handmade locally, then Little Island is the shopping destination for you. This is a bazaar that has a good mix of local and GCC brands. We found colorful garaments, a few skincare products, a furniture store, plush toys, and home pieces. They also have an area for food and drinks where we saw (and sampled) truffle chocolates from Troufa and mochi from Lindo Store (a Dammam-based brand!).
Unfortunately, it’s not a permanent fixture in the mall but they’re staging one again this coming weekend and another weekend in July.
Lunch was at the Bluefield Burger located at the ground floor of Al Raya Mall. It’s a small restaurant but it has a cool vibe going on. I love the interiors with its mason jar lighting, bottles of detox and fruit water, books, tiffany blue color, and walls that look like blackboards with food quotes ‘written’ in chalk. Bluefield is a franchise restaurant from New York and it “reinvented” the burger by infusing Mediterranean flavors but maintaining its American tradition. They use fresh local vegetables and premium meat and fishes on their food.
I wasn’t really up to eating burgers so I zeroed on in the one thing that is not readily available in Riyadh: lobster rolls. My order came with a handful of potato chips which are crispy on the outside and smooth and warm on the inside. The soft roll is filled with creamy and tasty lobster pieces with mayonnaise and greens. I love it! I want to take this recipe back to Riyadh, only if lobsters aren’t that expensive. Haha! Reina had their Bluefield Burger and she found it a bit dry. Still flavorful though and she loved the zucchini fries that came with it. What really surprised us though is the simple-looking Corn Dog; an order has four pieces and it’s the best corn dog I’ve ever tried. I haven’t had a lot of corn dogs though sooo… haha! But really, it’s delicious! I wish there are corn dogs here in Riyadh that are worth the drive you know.
We had enough time to rest for a bit before we embark on an Introduction to Bahrain’s history. I’m a history nut. I’m drawn to museums and other centers of knowledge. My favorite subject in school is World History and Literature! Haha! I’m such a nerd, yes. But I’m really fascinated with the origins of things, of people, of places. So I was really glad that we had a tour of the Bahrain National Museum courtesy of Farhat Travel and Tours. It was 3:00 PM when our guide Abbas fetched us from the hotel and we started our historical journey of Bahrain.
On our way to the National Museum, we passed by the Al Fateh Grand Mosque which we saw from our Residence Inn suite (see featured photo). This mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world encompassing 6,500 sqm and can accommodate up to 7,000 worshippers at a time. Wow! It was built by the late Sheikh Isa Ibn Salman Al Khalifa in 1987 and was named after the founder of Bahrain, Almed Al Fateh. It also houses the National Library of Bahrain. We weren’t able to tour the area as it was a Friday and it was closed to visitors.
Luckily, the Bahrain National Museum is open and we were able to roam its grounds and I discovered a lot of things about Bahrain. I’ve always thought of Bahrain as a part of Saudi Arabia that they cut off so they can have a place where they can do what’s not allowed in the Kingdom. Haha, I kid. Seriously though, the Kingdom of Bahrain stands on its own and it has its own history and culture that is so fascinating and rich. Here are some fun facts about Bahrain that we learned from our guide:
- Bahrain is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilization. It was my first time to hear of the Dilmun civilization. In school, it has always been the Mesopotamian Greek, Persina, and Roman civilizations so who would have thought that there’s Dilmun, one of the oldest civilizations in the Middle East known for being an important trade center and regarded as the “holy land” of Sumeranians. Dilmun encompassed not only Bahrain but also Kuwait, Qatar and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. They’re known for their copper.
- Bahrain is famed for its pearl fisheries. Again, it’s only now that I knew that Bahrain is known for pearls. That it’s a popular work for Bahrainis that even our guide was a licensed pearl diver. Bahrain was referred to by the ancient Greels as Tylos or the center of pearl trading. We saw different kinds of pearls in the museum. Our guide told us that Bahrain’s flag is from this industry. The white signifies the pearl and the red signifies the cloth where they usually put the pearls when harvested. The five zigzags or points are for the Five Pillars of Islam.
- Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam in ad 628. The Prophet Mohammed ruled Bahrain through one of his representatives, Al-Ala’a Al-Hadhrami. Priot to Islam though, Bahrain was Nestorian Christianity. Interesting!
- Bahrain is home to hundreds and hundreds of burial mounds! These burial mounds date back to Dilmun and later eras. Originally, the Kingdom had quite a number of square kilometers of mounds and it’s said to be one of the largest cemeteries in the ancient world. This really piqued my curiosity. I asked the guide where the burial mounds are now and he said that some of them are still existing, located in between residential areas. What! How?! (My question will be answered later on.) There’s a diorama in the museum that when lit up, it shows where the burial mounds are located in A’ali, Bahrain.
- Bahrain has been ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. Bahrain declared its independence in 1971 and it was declared a Kingdom in 2002.
Our tour of the Bahrain Museum was an overdose of information, haha, but it’s really very nice to know more about a country. In Riyadh, I’ve been to its National Museum thrice and I still haven’t completed my learning of its history. Funny, I was even the one who was sharing the history of KSA to one of my colleagues… and she’s Saudi! Go figure. Haha!
In connection with the burial mounds that we saw in the National Museum, our guide took us to see a real burial mound in Saar, Bahrain. It must have been because he saw in my face how fascinated I was in the burial mounds you know? Haha! I can’t wrap my brain around the idea of burial mounds side by side residential houses. But before that, while on our drive there, we chanced upon a donkey race on the side of the road. Seriously?! Donkeys can run fast?! They can race?! Another mind-blown moment folks! Haha! Go donkey!
Back to the burial mound trail we go:
It’s true! There are three medium-sized burial mounds in one of the residential areas in Saar. It’s now fenced in but we asked for permission from the guy on duty and he permitted us to have a look. We climbed the burial tombs (no bodies or bones buried, don’t worry) but I was too scared to actually go inside the lower chambers. Waaah! Haha! Our guide said that this mound symbolizes the womb and when a person dies, they are returned to the womb. Each of the mound is composed of a central stone chamber enclosed by low ring-walls and covered by earth and gravel. Small mounds has one chamber for one person while the bigger mounds has additional chambers to accommodate a family. I know this is a gory detail but you know what? History is history and they’re there to remind us of where we came from, or at least where the Bahrainis came from. Most of the burial mounds have been leveled to make way for houses. It’s been an issue in Bahrain to protect the mounds as a lot of people called for them to be concreted for housing. As Sheikh Adel Mouwdah said “Housing for the living is better than the graves for the dead. We must have pride in our Islamic roots and not some ancient civilisation from another place and time, which has only given us a jar here and a bone there.” So that’s that.
Our next stop is the Janabiya Royal Camel Farm in the outskirts of the city.
By the time we reached the camel farm, there was already a full blown sandstorm and Reina was getting sick from her allergies on dust and sand. I noticed that the sandstorm in Bahrain is more windy and I can really feel the sand on my face and the sand on my mouth (I’m actually grinding them on my teeth ack!). It was not a good time to be in a camel farm haha! But whatever, we were already there and we need to see the camels because Middle East = camels, one of the misconceptions about the desert countries. Come to think of it, we haven’t been to a proper camel farm in Riyadh and we’re already friends with the camels in Bahrain. Haha!
The camels here are more like just hanging out. They’re not raised for racing or selling for their meats. They’re just there… to exist. And for people to gaze and gawk at them. There were camels on fences but most of them are outside in the ground with a mound of hay and branches on their side. The male and female camels are separated in their corals and there are “baby” camels too. They don’t look so “baby” haha. It’s best to take precautions and not to get too close to the camels. It was a fun activity especially if you’re with children but the smell gets to you after a while and that’s when we knew we had to leave. We’ve taken dozens of photos and videos already.
The last part of our Bahrain tour took us to the Qal’at Al Bahrain or Bahrain Fort. It was already getting dark when we arrived. The museum was already closed but the fort remained open until 8:00 in the evening.
By this time, the sandstorm is raging but we forged on because I’m a history nut (lol); I kept pace with Abbas while he enthusiastically told me stories of the fort and the four layers of civilizations that are under us. Yes, in this archaeological site sits mounds created by many successive layers of human occupations. Meaning one civilization is sitting on top of another without them ever knowing that they were actually building over something! It’s astonishing!
We spent an hour or so going through the fort. I especially enjoyed the balcony areas where I can see the ancient ruins below and the modern skyline above. Bahrain is truly a great amalgamation of the new and the old. It’s breathtaking. (It’s more breathtaking if sand wasn’t swirling all around us! Haha!)
We were famished after a long day of getting to know Bahrain better so what’s good for dinner? MEAT! And we found real good grub at the Big Texas Barbecue and Waffle House. Just by its name, you can already tell how filling their food are! Our mocktail drinks went well with the ambiance of the restaurant. Very cowboy. The crowd was participative but not rowdy, the musicians were amazing and the vibe is just amazeballs. (Of course it’s not something we’ll find here in Riyadh.)
We were served with the best appetizers of fried pickles (so good, a revelation!), chicken wings in lemon (tasty!), and pulled pork quesadillas (yummy!). The appetizers alone made us full already but we can’t refuse the main courses right?! The brisket and pulled pork cooked for HOURS are the bomb! They’re so tender and delicious. I also like the Hawaiian Chicken because of its sweet and savory taste. And we didn’t forget the ribs which was smoky and juicy.
We were given a great dessert in the form of… waffles! If I wasn’t full, I would have wolfed down the entire thing because it’s so good especially with the banana sauce that it came with, and the ice cream of course. It’s burst after burst of sweet and mild flavors. We had to bid Big Texas and its gracious owners goodbye but it was one delish feast we won’t forget. We already asked them to bring a franchise in Saudi Arabia, haha.
Tired but happy, we went back to the Residence Inn. Our suite was cleaned and made and our beds were once again so inviting that I think I plopped down on it and went to dreamland pronto! Haha! I can’t wait for the next day’s activities! Our Day 1 was mild and tame with shopping and historicala places but Day 2 is a different matter altogether. This weekend in Bahrain is really a mix of all things good.
Marriott Executive Luxury Apartments
Building 864, Road 2414, Block 324,
Al-Fateh, Manama, Bahrain [MAP]
/// Residence Inn and Executive Apartments by Marriott in Manama Juffair Bahrain are offering all our readers, likers, and followers a special discount when you book! Just quote the code D3Q and mention Reina when you book via phone at +973-1-736-3999.
BD 70 nett inclusive of wifi, breakfast, and taxes for a one-bedroom suite at Residence Inn Manama Juffair or a one-bedroom apartment at Marriott Executive Apartments.
BD 90 nett inclusive of wifi, breakfast and taxes for a two-bedroom suite at Residence Inn Manama Juffair or a two-bedroom apartment at Marriott Executive Apartments
Gloss Salon and Spa
Ground Floor, Marriott Executive Apartments,
Juffair, Manama, Bahrain
T: +973 17 826030
E: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Al Raya Mall
Al-Fateh, Manama, Bahrain
T: (+973) 1728 1228
Ground Floor, Al Raya Mall,
Juffair, Manama, Bahrain
T: +973 1721 4441
Office No. 39, Bahrain Tower, Government Avenue,
T: +973 1721 6411
Big Texas Barbecue and Waffle House
Best Western Olive Hotel,
Juffair, Manama, Bahrain
T: +973 1736 0036 or +973 3373 1000