“Traveling — it leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller.”*
I must admit to knowing little to nothing about Bahrain before visiting. And then having been there, I had so much to process before beginning to write this piece. In fact, I was a bit ‘stuck’.
So I started again. I closed my eyes and recalled how this island actually made me feel, the sights, sounds, smells, colours and the first thing that came to mind was warmth. If Bahrain was a colour it would be a perfectly peachy pink, the buildings, the desert and the sunsets all radiating this wonderfully warm and glowing hue.
Said warmth also radiated massively from the people that I met along the way. Wherever I went, I was met with smiles and genuine friendliness. But, of course, there was more to Bahrain than that.
Travelling in style with Gulf Air
It’s easy to say the journey is the destination but it definitely felt that way as I turned left on the airplane, for the very first time in my life feeling like a fully blown A lister. Treated to business class, I sipped chilled champagne and slid into my complimentary pj’s (like a second skin on my curvaceous frame but super comfy nonetheless!). I quickly got to grips with all the various buttons and switches in my pod and adjusted the seat to a fully flat bed. Goodnight!
The service from the Gulf Air cabin crew was extremely efficient yet personal and friendly. I was actually a little sad when the plane landed after the 6 hour flight and I had to leave my little luxury den. The problem now though is I’ve been spoilt for life as regular economy will never be the same!
Leaving a very cold dark and wet morning in Manchester it was lovely to be greeted with a wonderful waft of warm Arabian air as I left the cleanest, most pristine airport I had ever seen. It certainly deserves its certified 5 star status for comfort and cleanliness.
When I had previously googled “winter sun holidays”? Bahrain was not somewhere that had come up on my searches. The usual suspects are either the Canary Islands or Dubai. So with Bahrain never being on my radar until now, I was excited to find out what this country had to offer and to see if it could compare and compete with these other popular winter sun locations.
The climate is certainly a winner. Bahrain only has two seasons - summer runs from May to October with temperatures often exceeding 40 ° C during the day. Winter is a little cooler, from November to April the average daily temperature is between 20 and 25 ° C. That said, when I visited in November the temperature reached 30-32 degrees.
Shop till you drop in Bahrain’s souks
It’s no secret that I love to shop! However on this occasion I decided to swerve the commercial malls in favour of the traditional souk. I absolutely love a market - they tell the real story of a place and the souks of Bab al Bahrain are no different.
If gold is your thing then you will literally be in your element here. Shop after shop selling pretty gold jewellery, often inlaid with the famous Bahraini pearls. In fact, in 2012 UNESCO declared the Bahraini pearl beds a world heritage site, I was fascinated to learn that natural pearls are made when a foreign object like a grain of sand enters the oyster and is coated in a luminous material thus forming a pearl!
My tour guide showed me a little pouch containing pearls he had found during his scuba diving exploits over the years. Some were the size of a pea and others no bigger than a pin head. He told me that he once opened an oyster and found nine pearls! With natural pearls occurring in only 1 in 10,000 oysters this was a real find.
if you love perfume then the souk is the place for you. Many of the perfume shops are packed to the rafters with oils, perfumes, oud and musk all kept in beautifully intricate glass bottles. In one shop I asked if I could blend my own perfume. I chose amber, rose and oud which was poured and mixed for me. I indulged in plenty of smelling and sniffing along the way! I paid 10 Bahrain Dinah for a bottle of perfumed oil (about £22) and a tenth of the price of my regular perfume Portrait of a Lady by Frederick Malle. Every time I wear it I will be reminded of my trip. The souks also have rows and rows of tailors and fabric shops selling silks, satins, velvet and trims as well as an array of spices, dates, pottery and handicrafts.
The disappearing island
Somewhere in the middle of the ocean after a particularly fast and exciting speedboat ride, an island of pure white sand appeared like a beacon in the distance. Comprising of a strip of bright white sand 25 foot wide and it struck me just how magical this place is. When I first heard about this disappearing island I thought it was something to do with climate change, but it’s actually a tidal Island which means that it appears and disappears at certain times of the day.
We ate a delicious bbq of steak and lamb chops and as I took my last bite it was time to head back. It was timely because the island was reducing quickly now and there was only another 20 minutes before it would be completely submerged. It would re-appear for another boat load of people to enjoy tomorrow.
Vida Beach Resort Marassi Al Bahrain
It was during a balmy evening swim in the resort’s stunning infinity pool, with the twinkle of fairy lights glistening on the water, that I started to wish I was staying longer in this paradise. Having the entire pool to myself, I had a rare moment of serenity and a happy relaxed feeling washed over me.
The Vida beach resort hotel is a new and luxurious hotel perfectly positioned on its own private beach, complete with said infinity pool and tasteful opulent interiors. Sun loungers are aplenty and there’s a nice relaxed feel where nothing was too much trouble. It’s definitely a place to unwind and rejuvenate in unpretentious luxury.
The Address Hotel
The Address hotel is brand new. It’s beautifully designed and incredibly luxe. The rooms and suites are all spacious and impeccably designed.
The Address Beach Resort Bahrain features an outdoor pool for adults and a dedicated kids’ Splash Pad, adorned with landscaped gardens and tempting lounging areas with private cabanas.
It also boasts an amazing infinity pool with skyline views. When I say the beach is pristine, it was the most perfectly manicured beach I’ve ever walked on, white sand that is raked every day.
There is also a brand spanking new 200,000 sqm shopping mall called the Marassi Galleria which will open between the two hotels later this year housing some of the world’s top retailers.
Pulling up to the Jumeirah hotel is a bit like driving through the dessert and stumbling upon Las Vegas. The hotel is immense. It is huge, super luxe and virtually on its own. It’s a holiday destination in itself with huge swimming pools, a wide variety of restaurants and bars, perfect if you just want to relax in one place with everything you need on hand.
The hotel was at full capacity when I visited and yet because of the size it felt perfectly quiet. No mad rush for a sunlounger here!
The Next ten years will see a whole new town surrounding the hotel but for now it’s just a beautiful hotel in the middle of the desert.
Four Seasons hotel
One of my main inspirations for interior design is travel. My home reflects many places that I have travelled to in the world, places that have left an imprint in my heart. My bedroom is inspired by the Beverly Hills hotel and my reception room by the riads of Marrakesh. So as I pulled up at the Four Seasons hotel, built on its own private island no less, I was instantly excited.
I knew that the interior would be magical and the reality was more than I could ever have imagined. The lobby is so impressive - lines of 300 year old mummified olive trees, sumptuous furnishings, decadent art and the sound of a beautiful woman playing classical music on the grand piano. The interior is based on 1920s ships and has some fabulous art deco touches. Walking down the corridor to the rooms, the curved walnut walls and doors made me feel like I was on the most expensive cruise liner.
Sumptuous bedrooms and suites with Hermes silk scarves made into throws and bathrooms that looked they were carved out of marble, it was pure refined decadence.
F1 racing track
If you are into F1 then Bahrain is the place to see and be seen. The Bahrain Grand Prix will be the season opener for Formula one racing in 2023 with the race taking place between 3 and 5 March.
Be prepared to see spectacular racing and incredible entertainment.
Things to try:
A traditional Arabian coffee, which surprisingly was mustard in colour, has an almost medicinal taste lacking in any sweetness. It’s definitely an acquired taste!
Baklava and dates
If the Arabian coffee leaves a funny taste in your mouth, the dates and baklava will provide the sweetness. Well before oil was discovered, dates supported the economy here and it’s no wonder Bahrain is called “the land of the date palms”. They are plentiful, sweet, delicious and they make a great gift to bring home.
Things to buy:
- Perfumes, oils and musks
If you are looking for a tasty and modern take on traditional asian inspired cuisine then head to the 50th floor of the Four Seasons hotel to Wolfgang Pucks art deco inspired restaurant.
As soon as I sat down I was greeted with a well stocked cocktail trolley with cocktails being made at the table which meant for a really special start to the meal.
I tucked into short rib beef, sea bream with ginger and soy, chicken with garlic and kimchi fried rice. It was a total feast and I enjoyed every tasty morsel.
Bahrain has a growing foodie scene with Incredible food from around the world. Block 338 is a partly pedestrianised area with an array of rooftop restaurants and bars serving cuisine from around the world. As pulled up to the area, it was filled with supercars and partygoing revellers, all looking for a good night out.
In District 338 there’s Japanese, Thai, steaks, seafood, burgers, the lot. As the sun sets the rooftop bars come alive, I partied at Iris drinking cocktails and dancing to a mix of 90s dance and modern pop until the small hours.
If you are looking for tasty Greek food and delicious cocktails the outdoor terrace at Attic restaurant has wonderful views over Manama and is the perfect setting for lunch or dinner during the cooler months. I tucked into a feast of slow roasted lamb, mousaka and salad followed by the perfect oozing melt in the mouth chocolate fondant.
Sunsets and dreams
On the last evening of my trip, I watched as the sun set over the majestic old fort. It struck a stark contrast against the modern skyline bathing the buildings in that familiar peachy orange light. It was a total fusion of old and new which i think is one of the charms of Bahrain. I soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed the last rays of sun in my face before heading back to Blighty and the oh so familiar winter cold.
Prices: Oct 2023.
LON - BAH (return) in economy class £715.00 (Taxes Included)
LON - BAH (return) in business class £5,127.00 (Taxes Included)
MAN - BAH (return) in economy class £1,023.00 (Taxes Included)
MAN - BAH (return) in business class £4,614.00 (Taxes Included)
Vida Beach Resort Marassi Al Bahrain - rates start from BHD65 / £140 per night for a Deluxe Room King
Address Beach Resort Bahrain - rates start from BHD120 / £260 per night for a Deluxe Room King
*14th-century scholar Ibn Battuta