BAHRAIN (مملكة البحرين)
Bahrain is a country built on a desert island in the Persian Gulf. It's joined to mainland Saudi Arabia by the King Fahd Causeway. It's fortunes changed in 1932, when black crude was discovered, and the country hasn't looked back since. More conservative than some of it's southern neighbours, it's still not afraid of showing it's wealth. For the tourist, there really isn't that much to see, a museum or two, the old markets, and...that's pretty much it. Like some of it's neighbours, Bahrain hosts the US military, in particular the US Navy. The photo below was taken from the flat I stayed in, in a tower block. The flat is owned by the US Navy. The lit up building on the right is the Grand Mosque, in the distance you can see Bahrain's ambitions for reaching the skies, as more skyscrapers are being built. When I visited in 2011, the country was in turmoil, as people were looking to get more accountability and shock/horror, democracy. Having spoken to those there, the issue seems to be one of spoilt kids. Those poorer sections of society are given nice homes, and a car out front. They don't really need for anything. However the country is corrupt, as large amounts of prime land are owned by the Sheikh and prime minister.
Language: Arabic (Official) English/Farsi widely spoken.
Currency: Bahrani Dinar (BHD)
Visa: A 5dinar/$13 Visa can be bought on arrival. It will be a stamp in your passport, allowing 14 days.
Plug: British 3 flat prongs in a triangle plug, 220v
GMT: GMT +3
GDP Ranking (IMF): #33 £17,334 (similar to New Zealand and Cyprus)
Communications: Country code is +973
Health: Other than the hot sun, especially during summer, there are no health concerns.
When to Visit: Bahrain's seasons are based on being in the Northern Hemisphere, It's best to visit during the 'Winter' months of October to March.
Personal Safety: The country is generally safe. Sometimes violent demonstrations can break out in some areas by pro-democracy campaigners. F&CO advice here.
Getting Around: Private hire cars or taxi's are the way to go. There are buses in Manama.
What to see/do: The souqs of Manama are a pleasant evening stroll along with dinner. I found Bahrain National Museum interesting, as it gives a look at Bahraini life and culture. Those that like sand will be in there element, as most of the country that hasn't been built on is sand. There is also some scuba and water sport activities possible. Motorheads can enjoy the Formula 1 when it's in town.
Food & Drink: As a strict Arabic nation, alcohol is banned. Although available to purchase from several bars and restaurants throughout the city of Manama. Saudi's flock here to taste the forbidden drink, and also to fornicate with prostitutes in the cheaper hotels. machbūs is considered the national dish, a rice based dish with a mix of spices, known as Kabsa, mixed with meat and vegetables. Most restaurants serve foreign food, so try to look out for local seafood on the menu.