Thursday, August 4, 2011
Bahrain, An Excellent Introduction to the Persian Gulf
If you want to visit one of the countries in the Persian Gulf, start with Bahrain. It is a kingdom known for its oil as well as its pearls. Its neighbors are Saudi Arabia in the west and Qatar in the southeast. Many tourists visit Bahrain each year. Although Arabic is its official language, English is widely spoken within the kingdom. This makes it easy for tourists to communicate with locals.
Bahrain is the center of Dilmum, one of the ancient civilizations that dominated trade in the region. Tourists will find archeological sites and castles in the island. One popular fort is the Bahrain Fort, also called the Portuguese Fort. This fort is among the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The Arad Fort is also a popular tourist destination. Built by Arabs, it was captured in 1559 by the Portuguese. The Omanis eventually laid claim to the Arad Fort in 1635.
Tourists are often surprised to find mounds dotting the Bahrain landscape. These mounds, often taller than palm trees, are burial mounds. Several burial mounds are still standing today even as the Kingdom of Bahrain steadily continues to develop its urban landscape.
Interested in architecture? Visit the many mosques in Bahrain. It is believed that the foundations of some of the mosques were laid many centuries ago.
If you are wondering where the Garden of Eden is located, some say this biblical garden is found in Bahrain. Why? Because there is a very old tree called the Tree of Life located right in the middle of the dessert. Believed to be 400 years old, it is said that the tree’s roots are very deep that is why it is able to survive the scorching sun.
A number of museums will give you a glimpse of Bahrain’s history. Artifacts dating back to as far as 9,000 years ago can be found in the Bahrain National Museum. But if you are looking for Islamic manuscripts, books and prints, go to Beit Al Qur'an. One museum dedicated to the life blood of Bahrain and the Persian Gulf is the Oil Museum.
Large scale-tourism projects such as resorts, water parks, and shopping centers contributed greatly to Bahrain’s objective of enticing tourists to visit their country. One particular project is close to the hearts of racing fans all over the world, the Bahrain International Circuit.
Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix races have been held in this state-of-the-art racing circuit each year since it opened in 2004. It was the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who initiated the construction of the racing circuit. A national objective, the Bahrain International Circuit was meant to increase tourism in Bahrain. Unfortunately, the civil unrest that hit the country in the first quarter of 2011 caused the cancellation of the scheduled March Grand Prix much to the disappointment of Bahrain and the racing fans. In June 2011, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile or FIA announced an October 30 race at the Bahrain International Circuit. But only after two days, amidst the concerns of racing teams and other racing officials, the organizers of the race canceled the October 30 Grand Prix. The next Formula One race to be held at the Bahrain International Circuit is scheduled for the 11th of March, 2012. This will be the first race of the season.
Since the unrest, Bahrain has lost much of its tourism revenue. But Bahrainis are optimistic that tourists will soon flock back to their Kingdom. The archaeological sites, mosques, forts, shouqs and museums alone are worth a visit. Couple these with first class shopping malls, attractions and the Bahrain International Circuit, you have a country that will give you a taste of the old and the new.