Manama, or Al Manama in Arabic, is the capital city of Bahrain, a small but important independent nation in the Middle-East. Manama is not only a key financial hub in the region, but also a capital of culture. The city has seen rapid urbanisation and is the centre of many economic activities.
The climate in Manama is extreme. Summer temperatures rise up to 48 °C, while in winter it could get as low as 7 °C. This is probably why the best time to visit the city is in autumn when it is very pleasant.
It is rich and charming, and yet not as commercial and consumerist as some of the popular cities in the Middle-East. The city and its coastline is swanky and developed. Yet, the remnants of the past shine through the old heritage buildings beautiful mosques, museums and bustling markets. It is a mix of the old and the new, coupled with great options for cuisine!
The Island Haven
It takes but a glance at the majestic building of Four Seasons, to know that luxury and opulence are at home here in Manama. The hotel is on its own private island. The design aesthetics undoubtedly are a nod to the Ottoman heritage. The décor is beautiful, spacious, luxurious and highly elegant and sophisticated.
The 48-story structure is in the form of two textured concrete towers that rise 201 metres above the reclaimed island. It offers 273 guest rooms. The restaurant ‘Skypod’, provides fantastic views of the Arabian Gulf. The hotel apart from extensive event and meeting spaces, has a business centre, spa and gym facilities, all arranged in a strategic way within the structure.
A bridge connects the hotel to mainland Manama. Of course, if guests prefer to come there by boat, that is an option as well. The rooms boast of wonderful views. This is thanks to floor-to-ceiling glazing on the north and south facades, providing unparalleled views of the Arabian Gulf and surrounding Manama skyline.
All the rooms are extremely spacious and designed in a contemporary style with dashes of a classical touch thanks to the careful choice of accessories, plush furnishings, furniture and art. One feels as if one is walking into a swish home. The outdoor areas have been thoughtfully landscaped, with greenery taking prominence.
This bold architectural expression viewed from a distance reflects the energy and the modernism of Manama. The building is a visual landmark in the cityscape.
Despite modern high-rises, the city accords great respect to ancient architectural gems. The Bahrain Fort, also called Qal’at al Bahrain, is an ancient ‘tell’. The word ‘tell’ refers to an artificial mound made up of layers created by successive occupation. It is said to be a former Portuguese military fortification.
Excavations date the structures back to 2300 BC. Archaeologists have uncovered streets, residential structures and monuments from different eras, which show that diverse civilizations were at work building up the place. When this is viewed in context of the fact that only around a quarter of Qal’at al Bahrain has been uncovered, it shows what a wealth of civilization lies hidden just waiting to be discovered.
The site contains many areas and walls. Currently, one can see fort walls in the northern, western and southern slopes of the ‘tell’. The eastern side is yet to be excavated. The Bahrain Fort is incredibly well preserved and is on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list. One can easily expect this modern city to become F1’s original Middle East venue! It hosted the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2004.
The circuit was designed by German architect Hermann Tilke. It has six tracks, a test oval and drag strip. Racing in the desert, where it is very hot and dusty can get challenging. The issue of sand blowing up on the track was resolved in a creative way: an adhesive was sprayed on the sand all around the track.
Over 12,000 tons of stone were used in the build, a third of it Welsh granite, chosen for the track surface due to its excellent adhesive qualities. The 5412 km Grand Prix circuit has 50,000 grandstand seats, all providing excellent views. They have also been designed in a manner that protects spectators from the scorching sun. The 15-corner design provides drivers with genuine overtaking opportunities. Obviously, this would translate into great race entertainment for the fans!
One of the building landmarks here is the tower. The 8-storey VIP tower (Sakhir Tower) has a roof terrace, VIP suites, a restaurant and administration offices. The circuit is indeed an aesthetic and technical landmark for Bahrain.
Authentic Slice Of Bahrain
The Bab Al Bahrain (Gateway of Bahrain) and the Manama Souq together are indeed a gateway to the very heart of Manama. Bab Al Bahrain is a historical building. It is located in the Customs Square in Manama’s former central business district. It was designed by Sir Charles Belgrave and was built in 1949.
The arched entrance gateway to the Manama Souq has undergone many big changes over the years. Today it is a cultural landmark. The Manama Souq is basically a street bazaar. It is here that the inner spirit of the city can be felt and experienced. The mix of the sights, sounds, scents, tastes and textures all allude to the original character of Manama. Gold jewellery, exotic spices, lights, carpets, accessories, perfumes and much more, jostle for place here.
The grand entrance and the narrow alleys and street market make a great combination which is definitely worthy of a visit.
Text By Dhanishta Shah