Offbeat Journeys

Barbar Temple
Barbar Temple

Dig up the past at Dilmun excavation site

The earliest recorded references to Bahrain date back to the third millennium BC, when it was known as Dilmun. An entire 100 by 150 metre village from the Dilmun era is presently being excavated, with the digs revealing breathtaking secrets of that period. The digs at Saar have proved the existence of a very organised lifestyle, with well-ordered roads, proper houses, workshops and a central marketplace.

For anyone even faintly interested in ancient civilisations, the site of the digs will be a hugely fascinating experience.

Barbar Temple an answered prayer for historians

Three temples, built one on top of the other, are providing vital clues to religious rites in the Dilmun era.

All three temples, constructed during the third and second millenniums, were dedicated to Enki, the god of wisdom and sweet water.

Legend has it that Enki lived in a subterranean palace covered in silver and lapis lazuli, near a fresh water lake.

Enjoy a desert BBQ

Go out and have a barbeque under a tent in the desert. It's a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Bridge the gap between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

The 25km-long King Fahad Causeway links Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and is one of the longest bridges between two countries in the world.

Most visitors will need a visa to actually cross into Saudi Arabia, but don't let that stop you from driving down the causeway up to the midway point.

It's an enjoyable drive across the waters, especially if you plan the trip between mid-morning and early evening when the traffic is light.

Dine at the Causeway Restaurant. Water view!

An added bonus for driving across the King Fahad Causeway is the tower restaurant at the midway point between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

It offers excellent refreshment, but even better is the spectacular view it affords across the seas to both countries.

Soar to (ahem) new heights at Jebel Dukhan.

The highest point in Bahrain is a mere 134 metres above sea level. Called Jebel Dukhan (Mountain of Smoke) because of the haze which frequently surrounds it on humid days, it nevertheless commands fine views and is a popular picnic spot.

Picture that! Personalised photo tours.

Arab World Tours (tel 9637737) offers special photo tours of Bahrain, where a professional photographer joins you as a guide, showing you the sights, providing picture tips and also making sure you aren't missing from your holiday photos.

Other unusual tours available are fishing trips, camel rides, sailing expeditions and desert camps (see below).

Discover the charm of living in the desert.

Conveniences like television and air conditioning are taken for granted today, but it was not so long ago that Bahrain was more accustomed to a desert lifestyle.

Some tour companies, including Arab World Tours (tel 9637737), now offer a chance to explore what life was like in those days with an evening at a traditional desert camp.

Starting at sundown, the camp lasts well into the early hours of the morning. Bahrain Explored (tel 211477) also arranges parties under a Bedouin tent in the desert.

That's cool! Pre-electricity air conditioners.

Many houses in the old quarter of Manama and Muharraq still have 'windtowers', a traditional method of air-conditioning in the days before electricity.

The towers rise five or six metres above the house, are open on all four sides and are designed to catch the slightest wind and channel it down into the rooms, giving a cooling effect.

Soak in the flavour of traditional Bahrain.

Bahrain's current and former capitals Manama and Muharraq are joined by causeway, but the two islands could hardly be more different.

While Manama's skyline reveals the contours of a 21st century city, Muharraq still retains an old-world feel and charm.

The old winding lanes, wooden-shuttered homes, carved doors, stained glass windows, ancient windtowers and the aroma of essence and spices all contribute to the feeling of time standing still.

One for the birds: Take a nature tour.

Notwithstanding Bahrain's small size, there are a lot of attractions for nature lovers.

No fewer than 300 species of birds have been recorded in Bahrain, including the rare sooty falcon, and the world's largest Socotra Cormorant breeding colony.

Dhow building
Dhow building

Watch dhow-builders carry on an ancient tradition.

Dhows (wooden sail boats) are still built today in much the same fashion as they used to be generations ago. It is an education to watch craftsmen curve the hulls and hammer the planks together into beautiful dhows with nothing more to guide them than mental notes of plans handed down via word-of-mouth through the generations.

Go on a dhow cruise.

Take a dhow cruise around Manama. There are few pleasures that can match simply watching the sun set while the waters lap gently against your boat.

Watch the skies light up on National Day.

If you happen to be in Bahrain on National Day (Dec. 16), you must check out the fireworks display. This spectacular show is always a crowd-pleaser.

Desert mirage? No, that really is a sea of camels!

If your only contact with camels has been at a zoo or on television, you will enjoy a visit to the camel farm at Janabiya.

Get your camera ready as the hundred or so camels race in for their evening feed after grazing all day.

Or pose with them if you wish, they are pretty friendly!

Have a wonderful time at the Idea Gallery.

This is an Internet cafe with charm. It has a homely setting, including a verandah and garden for lunch or dinner. Apart from Internet and e-mail facilities, Idea Gallery also hosts regular workshops, classes and exhibitions. Oh, and do try the home-made cakes.

Add colour to your life with a henna makeover.

Women visiting Bahrain should try out the henna (decorative skin pigment). It not only looks great on your hands, it is also said to bring good luck.

Get on the slow boat to nowhere.

Bahrain consists of a group of islands, not all of which are inhabited. If you are the adventurous sort, you might want to consider taking a boat to one of the smaller islands. Go fishing, read, explore, make a barbecue of your catch... ah, now that's living! To organise an outing like this, call Arab World Tours .

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