A jewel among a million stones, the Kingdom of Bahrain stands proud and poised with its abundance of attractions that magnetise travellers from around the world. Aleksandra Wood discovers.
The Kingdom of Bahrain, known as the land of two seas and cited for its glistening hidden pearls, is a five-thousand-year-old trading and economic hub standing humbly – but no less striking – in the impelling head waters of the Arabian Gulf.
The country represents a precious gateway between the East and the West, bringing together a world of modern skylines and ancient architectural elegance. Yet, it still remains rather undiscovered in the midst of roaring powerhouses that neighbour its borders.
What one may be surprised to uncover is that this culturally rich destination was one of the first areas to adopt the religion of Islam and the first Arab country to discover oil in 1931. Its deeply rooted history includes the civilisation of Babylon, Greece, Rome, Persia and the Arabs.
It is no surprise that this beguiling nation has enticed many a traveller for centuries, thus establishing a formidable and driven tourism industry, guaranteed to capture the minds and hearts of visitors from all around the globe.
And what a prosperous year for tourism this country has had, with the Kingdom welcoming 5.6 million visitors during the first half of 2017, as recently reported by the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), indicating a mighty 14 per cent jump on the corresponding period in 2016.
Further statistics revealed an increase of 23 per cent in passenger numbers travelling through Bahrain International Airport, equivalent to a total of 616,230 visitors, while Khalifa bin Salman Port recorded a 44 per cent rise in visitors, totalling to 43,191 visitors.
Chief marketing officer, A.A. Bin Hindi Group, Mahasum Shah reflected on the country’s most prominent touristic attributes: “The tourism industry is a mix of culture; heritage; water theme parks; the causeway; motorsports; excellent venues for shopping, with several malls at key locations; and a vibrant night life. The villages and farms are worth visiting with family as they offer fresh local produce, particularly the farmer’s market Budaya. And with a few new malls coming up on the highway and in the capital, Bahrain is all set to welcome even more visitors to the country.”
TRAVERSING THROUGH ATTRACTIONS
Embarking on an Arabian adventure has never looked so appealing, whether the visitor prefers exploring the nation’s boundless history or indulging in absolute retail heaven at one of the country’s well-equipped malls.
The overwhelmingly grand City Centre Bahrain stands as the largest shopping, leisure and entertainment destination in the country, luring in over 13.5 million visitors annually. The venue comprises more than 158,000m2 of retail space and features an endless list of acclaimed brands and dining outlets that will have shopaholics’ hearts racing.
Meanwhile, a true archeological spectacle and a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site, the Bahrain Fort and Museum is perched atop a 17.5 hectare artificial hill that has been built over more than 4,000 years of continuous occupation. The fascinating museum features five unique exhibition halls surrounding the massive Tell Wall, showcasing 500 artefacts.
According to CEO, Farhat International Cruise and Tours, Mushtak A. Gafoor, Bahrain is well on its way to expand its museum portfolio: “The tourism authorities have renovated many old houses around the country and converted them to museum and visitor centres. The government has been implementing many projects to bring in new visitors.”
And what could be better than a true, quintessential Bahraini experience at the serene Dar Islands, famous for their pearl diving sites. As exotic as they come, guests can enjoy the white sands and pristine water, with 30 corals and over 200 species of fish, or marvel at the beautiful dolphins that grace the waters at sunrise and sunset.
Bahrain’s spectacular offering doesn’t end there, with plenty of cultural activities and awe-inspiring sites scattered all over the country, waiting to be discovered.
KEEP IT MOVING
The Kingdom was recently selected as a member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Executive Council for the period of 2018-2021, as a result of BTEA’s undying efforts towards developing the tourism sector on a local level, as well as the country’s capability to represent the Middle East region with regard to tourism developments.
This significant development is guaranteed to further bolster Bahrain’s tourism portfolio and strengthen its presence on an international level.
The BTEA is keeping the industry in full pace more than ever, having recently introduced its innovative campaigning strategy, ‘Ours. Yours. Bahrain.’, which focuses on developing the tourism sector to represent the main contributor to the national economy. The strategy is based on four pillars – awareness, attraction, access and accommodation – as well as improvement of overall accessibility to Bahrain and enhancing the quality of services in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
And as the country’s offering continues to blossom, new trends begin to emerge within the industry. As explained by A.A. Bin Hindi Group’s Shah, the country has made a name for itself as a prime location to tie the knot: “Bahrain has been rediscovered as the land of exchanging vows. It has been a favourite spot to affluent Indian families for weddings. Recently the Four Seasons Hotel was completely booked for three consecutive days, for a wedding which has put Bahrain in focus among families as an ideal wedding destination.”
To build on this development, the industry has set out to diversify its already opulent culinary scene. Director of sales and marketing, Mövenpick Hotel Bahrain, Karim El Berkchi elaborated: “Bahrain has long been known in the region as an exceptional culinary destination. Developers continue to be very interested in further expanding the restaurant offerings in Bahrain, offering sustainable and competitive brands. New food service projects include dedicated restaurant complexes and mixed-use developments with a wide range of leasable spaces devoted to food service.”
New players are also set to arrive in Bahrain’s ever-growing hospitality scene, as confirmed by El Berkchi: “The Kingdom of Bahrain has announced that it is set to receive 15 new hotels and beachfront resorts by 2020. The development will have a collective investment of over $10 billion, and will put Bahrain firmly on the map as a desirable and competitive holiday destination.”
And with all that said, it is crystal clear that the Kingdom of Bahrain is indeed a glimmering Arabian pearl, ever-prevailing and ever-evolving to rise graciously out of its shell and become a leading tourism destination.