Welcome to Muharraq, Bahrain!
The former capital of Bahrain is a place that many travelers might miss when they’re touring the area. The small little city of Muharraq goes back to at least 3000 BC, and most of the world has overlooked it, from ancient times to the 1930s. This is when Bahrain’s economy exploded, basically overnight, due to its pearling business.
Muharraq is small but packs a punch, full of history and very unique culture that any worldwide local would love to experience. There are bustling markets and UNESCO World Heritage Sites that many travelers unfortunately overlook, but with this insider’s guide and the knowledge of a worldwide local, you won’t make the same mistake.
Worldwide Local Tip: Despite the fact that Bahrain is a very Islamic conservative city, over half the population are expat workers. Certain customs, like wearing revealing clothing or drinking alcohol, are publicly banned. In Western enclaves, however, around the city and hotels, foreigners can enjoy a cocktail, where the rules of Islam are a little more relaxed. Always be mindful of your behavior when in public, and you’ll be fine.
Eat Like a Local
If you just hopped off a long flight into the Muharraq Bahrain Airport, you’re probably feeling a little hungry. Every worldwide local knows that in order to enjoy the culture, you have to try out the local cuisine, so check out some of Muharraq’s best restaurants. Due to the number of expats in the city, there is a wide variety of dishes available, such as Japanese, Indian, and American. As a worldwide local, however, you’ll probably want a taste of the local dishes. Saffron By Jena, is one of Muharraq’s best Bahrain restaurants, serving contemporary twists of Bahraini classics. Visit Narise Qambar, an award-winning entrepreneur, where you can enjoy a delicious meal in a traditional backdrop of old houses and forts.
Worldwide Local Tip: For those with a sweet tooth who are still looking to try some amazing authentic cuisine, you’ll definitely want to head to Showaiter Halwa Factory. The Showaiter family has been making Halwa for over 150 years, and the shop is popular with locals and visitors alike. Gelatinous and colorful, Halwa is very sweet and often eaten with a side of bitter coffee to offset the sweetness. You can even take a tour of the factory located right across the street.
Shop at the Local Souk
Similar to other cities in this region, the local souk (or market) is where you will witness the day to day hustle and bustle of the locals. As a worldwide local you absolutely need to check out the Al Qaisariya Souk. Established in 1842, this market is not only a hub of daily life but it’s also somewhat of a cultural historic landmark. After having been established by Sheikh Abdulla bin Ahmed, the closed market is a wonder for the senses. Smell local spices, and hear the noise of vendors selling their wares, while you look at exotic goods.
Worldwide Local Tip: Again, like many markets in the area, haggling is commonplace. Shops expect buyers to haggle, so make sure you brush up on your negotiating skills--just don’t try this at any of the Bahrain hotels! Don’t worry about the language difference, as English is widely spoken in Bahrain, is taught in secondary schools, and road signs have English translations.
Visit the Local Landmarks
Exploring the local culture is always important when discovering a new city. There are many traditional structures and buildings around town, but one of the most important to the history of the city is Bu Maher Fort. Built in 1840, the fort was originally meant to protect the city and the burgeoning pearling business. Also visit the Old Houses, Muharraq’s traditional buildings which have been restored, especially Sheikh Isa bin Ali House. There’s also the Arad Fort which was built in the 1500s and located on an island just outside the shoreline. Make sure to visit in the evening when you can catch the lights of the city lighting up the skyline.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you’re still looking to scratch your cultural itch that old architecture provides, the Siyadi House is the oldest mosque in Muharraq. Once a house belonging to a pearl merchant Siyadi House is open for visitors to explore, but be aware that it is a mosque and prayers are conducted here daily.
Enjoy Your Visit!
Muharraq is a small city but there is a lot to do, and a worldwide local knows that size doesn’t matter. Muharraq is packed with history, great food, and amazing experiences, with something new around every corner.