Bahrain – Day 2 Part 2

[Well…this is not so up to date but Bahrain’s travelogues are not complete yet, hence this post]

21 December 2010. Bahrain Day 2 Part 2 covers Bab Al Bahrain, Al Khamis Mosque, Bahrain National Museum, Al Fateh Corniche, Bait Al Quran & La Fontaine.

25. Bab Al Bahrain

From Wikipedia: Bab Al Bahrain (Arabic: باب البحرين‎, Bāb al-Baḥrayn) means Gateway of Bahrain. It is located in the Customs Square in Manama’s former central business district (CBD) and marks the main entrance to the Manama souq. Designed by Sir Charles Belgrave, adviser to the Emir and completed in 1945, Bab Al Bahrain once stood close to the water’s edge. Due to extensive land reclamation in the later years, one needs to walk more than 10 minutes to get to the sea.

Government Avenue, which runs alongside Bab Al Bahrain, and the new highway that leads to the causeway to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were built on reclaimed land. The monument itself was refurbished in 1986 to incorporate Islamic architectural features. Today, the ground floor now houses the tourist information office and a handicrafts shop. The monument essentially consists of a huge arch, below which runs a road, which is often referred to as the entrance to the Manama souq (marketplace).

Government Avenue, which runs in front of Bab Al Bahrain, contains many major banks and business establishments. Government Avenue is so named because the entire offices of the Bahrain government were once housed in the Bab.

As in any other old city, finding a parking spot is a challenge. I secured a parking spot just around the curve road after taxi stand in front of Bab Al Bahrain.

Bab Al Bahrain
26. Al Khamis Mosque 
The Khamis Mosque (Arabic: مسجد الخميس‎; transliterated: Masjid al-Khamys) is believed to be the first mosque in Bahrain, built during the era of the Umayyad caliph Umar II (the foundation of this mosque is believed to have been laid as early as 692 AD) . The mosque is located at Shaikh Salman Road in Khamis. It is considered to be one of the oldest relics of Islam.
At the time of visit (and as we came to know later from National Museum), the mosque is undergoing renovation work that includes visitor center and beautiful garden. No entrance fee but we gave some tips to the mosque keeper there as nice gesture. You will be asked to  fill-in a visitor book.
Al Khamis Mosque
Al Khamis Mosque
27. Pearl Monument
From Al Khamis Mosque we were heading to Bahrain National Museum, passing this well-known landmark: Pearl Monument. The monument and its roundabout is located in the heart of the capital Manama and is surrounded by the Bahrain Central Market, Marina, Pearl and City Center Roundabout as well the Abraj Al Lulu (Pearl Towers) apartment complex. The Pearl Monument erected in 1982 on the occasion of the third summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which was hosted by Bahrain for the first time in Manama on November 9-11 of that year.
Unfortunately though the site was destroyed three months later on March 18, 2011, by government forces as part of a crackdown against the 2011 Bahraini protests.
Pearl Monument in Manama. On March 18, 2011 government destroyed the monument as part of a crackdown against 2011 Bahraini protest
Strolling Manama's main artery; Financial Harbour on the background
28. Bahrain National Museum
I recommend Bahrain National Museum is your must-visit in Bahrain, regardless your age or purpose of visit.
Situated at the junction of Al-Fatih Highway and Shaikh Hamad Bridge leading to Muharraq, the Museum was officially opened in December 1988. The Museum consists of several exhibition halls covering the history of Bahrain from the stone age, through ancient civilizations and up to the pre-oil period.
The museum complex consists of two buildings with a total area of 27,800 square meters. The building contains the original nine major galleries, educational hall, gift shop and a cafeteria, in addition to administrative offices, laboratories and warehouses for the Conservation of holdings and parking.
Gift Shop at the ground floor of the museum is a must if you need to bring quality souvenirs.
I’d recommend that you visit the museum during your earliest opportunity once arrive in Bahrain. The main large hall at the ground floor with super-size satellite map projected/pasted on the floor is really a good navigation tool to understand many Bahrain’s point of interest and their location. A clever interactive guide light will direct you the object repsective location on the satellite map.
Not to be missed are a hall featuring graves and mounds and diorama of daily life of Bahrainis.
Entrance to Bahrain National Museum
Bahrain National Museum: superlarge map pasted on the main hall floor help visitors locating Bahrain's main historical sites and tourism objects
Displays of Bahrain daily life are so helpful in understanding them
Real-size burial in variety are also displayed. Shown here the large Saar burial mounds
Coordinate: 26.2415°N 50.5975°E
29. Al Fateh Corniche
This corniche is located just before Bahrain National Museum if you’re driving on Al Fath Highway. Nothing special though in here. This pleasant seaside promenade offers good views of the skyscrapers to the south and planes taking off from the airport nearby. Plenty of fun fair rides for the kids and shisha bars for the older set.
A monument in Al Fateh Corniche
30. Beit Al Quran
Beit Al Qur’an (Arabic: بيت القرآن‎, meaning: the House of Qur’an) is an Islamic museum at Hoora. The museum was built to accommodate a comprehensive and valuable collection of the Qur’an and rare manuscripts. All visitors are welcome, and the complex comprises a mosque, a library, an auditorium, a school, and museum consisting of ten exhibition halls. This great institution and its museum house an internationally celebrated collection of historic Quranic manuscripts from various parts of the Islamic world, from China in the East to Spain in the West, representing a progression of calligraphic traditions from the first century of the Islamic era to the present day (Wikipedia)
The hall is located upstairs. No entrance fee but donation is expected. Also no photography allowed.
Beit Al Qur'an
31. La Fontaine Center of Contemporary Art
 This cultural oasis is tucked away in Hoora, close to the old souq. It is an historical monument dating back to a hundred and fifty years. The centre is the only one of its kind throughout the Middle East, revered by all as a masterpiece of architectural and artistic glory, which makes it a special haven for architectural connoisseurs. The property, belonging to the Alireza family, is very unique as it captures the grand essence of a European chateau, while retaining the charm of the fine, authentic Gulf Islamic architecture. It has been completely restored and renovated by French artist Jean Marc Sinan, who transformed a beautiful residential house into a distinctive, exceptional centre for art and leisure enthusiasts alike.It features a number of contemporary art galleries, an open-air amphitheatre, an exquisite fine dining restaurant, an exclusive spa, and a state-of-the-art Pilates & Dance Studio, the first of its kind in the Gulf region. (from its official website)
La Fontaine Center of Contemporary Arts
…and this ended our short trip to Bahrain. As we drove along the causeway to Dammam, we looked back our two-day jam-packed visit to Bahrain with nice memories. Maasalama Bahrain!
Maasalama Bahrain! See you next time
Next: Eastern Saudi: Damam and Hofuf