The smallest of the Persian Gulf states, the island nation of Bahrain is situated in an archipelago between Saudi Arabia and the peninsula of Qatar. One of the most socially liberal of the Gulf states, Bahrain has invested heavily in tourism as a way of diversifying its economy, meaning you’ll have plenty to do and see once your private jet touches down in Bahrain International Airport. It’s also one of the few Arab states to officially accept Israeli passports or passports with Israeli visa stamps.
The probable site of the ancient civilization of Dilmun mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and a legendary site of the Garden of Eden, modern Bahrain features many museums and other sites that explore its rich history. Qal'at al-Bahrain, an ancient fort located on Bahrain’s north shore, is an important archaeological site and a popular tourist destination. The area has been continuously occupied for over 4 millennia and was once the center of the Dilmun civilization; archaeologists are continuously unearthing new artifacts at the site.
Because the waters surrounding the country are warm and clear year-round, water recreation, especially sailing and scuba diving, is especially popular. For motorsports enthusiasts, the Bahrain Grand Prix Formula 1 race occurs each April. Bahrain is also home to an internationally recognized 18-hole golf course.
Must see: The Tree of Life is a 400-year-old Prosopis cineraria tree growing in the middle of the Bahraini desert with no visible sources of water or other trees in the area. The tree draws approximately 50,000 tourists each year.
Lodging: Al Areen Palace and Spa–Located in the city of Al Areen in the midst of old forts, mosques and museums, the Arabian Gulf’s only all-villa pool resort ensures that stepping off your private jet doesn't mean a loss of luxury. Each of the 78 villas features a private pool, jacuzzi and garden, and the resort borders the Al Areen Wildlife Sanctuary.
Cuisine: Limited space for raising livestock means that fish, such as grouper, rabbitfish and mackerel, are staples of Bahraini cuisine, along with crops like dates, bananas, cucumbers and tomatoes. Coffee is served as part of a traditional Bahraini welcome.
Ground Transportation: Cabs can be difficult to find and will often try and charge exorbitant fares. Consider renting a car for the duration of your stay, particularly if you plan to do much traveling around the islands.
Packing Tips: Bahrain can be extremely hot and sunny in the summertime, so loose clothing and sunscreen are essential.
Recommended Books: Ali al-Sharqawi is Bahrain’s best-known poet and playwright. His work has been translated into English, German, Bulgarian, Russian, Kurdish, and French.
Currency: The Bahraini dinar is the local currency.
Calling Code Bahrain: 973
Best Travel Dates: Bahrain gets scorchingly hot in the summer—the ocean’s so warm it’s possible to get heat stroke while swimming—so visiting between November and March is your best bet. The Ramadan and Eid holidays bring an influx of Saudi tourists, so it may be difficult to find a hotel room during those times.