Guarding the entrance of the Manama Suq in the capital Manama, Bab Al Bahrain was built in 1949. The formidable building that used to overlook the sea was the seat of the government’s administrative offices in the old days. Now though, it only houses the tourism sector offices and visitor’s center to help visitors learn about the history of the area and find all the amazing things to do in Bab Al Bahrain.
Since then, Bab Al Bahrain has experienced many changes and renovations.
Recently, the Ministry of Culture initiated a project to preserve Bab al Bahrain as a cultural landmark. Now the building shines in all of its historical glory and its magnificent architecture really stands out. No Tour in Bahrain would be complete without paying it a visit!
Bab al Bahrain history
Due to its long history of pearling, Bahrain started to adopt a pattern of urbanization in the course of the 19th century.
The modern cosmopolitan outlook of the city is largely due to Bahrain being the region’s first modern state and the rise of Manama as the first regional metropolis. History remembers the city is a passageway for Modernity in the region.
Pearl diving and trade started to take the form of an organized bureaucracy early on, as a result, the Kingdom was the first in the region to have a centralized government that led to the opening of Bahrain, Manama in specific, to the rest of the world.
The most outstanding metropolitan project to take place in Manama at the time was Bab Al Bahrain. The Government renewed the waterfront through land reclamation and part of that development was the building. The project was designed in 1945, by late Amir Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s adviser Sir Charles Belgrave, as the seat of the government. The architectural design features some modern elements as well as some indigenous features, which added a unique centerpiece to the City Center at the time.
As a result of additional land reclamation projects, Bab Al Bahrain is now ten minutes away from the sea after being just across it.
The renovation of Bab Al Bahrain
Following a comprehensive renovation in the 80s, in which the building was altered somewhat, Bab Al Bahrain was restored and revamped again in 2012 to bring it back to its former state with limited alterations.
These included the reopening of the road leading to Manama Suq, which passes under the archways of the Bab Al Bahrain, to revive the fact that the building has always been meant as a gateway to the City.
In addition to renovating the building, the Ministry of Culture in Bahrain launched a contest for architectures from around the world to come up with new innovative designs for the square around Bab Al Bahrain under the name “Open Ideas Competition – Bab Al Bahrain”.
The competition stated that applicants should take into consideration refreshing the memory of the sea that used to be adjacent to the site, as well as offering a metropolitan urban square that allows pedestrians to room and enjoy the area
Things to do in Bab Al Bahrain
Bab Al Bahrain Souq
Located in the heart of Manama, Bab Al-Bahrain souq houses more than 30 shops lining its main façade and walkway offering patrons a wide variety of goods, from Arabic perfumes and Bahraini sweets to local handicrafts and traditional antiques. There is also a post office and a travel agency among the Suq stores.
In addition to shopping, the Suq allows shoppers to try Bahraini coffee and delicacies, it is home to several famous coffee shops, such as Bahrain’s first ice cream shop, Café Naseef, which opened in 1920, and Café Saffron which is a restaurant and cafe that serves traditional Bahraini cuisine.
Bab Al Bahrain Mall
With beautiful architecture that mixes the old and traditional with the modern and the future, this mall is a beautiful place to visit even if you are not in the mood for shopping.
However, if you are looking for great Bahraini jewelry and valuable handmade carpets this is the place to go.
One of the most fun things to do at Bab Al Bahrain is attending the Saturday Market. Usually held every Saturday, this market allows a place for artists to show their crafts such as basket weaving, hand embroidery, carpets, and henna design. It also features live music, traditional Bahraini food vendors, and play areas for children.
The market is often open for the days of major events such as during the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Through the passageway of Bab Al Bahrain, you can reach the old Manama Suq. The suq offers everything and more, all displayed in a lively array of shops. Goods there vary from textiles, spices, incense, perfumes, handicrafts, and souvenirs, all the way to modern products and trinkets from all over the world.
The suq offers a unique shopping experience that brings to mind the style of commerce from days long past. The Manama Suq is a must-visit while in Bahrain that visitors will be sure to enjoy.
Manama Post Office
Right behind Bab Al Bahrain, you can find The original post office of Manama, which has been renovated to host a museum documenting the history of postal services of Bahrain through history.
In addition to its outstanding archive of photographs from the postal service since its inception, a complete catalog of Bahraini stamps as well as stamps from all over the world, and a collection of vintage cancellations, scales, and franking machines, all of which were positions of the Ministry of Transport and the Philatelic Bureau, the museum also comprises a philatelic bureau counter where people can purchase new and collectible stamps and a café with a great terrace that overlooks Bab Al Bahrain.