Quick trip? How to spend a history-filled 24 hours in Bahrain

Quick trip? How to spend a history-filled 24 hours in Bahrain
1 / 6
This nation is stuffed full of surprising history and awe-inspiring natural sites. (Photo courtesy: Tharik Hussein)
Quick trip? How to spend a history-filled 24 hours in Bahrain
2 / 6
Bahrain’s oldest Islamic archaeological site, the Khamis Mosque
Quick trip? How to spend a history-filled 24 hours in Bahrain
3 / 6
Bahrain’s oldest Islamic archaeological site, the Khamis Mosque.
Quick trip? How to spend a history-filled 24 hours in Bahrain
4 / 6
Bahrain’s most famous cultural center is the Beit Al-Qur’an.
Quick trip? How to spend a history-filled 24 hours in Bahrain
5 / 6
Do not be sad if the 32-meter-high lush green mystery leaves you baffled.
Quick trip? How to spend a history-filled 24 hours in Bahrain
6 / 6
Updated 12 September 2017

Quick trip? How to spend a history-filled 24 hours in Bahrain

Quick trip? How to spend a history-filled 24 hours in Bahrain

MANAMA: The Kingdom of Bahrain is a tiny nation with a big history. This is a country that was once ruled by a 12-year-old and a place where, in antiquity, the social elite spoke Greek and practiced Olympian sports. Bahrain was where traders used to come from far and wide in search of the world’s finest pearls, however, despite this rich and fascinating history, Bahrain has become something of a touristic backwater in recent times.
Most travelers only pass through for business or find themselves here in transit, but what can you do in a day in Bahrain? Here is how to make the most of 24 hours in the Middle East’s smallest country.
Museum morning
The best way to explore this eminently drivable little island is by car, so start off by hiring one at the airport. Not only will this allow you to pack in so much more, but taxis are not cheap and public transport is not reliable.
From the airport, your first stop is a mere 10-minute drive. Bahrain’s most famous cultural center is the Beit Al-Qur’an, or the “House of the Qur’an,” which holds the finest collection of Qur’anic manuscripts on public display anywhere in the Arabian Peninsula. Housed in an uber-modern building that integrates classical Islamic design, the museum is split into three sections, the most impressive of which has to be the Makka Hall, where Qur’an segments on parchment and animal skins date all the way back to the time of the prophet. There are also beautifully-illuminated, unusual Qur’ans from across the globe in the collection. However, nothing quite tops the grain of rice onto which verses of the Qur’an have been inscribed.
All that culture is going to leave you hungry. Fortunately, you only need to venture a few streets west to find Chtaura inside Moda Mall. Chtaura’s motto is “when you’re here, you’re home and if you love simple Middle Eastern food in a cool, quirky space than you will feel very much at home at Chtaura. Order the delicious foul and some zaatar bread — baked in a huge clay oven — and wash it all down with a glass of milky karak tea.
Archaeological afternoon
Start off in the southwest of Manama at a place many believe is Bahrain’s oldest Islamic archaeological site, the Khamis Mosque. Sitting on Sheikh Salman Highway, the mosque is easily spotted due to its twin minarets, which peer over the walled enclosure. The Khamis Mosque’s foundations are believed to date as far back as 692 AD — Islam came to Bahrain in 628 AD — although hard archaeological evidence to support this is yet to surface. The impressive ruins you will visit include the remnants of a prayer hall and the two minarets — all of these structures date from much later periods. Be sure to climb one of them for a great view of the site. Recently renovated, both minarets were built during the Uyunid and Usfurid dynasties, who ruled Bahrain between the 11th and 14th centuries.
From the classical, you will jump to the more traditionally Bahraini as you make your way south to the Riffa region. Here, climb the impressive Riffa Fort, which is strategically positioned on a hillock. From there, you can overlook the Hunayniyah Valley and imagine what it must have felt like to stand there knowing what lay in front of you was yours. Riffa Fort was once the seat of the country’s rulers. Built after the 17th century in a wonderfully-harmonious style, the sand-colored walls of this excellent Bahraini citadel appear to have risen from the very desert that once surrounded it.
Enchanting evening
With the day’s oppressive heat behind you, it is time to venture out to the desert in search of a truly mystical experience. Taking the King Hamad Highway south, look for directions to the “Tree of Life.” There is no proper road leading to this enigmatic monument, such is the remoteness of its location. But you will find it and when you do, you will stand in awe wondering how this miracle of nature has survived more than 400 years in the harshest of deserts, where temperatures regularly exceed 110 degrees fahrenheit, with no obvious water source. Do not be sad if the 32-meter-high lush green mystery leaves you baffled — some of Bahrain’s greatest minds are still scratching their heads too.
Finally, as you head back to the airport you will pass the only place one should end an evening in Bahrain — the majestic Al-Fateh Grand Mosque. Make sure you arrive before sunset, so you can close your eyes and listen as the air begins to fill with the sound of 100 muezzins and then open them so you can witness the impressive lights on Bahrain’s largest mosque coming on, one by one. Then walk inside to admire the world’s largest fiber-glass dome, which is surrounded by beautiful cuboid Kufic calligraphy. Finally, take a walk out into the cool, Andalusian-inspired inner courtyard, ringed by a forest of slim marble pillars. Sit here and rest your weary feet before looking up to admire the starry desert sky above. This truly is the only place to end 24 hours in Bahrain.


Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah project ‘on time and on track’

Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah project ‘on time and on track’
Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah project ‘on time and on track’

Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah project ‘on time and on track’
  • DGDA chief vows to turn ‘Jewel of the Kingdom’ into a global destination

RIYADH: Despite challenges posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the multibillion-dollar Diriyah Gate Project is “on time and on track,” said Jerry Inzerillo, the tourism mogul and CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA).

In an interview with SPA, Inzrillo said development work on the biggest cultural project in the world, at a cost of SR75 billion ($20 billion), is forging ahead.
Seven square kilometers of the historic city of Diriyah, just 15 minutes northwest of Riyadh, are being transformed into one of the world’s foremost lifestyle destinations for culture, hospitality, retail and education.
“It will become one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated subsurface infrastructures,” Inzerillo said. “We have recently signed new contracts and are currently in the process of adapting different building techniques for our authentic Najdi architecture.”
In line with design, development and preservation standards, DGDA is creating an environment that enhances Diriyah’s national and international relevance, including the preservation of the At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site, which sits at the heart of the development.
Officials hope the “Jewel of the Kingdom” attracts local and international visitors alike through its world-class entertainment and events.
One such world-class event will be held this weekend when the Kingdom hosts the Diriyah E-Prix double-header, two nights of racing set to launch the seventh season of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

HIGHLIGHTS

• DGDA is creating an environment that enhances Diriyah’s national and international relevance.

• Officials hope the ‘Jewel of the Kingdom’ attracts local and international visitors alike through its world-class entertainment and events.

• One such world-class event will be held this weekend when the Kingdom hosts the Diriyah E-Prix double-header.

Inzerillo said lighting up the Formula E race circuit with environmentally friendly lighting and low-consumption LED technology contributed to an increase in creativity and innovation. It led to the introduction of sustainable solutions that are more energy-efficient and reduce carbon emissions.
The health and safety of drivers and those who will attend the championship is a top priority for the organizers of the event as Inzrillo said strict COVID-19 precautions will be taken to ensure everyone’s safety.
A successful race event will only reinforce Diriyah’s position as one of the world’s greatest gathering places, with modern amenities and advanced infrastructure, he said.
“Hosting the Formula E race against the historical background of Diriyah is an appropriate representation of our vision,” Inzrillo said. “The DGDA wants to protect the history of Diriyah while taking steps toward the future.”
The authority has plans to host more international sporting events at Diriyah as Inzrillo predicts that sports and health will take leading roles in the Kingdom’s future tourism.
He said DGDA wants to build world-class golf courses, picturesque squares, outdoor plazas and tracks dedicated to horse riders that will enhance social and human interaction in Diriyah.
“Heritage and history will be honored and beautifully interwoven with sustainability and environmental considerations,” Inzrillo said.


Experts to resume excavation work on Saudi archaeological sites

Experts to resume excavation work on Saudi archaeological sites
The file photo shows foreign archaeologists excavating the site of Saffaqah in Saudi Arabia. The Arabian Peninsula is home to several ancients sites dating back thousands of years. (Social media)
Updated 24 February 2021

Experts to resume excavation work on Saudi archaeological sites

Experts to resume excavation work on Saudi archaeological sites
  • Before the pandemic, more than 40 teams of local and foreign experts were working in different areas

RIYADH: The Saudi Heritage Authority is preparing to resume survey and archaeological excavations in the Kingdom after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak forced projects to be suspended for almost a year.

The projects will be carried out in partnership with international missions from universities and specialized international research centers.
Teams from various Saudi universities also have been invited to contribute to the survey and excavation operations, and to help unearth antiquities in various regions in the Kingdom.
The Heritage Authority is responsible for conducting archaeological surveys and excavations to discover the rich cultural history of the Kingdom.
Before the pandemic, more than 40 international and local teams were taking part in archaeological excavations in Saudi Arabia. During their research, they discovered traces of ancient human settlements in the Arabian Peninsula, which were published in a string of scientific publications.
The authority collaborates with several research centers and universities to conduct archaeological surveys and excavation operations, and these missions will return to work on 20 sites in the Kingdom along with their Saudi counterparts.
Archaeological missions will resume survey activities at five archaeological sites within the framework of the authority’s cooperation with Saudi public universities.
The authority will also carry out archaeological survey and excavation projects at 19 sites in different regions of the Kingdom, in addition to registering shipwreck sites in the Arabian Gulf for the first time.
Remote sensing techniques and artificial intelligence are among the latest approaches used by the authority and its partner missions.
The authority is expected to launch new research projects this year in cooperation with local partners, including the King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives, the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, the Royal Commission for AlUla, NEOM Co., AMAALA Co., the Red Sea Development Co.
It will also involve national cadres, including male and female students as well as archaeology and heritage researchers in the projects.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Heritage Authority is responsible for conducting archaeological surveys and excavations.

• The authority will also carry out archaeological survey and excavation projects at 19 sites in different regions of the Kingdom.

• Remote sensing techniques and artificial intelligence are among the latest approaches used by the authority and its partner missions.

Fahd Alotaibi, a history professor at King Saud University, said: “The excavation of antiquities confirms the Saudi government’s keenness to root the cultural depth of the Kingdom and the history of human settlement there,” adding that the Arabian Peninsula is one of the oldest geographical areas in which man appeared.
He said that the return of archaeological surveys highlighted the Kingdom’s success in dealing with the pandemic as well as the high level of expertise achieved by Saudi antiquities specialists.
Alotaibi, author of “Language, Writing and Identity in the Arabian Peninsula Before Islam,” said that Saudi Arabia, with its huge archaeological remnants, is a magnet for scholars from around the world.
“The archaeological surveys will yield a lot of archaeological and historical results that will contribute to filling the gap in information about the Kingdom’s national history, or correcting some previous information,” he added.
Alotaibi said that Saudi antiquities researchers’ partnership with international experts through joint surveys, and the Saudi Heritage Authority’s keenness to deal with archaeology departments in local universities, will deliver field training opportunities for students’ and localize experiences related to antiquities.


Saudi cave guide unlocks doors to ‘hidden’ Kingdom

Saudi cave guide unlocks doors to ‘hidden’ Kingdom
Tourism guidance is Mohammed’s life, and the Kingdom’s caves and their geological structures are his field of specialization as a guide for foreign and Saudi tourists. (Supplied)
Updated 21 February 2021

Saudi cave guide unlocks doors to ‘hidden’ Kingdom

Saudi cave guide unlocks doors to ‘hidden’ Kingdom
  • The cave, a long tunnel formed by volcanic lava, was formed when the surface of the volcanic lava began to freeze, with the lava below ground remaining as liquid due to the high temperature

MAKKAH: Tareq Mohammed, a specialist in cave tourism from Madinah, is opening the door to a new world of geotourism in Saudi Arabia.
Tourism guidance is Mohammed’s life, and the Kingdom’s caves and their geological structures are his field of specialization as a guide for foreign and Saudi tourists.
“When we talk about geotourism, the first thing that comes to mind are beaches, forests, deserts, mountains, underground wells, hot springs and areas of dormant volcanoes. But Saudi Arabia is also full of monuments and caves,” Mohammed told Arab News.
Geotourism is starting to revive in the Kingdom, and travelers of all ages are discovering that caves are a safe and enjoyable source of adventure.
According to the guide, caves in Saudi Arabia are divided into five basic types according to their geological division: Ice caves, which are formed in ice in cold regions; marine caves formed by waves, oceans or rivers flowing into large rocks or mountains, creating large cavities over thousands of years; basaltic caves, known as volcanic caves; limestone caves; and sand caves that form inside sandy mountains.
“An example of basaltic caves is the Maker Al-Shaiheen cave, which is classified as the longest basaltic cave in the Middle East with a length of about 3,700 meters,” he said.
The cave, a long tunnel formed by volcanic lava, was formed when the surface of the volcanic lava began to freeze, with the lava below ground remaining as liquid due to the high temperature.
“The lava continues to flow until it reaches the end of the tube. The dimensions of the cave vary between 4-12 meters in width and 1.5-12 meters in length,” he said. The Maker Al-Shaiheen cave is located in the west of the Kingdom in Harrat Khaybar, Madinah region.
A sand cave in Al-Qarah Mountain in the eastern region is an excellent example of this type, Mohammed said.
Limestone caves are formed below the Earth’s surface. Over millions of years, acidic groundwater or underground rivers eat away the limestone, leaving cavities that grow over time.

HIGHLIGHT

According to Tareq Mohammed, caves in Saudi Arabia are divided into five basic types according to their geological division: Ice caves, which are formed in ice in cold regions; marine caves formed by waves, oceans or rivers flowing into large rocks or mountains, creating large cavities over thousands of years; basaltic caves, known as volcanic caves; limestone caves; and sand caves that form inside sandy mountains.

“Al-Murabba (square) cave and the Tahaleb (algae) cave are examples of limestone caves. The Tahaleb (algae) cave is characterized by moisture and the presence of some types of algae at its entrance, hence the name,” he said.
“I think these caves are the most beautiful in terms of their different formations and shapes, such as the different limestone stalactites and stalagmites.”
According to Mohammed, the central region of the Kingdom is characterized by these types of caves.
These cavities are called either “cave” or “dehl,” terms that have much the same meaning, he explained. But one difference is that the entrance of the cave is a horizontal cavity, while the entrance of the dehl is a vertical cavity.
The tour guide said that cave tourism is available throughout the year since the caves’ temperature is constant between 24-26 degrees Celsius, whether morning or evening, winter or summer.
He said that any visit should be led by a specialized guide, who will reveal the characteristics of the caves.


Arab Tourism Day promoting ‘digital future’ for region

Arab Tourism Day promoting ‘digital future’ for region
The tourism sector is expected to undergo a selective transition of existing jobs. (SPA)
Updated 21 February 2021

Arab Tourism Day promoting ‘digital future’ for region

Arab Tourism Day promoting ‘digital future’ for region
  • The new era of Arab tourism will take place at the government level and in the private sector through investors and businesses

JEDDAH: The Arab Tourism Organization has called on the Arab world to celebrate Arab Tourism Day on Feb. 25 under the slogan “Digital Transformation towards Safe Arab Tourism.”

The organization said that the Arab tourism industry of the future will be judged on the quantity of tourists, but also on the quality of services and technological development.

Tourism services must be updated according to health procedures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization said, adding that non-contact travel from arrival to departure should be a priority for the sector.

The organization said that digital transformation is an important goal that requires the Arab world to deliver the return of safe tourism.

It cited the latest statistics by the World Economic Forum in Davos that predicted that digital transformation in aviation, travel and tourism will generate an added value for the tourism sector of $305 billion during the period from 2019 to 2025.

The transformation will also transfer $100 billion from traditional sectors to new competitors and generate indirect benefits of $700 billion by reducing environmental impacts, enhancing safety, security and savings on costs and time for tourists.

The Arab Tourism Organization said that the tourism sector is also expected to undergo a selective transition of existing jobs. However, job losses in the transition are being offset by the creation of new positions based on the skills of the new digital age within and outside the travel system, the organization added.

The new era of Arab tourism will take place at the government level and in the private sector through investors and businesses. Global spending on information technology in relation to digital transformation is expected to reach $7.5 trillion in the future


Snowfall brings sightseers to Saudi Arabia’s Tabuk

Snowfall brings sightseers to Saudi Arabia’s Tabuk
Every year the snowfall brings tourists from across the Kingdom to Tabuk. (Supplied)
Updated 19 February 2021

Snowfall brings sightseers to Saudi Arabia’s Tabuk

Snowfall brings sightseers to Saudi Arabia’s Tabuk
  • Every year, the snowfall brings tourists from across the Kingdom to Tabuk, and while the COVID-19 pandemic will mean fewer visitors than usual this year

JEDDAH: The mountains of Tabuk were capped in snow Thursday morning after a huge drop in temperature overnight. Videos of the storm, and of people celebrating the snowfall, circulated widely on social media, as well as clips of snow-covered camels relaxing before the sunrise.
There were excited comments from Tabuk residents, while those in other regions looked on in envy as the snow encased the mountaintops of Alan, Jabal Al-Lawz and Ad-Daher.
One Twitter user wrote: “What a wondrous sight, like something out of Europe. I’m not sure it’s even here.”

Another, Mohammed Al-Salem, expressed his sadness at being unable to enjoy the snowy mountain tops, saying: “Oh, my heart. Tabuk wins the best city in the winter award. I long to experience such weather.”
Sama Al-Kuwait wrote: “Such beauty in the midst of winter. We often go too far to seek snow, when snow has been close to home in Tabuk. I will surely visit after the pandemic.”
Every year, the snowfall brings tourists from across the Kingdom to Tabuk, and while the COVID-19 pandemic will mean fewer visitors than usual this year, some people still drove all the way from the UAE to capture the snow on camera, according to Al-Arabiya.

HIGHLIGHT

Meteorology experts said temperatures in the far north of the Kingdom are expected to drop even further in the near future, and authorities have issued extreme weather warnings in a number of areas across Saudi Arabia, including Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah, the Eastern Province, Qassim, Hail, Tabuk, the Northern Borders region, Al-Baha, Asir, Jazan, Jawf and Najran.

Others took to social media to educate people on the weather in various regions of the Kingdom.

Spokesman for the Kingdom’s Embassy in Washington, Fahad Nazer, wrote: “There is no one denying climate change, but it’s also not that rare for this region — Tabuk, in northwestern Saudi Arabia — to experience snow. Contrary to popular perception, not every region in the Kingdom is warm year-round.”
Meteorology experts said temperatures in the far north of the Kingdom are expected to drop even further in the near future, and authorities have issued extreme weather warnings in a number of areas across Saudi Arabia, including Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah, the Eastern Province, Qassim, Hail, Tabuk, the Northern Borders region, Al-Baha, Asir, Jazan, Jawf and Najran.