Sunday, May 28, 2023

[MANAMA] Bahrain Day Trip from Dammam

Landing in Dammam was an option. With the emergence of Wizz Air in the UAE LCC scene, a short and cheap flight from Abu Dhabi to either Manama or Dammam is now possible. The thing is, I wasn’t sure whether Bahrain would honor their VoA policy for holders of US, Canada, UK, and Schengen visa holders. If they don’t, that means I’d have to fly back to AUH which I could no longer do because my UAE visa is single entry only. Landing in Dammam did not have this problem because I have a valid ME Saudi visa anyway. From Dammam, the RT bus ticket via SAPTCO is BHD15 (~PHP2,250).

The trip from Dammam to the Saudi/Bahrain border on an island in the middle of the Persian Gulf takes an hour and a half. Immigration on both sides will take around an hour. Once done, the continuation of the trip to downtown Manama will just take half an hour. For the Bahrain immigration, my Saudi Arabia visa sufficed. They didn’t even ask for my Canada or US visas. The VoA fee is BHD5 (~PHP750). There are other options if you are interested in staying longer but this was just a day trip for me. Make sure you have some SAR with you. I am not sure if they accept credit cards or not so let’s just assume they don’t.

I bought a 24-hour data roaming package from Smart so I could move around via Careem. The signal was good and I had no difficulties getting on the internet. And now, my first advice. Bahrain is expensive AF. BHD1 is equivalent to around PHP150 so do not be fooled by the single digit prices you will see. After multiplying those numbers by 150, you will find out why. My Careem rides averaged at around BHD3 (~PHP450) even for short distances. Expensive as it might seem, it is just on par with Saudi Uber prices.

I had the car drop me off at Al Fateh mosque, which took 15 minutes. Once there, I saw the mosque overlooking a wide parking lot with almost no cars. On the other side of a busy street was a mall. Adjacent to the mosque, in front of the roundabout, was the National Library which had its own interesting facade. Picture time! I also entered the building, basically just to cool down. It had several floors and lots of books of course, but I wasn’t in the mood for reading.

Once I significantly cooled down, it was time to visit the mosque itself. Entry is free but you need a guide to enter the premises. The tour is also free. There were just two of us for our time slot, the other person being an American tourist. The guide was an immigrant from Egypt who explained the basics of Islam to us, which I appreciated. I am basically anti-religion, but I do appreciate listening to people explain their faith. We might not agree in all aspects, but at least you get a clear picture as to where they’re coming from. The mosque was as magnificent inside as it was outside and the ambience just puts you at peace.

Crossing the street, I snubbed the mall and went straight to TGI Fridays on the other side. Two of the staff were Filipinos and there were almost no customers. I guess the rule is the same for most Middle Eastern cities when it comes to avoiding the hot weather. The long stroll I took from here all the way to the National Museum took an hour and I was already drenching wet in sweat when I got there. This is the next tip. Bring an extra shirt with you. After changing in the toilet, I continued sightseeing.

The admission fee was BHD1 (~PHP150). There are also combo tickets including a boat trip to some island, which I no longer bothered to even think of. Most of my time in this day trip was spent at this museum which was well worth it because of all the history you get to know there, from the country’s beginnings as Dilmun all the way to contemporary times. They have everything from clay tablets featuring cuneiform writing all the way to modern book iterations of the Koran.

I ended up at Bahrain Fort after this, which meant another Careem ride. Hey, the bus going back to Dammam does not leave until 10:30 PM. That’s a lot of time to kill. The fort is what remains of the Dilmun civilization which had its capital at that exact same site. There is another museum in the premises, which I no longer bothered to visit. Some of the castle walls still stand and you can actually explore the ruins. Entrance is free. It’s best to go there during sunset for the view and the cooler weather.

Since there was still time, I booked another Careem to head to The Avenues, which is a modern mall with a good coastal view of Manama’s skyline. Since it also had a cinema, I decided to watch The Little Mermaid there. The trip back to Dammam was uneventful. Travel time and immigration processing took the same amount of time. Bahrain doesn’t stop passports, by the way. They just give you a piece of paper with your entry information.

[MANAMA] Bahrain Day Trip from Dammam

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