It has become the new hotspot of the Middle East and it is easy to see why Bahrain attracts the most glamorous of visitors. The island of Bahrain, situated on the Western shores of the Persian Gulf, is the latest go-to location for stars from Kim Kardashian to the Grand Prix drivers and their wives as well as the European jet-set.
Bahrain is the new hotspot of the Middle East
Its reputation as the most relaxed of the Middle East countries means that alcohol is freely available and sightseeing is easy to do and well worth the effort.
Even the car ride from the airport in the capital, Manama, to one of the many hotels is like a virtual trip through a space age art gallery with buildings in the shape of liquorice twists rising up cheek-by-jowl with vast surf board shaped edifices and super-modern skyscrapers of every size, shape and colour.
The Ritz Carlton is a beachside luxurious hotel that offers impeccable service
But, if like many visitors to Bahrain, your idea of absolute luxury is simply checking into a sumptuous, beachside hotel with the finest white sands, impeccable service, stunning decor and a collection of the best restaurants in Bahrain then you won't go far wrong with the Ritz Carlton.
The Ritz Carlton manages to marry size – it's set on a 20 acres beachside estate overlooking the Gulf – with a super friendly personal service. The beds (big, white with cool cotton sheets) are some of the most comfortable I've ever slept in and a day in the spa (hot stones, massages, salt scrubs) leaves you feeling perfectly ready for an afternoon of doing nothing but watching turquoise waves crashing, palm trees wafting in the wind and – of course – eating.
The hotel is set on a 20 acres beachside estate overlooking the Gulf
The food at Bahrain's Ritz Carlton was a revelation. Everything from Thai to Indian, a very English afternoon tea, French, Italian and New York is on the menu in one of the eight restaurants within the grounds of the hotel.
Two of the restaurants in particular well deserve a mention. The steak restaurant Plums – a massive favourite with the Grand Prix teams – serves the sort of melt-in-the-mouth cuts any carnivore dreams of.
The Ritz Carlton has several restaurants
Run by French born chef, Yann Bernard Lejard, the restaurant takes a playful attitude to eating with his famous white and black burgers (black is lobster, wagu beef, foie gras and cheddar; white is lobster, chicken, foie gras and cheddar) which draw a crowd from all over the island. Diners are also presented with a large wooden box filled with a selection of different steak knives from Japanese to Italian and Bahrain – to select for their meal.
The Italian restaurant Primavera, run by two Michelin star chef Oliver Glowig, is also well worth a visit.
More traditionally the Bahrainis have a surprising love of the sweet things in life. Moderation in alcohol has resulted in chocolates, candies and ice-cream becoming something of a local obsession. The Ritz Carlton has its own cake shop where they also make their own ice-cream with wonderfully exotic flavours like Rose, saffron and Bahraini pistachio.
If you don't want to hang around their stunning pool, you can take a trip to the Bab Al-Bahrain souk in the old town of Manama
Sightseeing in Bahrain is easy and you can readily see a bit of local culture. The staff at The Ritz Carlton are great on recommendations and can advise on points of etiquette (can a female tourist visit the local souk on her own – yes is the answer) and arrange transport.
All the local taxis are driven only by Bahriani natives. A trip to the Bab Al-Bahrain souk in the old town of Manama is great for spice shopping (vast bundles of cinnamon, dried black lemons and saffron) nuts, honey, sweets, chocolate and souvenirs half the price of any of the shops.
Visit the famous Saffron coffee house for local coffe (there is a dizzying number of different types) or sample a traditional Bahrain breakfast which will easily feed four for the equivalent of £10.
The Bahrain Fort – a 16th Portuguese Fort built to protect their trade routes – is also a fascinating stop off. Flanked by local traders, it’s a great place for a coffee or a refreshing locally made mint lemonade drink. And for an absolute cultural contrast, head to the Grand Prix track where there are all sorts of amusements for children and adults (the brave can do a passenger ride on the track).
If you're feeling adventurous and a little bit spiritual, less than an hour from the hotel is the famous 500 –year-old, Tree Of Life in the midst of the desert – Bahrain's answer to America's Joshua Tree.
The alternative is to put your feet up, hit the spa, the bar, swim in the ocean or one of the pools at the Ritz Carlton and just enjoy a bit of luxury.