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Bahrain more than holds its own in terms of the luxury and finesse one expects from a Gulf oil nation, yet it strongly holds on to its roots, boasting a long and rich history, spectacular desert vistas and some of the finest pearls on the planet. It offers a wonderful opportunity to experience an authentically Arab destination while also enjoying the socially liberal advantages that Bahrain provides. Dress norms for women are not as strict as in other societies in the region, and alcohol is legal for locals and tourists alike. Though the expat population is growing, Bahrain receives far fewer tourists than some other, more "fashionable" destinations in the vicinity (such as Dubai and Doha). But travelers in the know are taking advantage of this fact and enjoying everything the island has to offer without worrying about big crowds of tourists putting a damper on the experience.
Bahrain's long and rich history has left its mark wherever one looks on the island. The Bahrain Fort speaks to its colonial past, while the Dilmun Burial Grounds give us a glimpse of prehistoric times, and the Oil Museum is a testament to recent development. The stunning National Museum is world-class, the National Theatre gathers artists from around the globe. All this and more will keep the curious visitor busy and fascinated for days.
Bahrainis enjoy a wealth of varied and tasty eating options on the island. Local flavours rich in spices are available at small and large eateries alike, and international cuisine from across the globe can be enjoyed at any of the numerous high-end restaurants found in the country, from Italian and Mexican to Iranian and Japanese.
The blazing desert heat is not enough to stop the people of Bahrain from enjoying a hot cup of coffee. There is an abundance of stylish cafes throughout the island that serve delicious coffee and tea drinks and fresh pastries and desserts.
Bahrain is somewhat more socially liberal than some its neighbouring countries when it comes, for example, to drinking. Alcoholic beverages are legal in the country, even for Muslims, so it is not surprising that it is a favourite destination for citizens of other Gulf nations. This also means that nightlife on the island is much more lively than other places in the region, and there are plenty of bars, lounges and nightclubs to be found throughout.
Bahrain's modern tastes and sensibilities means that there are plenty of massive air-conditioned shopping centres with all the amenities and facilities one would expect. But Bahrain's best shopping takes place in the souqs and markets, where shops, stalls and vendors peddle everything from clothing and souvenirs to spices, herbs and Bahrain's famous pearl jewellery.
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