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Bahrain - Food and Drink
The Most Popular Food In Bahrain
With expats making up more than half of Bahrain’s population, you won’t be surprised to learn that restaurants cater to every national cuisine imaginable. However, traditional Bahraini food is delicious and well worth seeking out.
The dishes you’ll most readily come across include:
• Balaleet - the breakfast dish of sweetened and spiced noodles topped with egg omelette
• Khubz - Flatbread
• Mezze - hummus and chopped salads
• Tomato salad
• Samboosas - similar to samosas, these are parcels with savoury fillings
• Falafel - spiced ground chickpeas rolled into a ball and fried
• Baba Ghanoush - aubergine, garlic, yoghurt, sesame paste
• Muhammar - sweet rice seasoned with dates, molasses and spices
• Saffron rice
• Shawarma – spit-roasted lamb or chicken
• Gabout - succulent meat stew with dumplings
• Qoozi - slow cooked lamb stuffed with ingredients such as rice, onions, spices and eggs
• Machboos - Spiced meat baked with absorbent rice
• Grilled fish
• Fried fish
• Luggimat - a yeast dumpling soaked in saffron-infused syrup
• Bath elgitta - fried ground nut cookie tossed in sugar
• Hulwa - dessert of semolina, sugar and dried fruits
A Bahraini version of fish and chips is also widely eaten, reflecting the long ties between the UK and Bahrain.
There’s so much good food to enjoy in Bahrain we recommend you take a few minutes to read the article An Expat Guide to the Local Cuisine in Bahrain.
Alcoholic Drinks In Bahrain
Bahrain is an Islamic country where many of the local people are conservative and religious. Whilst the society is more liberal than many of its Middle Eastern neighbours, expats are expected to respect Bahraini values.
Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, may come as a bit of a culture shock to foreigners. During this time, food and drink can only be consumed after sunset and before sunrise. Work hours may be adjusted accordingly. Many companies have a designated area where non-Muslim employees may eat during the days of fasting.
The sale of alcohol is a good example of the interaction of religious values with expat expectations. A number of establishments in the country have been permitted to sell alcohol within a set of strict conditions. Only adults over the age of 18 may be served alcohol, and they must be non-Muslim. Alcohol can only be served on the premises and must not be taken elsewhere. These tend to be expensive places to drink.
Anyone caught driving after drinking any alcohol at all will be dealt with severely, and a prison sentence can be expected. This also applies to drug possession and use, of any quantity.
Non-Alcoholic Drinks In Bahrain
Since most of the Bahraini population does not drink alcohol, your choice of soft beverages is wide and available everywhere. In addition to the usual carbonated drink selection and mineral waters, you can enjoy lemon and mint juice drinks, Arak (grape juice flavoured with aniseed) and Gahwa (coffee flavoured with cardamom).
Tipping In Bahrain
Most restaurant bills have a service charge added. Unless you are unhappy with the service you received, you are expected to pay this without question. This is often listed at the bottom of a menu. Once you have paid the service charge, no additional tips are required.
If a service charge has not been included, leave a tip of at least 10% unless the service was below par.
Enjoying The Nightlife Of Bahrain
The Adliya district of Manama is home to a thriving nightlife. Although some of the top restaurants and hotel bars serve alcohol to non-Muslim adults, drinking is not the central focus, as it is in many UK establishments.
Once you’ve enjoyed an excellent meal in the district, you’ll only be a stone’s throw from a varied selection of nightclubs which cater to a wide range of musical tastes.
If you’d rather spend the evening shopping for clothes, textiles and jewellery, head to the streets behind Bab al-Bahrain. This is a great place to practice your haggling skills!
Barbeque In The Park
As in the West, Bahrain’s parks are great places to walk, jog, or spend time with the kids. Many benches or tables are strategically placed under shade. If there’s a cycle lane, a park is a great location for riding your bike too. Other parks provide playgrounds, tennis courts, football pitches, volleyball courts, skate parks and even pedalos for hire.
Dog walking is another matter altogether. Many Western expats like to bring their pets to Bahrain with them. However, it’s a fairly recent trend in the Middle East for animals to be kept in households, and this is primarily to guard against intruders or keep vermin down. As a result, dogs are only welcome in parks whose rules specifically allow it.
Conversely, many Westerners, especially Europeans, are initially surprised to see groups of local families and friends gathered around barbeques in parks and beaches. This is an affordable and popular way to feed a hot meal to a group of people on a nice day out. In a country whose extended families typically gather on a regular basis, finding a space to comfortably accommodate everyone as they eat can be difficult. In the park, everyone can relax and enjoy some fresh air as the cooking takes place, and eating is much less formal than in an overcrowded family home.
The most popular parks are:
• Al Kubra Garden in Muharraq
• Andalus Garden in Manama
• Budaiya Botanical Garden and Budaiya Park in Budaiya
• Dohat Arad Park in Muharraq
• Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Park in Hidd
Watching The Dinar
If you are in the habit of eating out on a regular basis, your monthly expenses are likely to be much higher. Local food is quite reasonable and of excellent quality. Most supermarkets stock a wide variety of imported items too, which can be quite expensive.