Where is the Beach?

Bahrain is a group of islands, islands in the desert therefore logic would dictate there should be a surfeit of sandy beaches. The reality is that shallow seas, land reclamation and the stony geology mean decent beaches are few and far between, the majority of them man-made. Clubs and hotels situated by the sea often have a beach of some sort. The Ritz-Carlton has the Rolls-Royce of man-made efforts with white sand and palm trees whilst the one we visit most is Bahrain YC’s cove. This also ranks amongst the top of the man-made efforts with its curve of sand supporting a beach bar, sun loungers and umbrellas whilst leaving plenty of space for building sand castles or launching dinghies.

Initially I found myself asking people I met where are the beaches? I have since learnt that there are few public beaches. Guide books on Bahrain are rare and the two I have found have few references to any beaches. Tourists it seems, come to Bahrain mainly for the Grand Prix and throw in a bit of sight seeing whilst they are here. As for the locals, beach-going is not viewed in the same light as it is in Britain as can be seen from the accoutrements provided – benches, sun shades, childrens play equipment and lighting. The seaside is a place to walk with the family in the cool of the evening rather than somewhere to strip off, laze about, swim or picnic during the day; it’s simply too hot and the culture doesn’t endorse scanty clothing. As for the water, the Gulf is apparently the second most salty sea on Earth and Bahrain’s shallow seas heat up quickly meaning that it offers little in the way of a refreshing dip for those ex-pats looking for a little R&R.

Close to us, across the bridge, on Muharraq Island, is a beach situated just outside the gates to the dry docks. Despite its location in amongst heavy industry it seems popular. It is fringed with leafy trees rather than the ubiquitous date palm and we intend to try it sometime. Way down the west side of the island is the first beach we discovered, Al Jazayer with its street lights and childrens play equipment. You can take a boat to the tiny Al Dar Island just north of the yacht club on the east coast and hire a four poster sun lounger for the day. For those wanting to experience real isolation, a longer boat trip can be made south to the Hawar Islands. Down there vistors will find a hotel as well as a military base but basically the Hawar’s are an uninhabited and isolated nature reserve so possibly a great spot for getting away from it all.

This weekend we accidently found another pleasant spot on the west coast just south of the fishing harbour at Malkiya (turn off opposite the new Reef Mall). After driving across an expanse of open land used as makeshift football pitches you reach a low sand and ditch barrier, park and walk the final few yards to the sea. The sand is flat and natural, not the dredged, sharp shell filled, grey stuff that the man-made beaches are made of. Benches, plastic “gazebo” style sunshades, a fenced, floodlit sports court and childrens play equipment are close by. The sea was clear and it was good to hear the sound of the sea breaking on the shore. However the sand shelves steeply and not far out coral heads could be seen, so care would have to be taken when swimming but I had a pleasant paddle in the warm water as we walked along. It is another beach to try when the cooler autumn weather arrives.