Nestled in the heart of Manama you will find the last of Bahrain’s open marketplaces, or the Souq. Once the city-center of a thriving Pearl-trade, the Souq is a mere shadow of its former self. In the 1980’s, as the Island’s Pearl trade decayed, so too did the luster of the trader’s paradise, the Souq. Today, a cacophony of monolithic mega-structures and malls dominate the once quaint vistas of Bahrain; however, when you’re in search for the soul of this little island, you will still find it in the cobblestone path of the Souq’s labyrinthine alleyways.
The eclectic soul of Bahrain can be discovered behind the veil of the Bab al Bahrain, or the door to Bahrain. The Bab once served as the formal gateway into the land of Bahrain for both wayfarers and countrymen. Today, the Bab is adorned with the crest of Bahrain and flanked by taxi cabs, toursits and Bargain-hunters from near and afar. As you enter the teeming bazaar from under the Bab, you are greeted by quaint shops with colorful personalities; there is a faint realization of the historic magnitude of the Souq. The Souq was fortified and restored to authentically reflect its glorious past.
The atmosphere is purposefully designed to harken back to an era of prosperity and grandeur; when Bedouin caravans and nomads from lands afar flocked to witness the coveted possessions of Bahrain’s skilled Pearl divers. While the Souq’s relevance to commerce on the Island has wayned, its arteries, or the supply chains that knit Bahrain into the fabric of the world, are stronger than ever. The shopkeepers are inviting, but few are informed about the profound history of the Souq. From a utilitarian perspective, one could conceivably find everything, from house wares to Jewelry in the narrow gullies of the Souq; be forewarned that pricing is subject to negotiation, and at times relentless diligence.
It is what turns the task of purchasing into the art of dealmaking; transforming a mundane transaction into a memorable experience that can only be savored within the confines of the enchanted Souq of Manama.
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