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Hawar Islands

First mentioned in Islamic chronicles in the year 1345, historical Manama is now the capital and largest city of Bahrain, at the north-eastern tip of the Persian Gulf island state. There is a strong colonial influence in the area, with Portuguese occupation in 1521 followed by Persian dominance in 1602. This lovely city is a great base from which to enjoy the stunning beaches, buildings and sites in the area.

The economy of Manama was traditionally based on pearling, fishing, boat building and trade, displays of which can now be seen in local museums. In 1932 the discovery of petroleum boosted the city's economy, which has recently diversified into tourism and retail. Declared a free port in 1958, the facilities of the Mînâ Salmân port, in the al-Qulayah Inlet, have also aided economic growth and provided more access to tourists.

Open-minded and tolerant of other cultures, Manama is visited by a large number of foreigners each year. These visitors can enjoy a vast array of attractions, from souks (markets) and shopping malls to forts and pearl museums, as well as the friendly nature of the locals. There is also an active nightlife with many popular restaurants, bars and clubs to choose from, making this a splendid vacation destination.

As the meeting place for locals and visitors, and a fantastic way to experience the true flavours, scents and colours of Manama, a visit to the souks (local markets) are a must. Here one can purchase anything from beautiful Persian rugs to rare and precious jewellery, all while sampling the local cuisine along the way. If one is to venture just slightly out of the city, Bahrain's special history can be encountered in numerous old fort buildings, dating back as far back as 3000 BC, and beautifully restored and preserved for visitors to admire.

And when the temperatures of the desert seem overwhelming, water activities seem extra tempting. Luckily water sports are extremely popular in Bahrain, with tourists and locals indulging in their sport of choice all year round in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. Sailing and scuba diving are particularly popular, but if you prefer to stay on land but still feel the need to cool down, you can visit the Lost Paradise of Dilmun Waterpark with the family, allowing kids to tube and slide the day away, while cooling off from the desert climate. Whether it is in the water or in the desert, there is plenty to choose from for the whole family in this versatile country of extremes.

Manama experiences extreme climatic conditions, with summer temperatures in July rising to 118°F (48°C) and winter temperatures in January as low as 45°F (7°C). The most pleasant time to visit Manama is in autumn (October and November) when warm temperatures are tempered by a soft breeze. Manama has an arid climate with little rainfall.

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