You can wander for hours along narrow streets, ducking into small alleyways where you come across yet more interesting stalls selling everything from fresh spices to exquisite Bahraini pearls (unlike the cultured pearls available elsewhere, these are natural gems and still regarded as the finest in the world).
It’s not simply shopping, but an enriching cultural and social experience. Don’t forget to bargain for those special souvenirs. You will be drawn into interesting conversations, asked to sit down to partake of a cool, refreshing drink or perhaps sip a cup of coffee accompanied by sweet dates.
There are two main gold shopping centres as well as many, individual, attractive street-front gold jewellers. The Gold Souq, located on Shaikh Abdulla Avenue, is a two-storey, custom-built complex with a host of jewellers, many of them local. Prepare to be dazzled as 22-carat gold, normally used in Middle Eastern jewellery, has a sparkle that the seven or 10-carat offerings in the West simply cannot match. Gold City, located between Al Khalifa and Government Avenues, is another souq within the souq, offering a dazzling array of jewellery again with a strong, Middle Eastern flavour.
There are more mundane items on sale as the souq is very much a local market, where day-to-day purchases are still made. And you can bet that the latest gimmicks will be on show, whether it be the latest kid’s toy or a winning team’s football strip. You can even kit yourself out with a full Arabic costume (men, ladies and children). No offence will be taken and what a great souvenir to take home for all those fancy dress parties.
As you meander along, the traders, each vying for your attention, will gently summon you but there is no hard sell, if you say no, it is accepted gracefully. When you do decide to take a closer look at their wares, be prepared bartering is de rigueur. You have to try it for yourself but remember, the only rule is that the first price will definitely not be the last.
Major improvements are in store to enhance the souq while retaining its traditional atmosphere including the creation of mini souqs such as an Indian bazaar and a renovated gold souq. Improved parking, provision of shade and air-conditioned rest areas will all make suq shopping more convenient and comfortable.
After all that activity, your taxi eagerly awaits you at the rank, conveniently located at Bab Al Bahrain, to whisk you back home.