No matter how worn out the cliché, sometimes it just so happens to be true – Bahrain is more than meets the eye. Technically speaking, the Gulf state is an archipelago, with a population largely centred in Manama, the nation’s capital. The modestly sized arrangement of 33 natural islands boasts a rapidly increasing number of land reclamation projects – recent estimates put the number at 84 – but as you make your way from the northerly Muharraq Island airport to my destination, geography won’t be on your mind.
The whole purpose of a weekend away is to distract from the mundane, daily grind, and a hotel transfer in a luxe limo begins the process of freeing any pent up stress. The pristine SUV takes just half an hour to reach its destination, The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain, and the warm welcome sets the tone for your getaway. The hotel’s decadent packages often include a door-to-door chauffer-driven experience from anywhere within a few-hours radius, and with a fleet of cars on hand as the chariot, the hotel is unsurprisingly popular with Bahrain’s well-heeled neighbours across the 40-kilometre King Fahd Causeway.
It’s not hard to see why. This unique corner of Bahrain Island is reminiscent of another archipelago, packing a Maldivian vibe courtesy of its immaculate white sands, calm lagoon and abundance of tropical greenery. That ambiance continues throughout the exclusive Royal Beach Club – a major leisure facility embedded within the resort, with popular Gold and Platinum packages giving members year-round access to a comprehensive range of facilities. Platinum members, eligible to bring the whole family, pay up to BD 2,300 (US $6,100) per year. From the traditional hammam to the plush spa and sporting facilities, the club is a resort within a resort.
You may choose to forsake the squash court for the steam room and spa. If you do, you’ll do well to place your body in the hands of a Thai massage specialist. The sea-inspired spa facility has countless rituals that incorporate minerals from the Dead Sea, along with thalassotherapy and plunge pools among other aqua-inspired elements. From the Herbal Poultice Massage to the Secrets of Argan journey, treatments also draw on rituals from Arabian history. Complementing the Bahrain hotel’s spa menu, which includes facials, massages and body treatments, is a setting that inspires the mind to calm with a traditional hammam, atrium pool and relaxation areas for ladies and gentlemen.
What’s on offer at the Ritz’s health club is excellence, and within an hour you will feel as though you transcended time and space. No surprises then that one of the other popular offers is the Luxury Spa Escape Package. Formerly available just to ladies, groups of friends and couples are invited to immerse themselves in 105 minutes of massage and facial treatments before a healthy lunch at the poolside La Med restaurant – followed by a free run of all the resort’s facilities, including the indoor and outdoor pool, gym and the 600 metres of white sandy beach.
Retreat to your plush, modern and spacious club-level accommodation, and find a welcoming array of confectionary and a fruit platter. The level of service throughout the hotel is world-class, with attention to detail on par, best evidenced by the spectacular Latino team at the hotel’s beloved Cantina Kahlo restaurant. Named after iconic Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, the dreamily designed restaurant and cocktail venue is predominantly staffed by Mexican expats, with bona fide Mexican avocados to boot. One of the most coveted dining destinations on the island, the authentic eatery is the latest jewel in the hotel’s culinary crown. With a total of 11 venues to choose from, the standard of service is consistently outstanding, with particular attentiveness at the Club Lounge – a cosy and calm space, replete with food and drink, work spaces and views over the main outdoor pool and lagoon.
In spite of the hotel’s array of suites, including two 158sqm Royal Suites complete with panoramic views, the foremost accommodations consist of 23 lavish villas. Separate from the hotel, the two- and three-bedroom cottages have a colonial-era appearance, but the interiors carry a surprising Polynesian aesthetic that neatly pairs with the on-site Trader Vic’s venue. With private plunge pools and access to a secluded private beach – and bear in mind some new Bahrain five-star properties don’t have any beach access – the villas are popular year-round, whether as serene retreats or party venues for friends, inclusive of complimentary airport transfers (so fingers crossed there’s a limo available). With each measuring more than 400sqm and at least 20 metres apart from the next, the villas at the hotel offer spacious seclusion and private pools, and are ideal for up to six adults.
Despite the innumerable draws to stay in the resort, The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain is also a launchpad for boat trips. Bespoke packages are available for groups to escape the bustle even further with the option of a dolphin-watching trip or a spectacular excursion to one of the kingdom’s best-kept secrets, Jarada Island. The “Sand Bar Beach Package” takes you to the tidally accessible spit, 14 kilometres off shore, with the golden sands and crystal-blue waters of an Indian Ocean atoll, complete with a picnic for all you hopeful romantics. Or guests can simply choose one of the local island-hopping experiences – a 45-minute ferry-ride from Al Dur Jetty to Hawar Island for a fun escape.
With a total of 11 venues to choose from, the standard of service is consistently outstanding, with particular attentiveness at the Club Lounge – a cosy and calm space
For a sense of history and adventure, a visit to the ancient Qal’at al-Bahrain fort is a must. Just minutes from the hotel, alongside the phenomenal Bahrain National Museum, you can bring out your inner geek with tactile tales of the pre-Islamic Dilmun civilisation. The centre of Manama is also a must. Rustic and endearing, Manama Souq is a warren of historic alleyways, pearl hawkers and spice traders. Even the local “mall” blends seamlessly with the (relatively) more historic setting, but it doesn’t quite compare to some of the religious heritage. Guests of the 200-year-old Krishna Temple are welcomed with Indian sweets and a tour of the meeting place, decked in iconography – including a two-storey tall fresco in the courtyard.
This may not be a version of the Gulf you see on television, but nevertheless, it is an authentic one
This may not be a version of the Gulf you see on television, but it is an authentic one. The Indian theme continues at the hotel, with delectable fine dining at Nirvana. Picture intricately carved wood screens, jewel-toned fabrics, chefs in crisp whites and the melodies of a live santoor player recall the decadence of dining with Indian royalty. Meshing fine-dining with traditional cuisine, platters sizzle with grilled seafood and kebabs, and bowls are piled high with aromatic rice and curries.
South Asian families often select the Ritz as their venue of choice despite having no prior connection to Bahrain, which certainly speaks volumes and may set a new precedent for lavish Indian weddings in the Gulf. Whether you’re looking for weekend escapism or your happily ever after, you need look no further than a Ritzy experience in Manama.
Central to the GCC (the six Gulf countries), Bahrain has never been more accessible. Gulf Air now serves 49 cities in 26 countries and operates double daily flights – or more – to 10 cities in the region, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The 36-strong fleet boasts modern aircraft, with a lavish Business Class lounge at Bahrain International Airport. The Falcon Gold Lounge features personalised service in a contemporary setting, with plush booths overlooking the runway, a well-stocked deli with hot and cold food and comprehensive shower facilities to ensure you stay fresh on the move.
The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain
+973 1758 0000