Sitra, Bahrain

Photo: Al Bander Hotel & Resort
Photo: Al Bander Hotel & Resort

Bahrain is supposed to be the next big travel destination. First, the kingdom was named the Arab Capital of Culture in 2012. Then “the island of golden smiles” became the Capital of Arab Tourism in 2013. While modern beach resorts, with views of the Persian Gulf, keep popping up. But protests and deaths, stemming from the Arab Spring uprisings, continue to be an issue. Is this Middle Eastern country ready to be considered a must-visit place?

The Al Bander Hotel & Resort certainly hopes you think so. The resort is located on Sitra, an island in between the Persian Gulf and Tubli Bay. It was once full of farms, freshwater springs, mangrove forests, and fishermen. It’s largely developed—some would say overdeveloped—now.

But the resort, which sits on the southern tip of the island, is gorgeous. The rooms are minimal, airy, and stylish. The ones called chalets have secluded patios and private plunge pools, while the terraces on the cabanas have water views in every direction. The meandering pool is the largest on the island, and the gulf’s aqua water laps against the golden-sand beach.

Plus there is plenty to keep you occupied. Ride a boat into the gulf to go scuba diving or fishing. Kneeboard or canoe in the calm lagoon. Relax at the adults-only section of the pool. Play tennis, squash, or join a class. Yoga and salsa dancing are the most-popular options. Eat prawns, crab, or lobster from the Arabian Sea one night at the Fish Market, and join the open-air barbecue, shawarma, and shisha the next. Then go bowling, sip a cocktail at the Boatyard Bar, and listen to the waves lap against the shore after dinner.

So are you convinced? Will Bahrain starting luring tourists the way Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and even Doha have recently? And, if so, will you start planning a trip to Sitra?

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