We usually avoid organised tours as they always seem to go lots of places we're not interested in. However, with sights spread around the country a tour seemed to be a good option. Keen to get it organised I emailed a number of companies regarding their tours. Only one company, Farhat, got back to me so it was rather by default that we chose them. That said, we were very happy with their service. We asked to visit Bahrain Fort, Al-Khamis Mosque, A'Ali Burial mounds, and the Tree of Life. They suggested we also visit the King Fahd Causeway and the camel farm, both of which sounded good to us, to round out a half day tour.
The driver, Imran, arrived at our hotel at about 11:45am, with the guide, Abbas, arriving shortly after. Our first stop was Bahrain Fort and the guide gave us some interesting information. The site has been occupied since around 2800 BC and you can see by the layers the different civilisations that have built there. We then asked to have a look around the fort on our own so we could get a better feel for the place. Our guide was fine with this and we explored for a little while, sad that the great views of the city skyline were still obscured by the dust that continued to hang in the air.
Our next stop was not A'Ali burial mounds as we expected, but was instead the burial chambers at Sar. All the mounds in Bahrain date back to the Dilmun period (from the late fourth millennium until 800 BC) and in Sar several mounds have been opened and excavated making for an interesting experience although they are difficult to photograph. Unfortunately we only got to view the more photogenic mounds at A'Ali from a busy highway where it was impossible to get a decent photo.
After enjoying these historical attractions it was time to head to the king's camel farm. This is exactly what the name says: a farm with lots of camels of all sizes. It was interesting to get up close to the camels and they were friendly enough and not aggressive. There seemed to be a lot of camels for the area they were in, but they seemed happy enough (though very hungry!). We were told that if you come at around 8:30 in the morning you can come and get free camel milk and that it, and camel urine, are used to cure diseases such as cancer.
Next on the itinerary was the King Fahd Causeway, a 26 kilometre causeway connecting Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Although we couldn't cross, there was something very appealing about taking a picture at the Saudi border so I was really looking forward to it. We drove to the border and got out to take some pics and admire the glorious blue of the water. Fishing is prohibited there and the fish seemed to know it. They were jumping clear out of the water! It was also interesting to see the hospitality booth offering Arabic dates and coffee to those crossing the border. I don't know about you, but most borders I've been to have been far from welcoming!
Our final real destination was the Tree of Life located in the middle of the desert. It is a very old mesquite tree growing alone in the desert with no known water source around. Some even say it is the last vestige of the Garden of Eden. To get there you need to drive through Bahrain's oil fields. The smell of gas is thick in the air and wells and pipes create a bizarre landscape. On the way to the tree you can see where the first oil in the Gulf was found and visit a small museum. We stopped shortly and then continued on our way. We reached the Tree of Life and it is indeed a sight to behold in the desert. Unfortunately it has been vandalised in recent years and a guard has had to be placed there to protect it. Nonetheless, it looks striking in its stark surrounds and I feel it is worth the trip and gives a totally different perspective of Bahrain.
Our last stop was to be Al-Khamis Mosque, the ruins of the oldest mosque in Bahrain. However, when we reached the sight it was closed and we were horrified to see that the ruins are being plastered over in their 'renovation'. We left, heavy hearted from what we had seen. We also wished we'd been informed the sight was closed to avoid wasting time. To cheer us up Abbas had Imran drive us past some of the modern buildings in the city so we could snap a few photos before dropping us off at our hotel.
Bahrain is really not designed to stroll around and everything is spread out. If you don't want to drive yourself and would like a bit more information about Bahrain, I can highly recommend Farhat tours. I can't really comment on any other tour companies as they didn't even answer my emails, but this one was very professional, though a bit pricy for our budget, and it was a highlight of our trip.