Discovering the Heart of Bahrain
My weekend two-night stay in Manama, Bahrain this month became especially pleasurable. I was fortunate to stay in the fabulous new Boutique Hotel, The Merchant House, Bahrain.
A 5-star hotel, it sits in the very heart of Manama city, just three minutes walk from the Old Manama Souk grand entrance, Bab al-Bahrain. I did not know, as I was travelling to this enjoyable island, of the life luxuries that awaited in The Merchant House.
All 5-Star hotels have essentials which we know and enjoy. The Merchant House, however, is very special and very nearly unique where superlative luxuries are added; added glamorously, tastefully, practically, artistically and elegantly, all with personally attentive beautifully dressed staff that we come to know very quickly.
First of all, there is a library; a library, where I could spend more time than I had available. It’s a library stocked with over 1000 large hardback books covering an intellectual spectrum to vastly exercise our pleasure in learning. This library is a delight by traditional architecture of comfort, set contrastingly within the bright vibrant style of The Merchant House.
There is also a country garden style open air rooftop restaurant. Seated on super floral fabric seats with ample cushions, I sipped selected tea from the very English, Portmeirion Botanic Garden morning cups. What a delight! Breakfast is almost entirely by choice from the exquisite menu, a multitude of hand crafted egg dishes, pastries, cold dishes and one of my home favourites, a bowl of freshly prepared porridge. This excellent porridge arrives with three mini-bowls, set on a cooled Welsh slate platter, holding brown sugar, honey and fresh cream.
The 100-year-old olive trees standing beside me soothed my eyes. I was able to discuss these foods and the marvelous lunches and dinners with Rob Shipman, the highly experienced Executive Chef, who came over to my table to enquire of my feelings about breakfast. Rob has a worldwide reputation for his creative menus. Dinners were truly delicious, both by quality and their Mediterranean and Asian excitements of flavour.
There is an abundance of art; art from Bahraini artists reflective of Bahrani culture and connective with the environment to the artist’s eye. Every wall we pass in The Merchant House tells us a story. The walls speak with feelings, colour and someone’s life. Bahraini and international artists including Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol are here combined in this endeavour.
The Merchant House Hotel is more a home for my stay. A home into whose embrace I instantly felt comfortable. A home in the style and from the imagination of the creative hotelier owner, Gordon Campbell Gray, who has fashioned this and his other luxury hotels into multi-award winning paradises of humanity, a world of emotion in simple true relation to nature. The Merchant House has a further uniqueness; this is a 5-Star hotel where you could be highly likely to meet the owner. Gordon was staying as a guest during my visit (we met several times). The hotel staff are all immensely caring, expressing their and the hotel’s philosophy of deep consideration for their guests.
My hotel room became a natural extension of all within The Merchant House, holding books, artworks and uniquely designed furniture. All suites provide mini-kitchens and dining zones. A huge tray of specialty ice nestles in the drawer freezer with a scoop to load the ice bucket. And the ice cream is the best!
This window of life will always be refreshing whether you stay for leisure or business. I could slide my window shutters to experience the street scene life, or close myself within calm to appreciate the Bahraini fishing and pearling metal screen artwork, delicately set with the structured ceiling beams reflecting the origins of this re-constructed property.
As well as these riches in life-art, the 5-Star essentials are here; the gym, the holistic treatments spa, the rooftop emerald green infinity pool, the drama of the two storey reception lobby, the valet parking, the concierge service, the two differently styled bars, the conference room. The elevators and stairways are also an architect’s dream!
There are good reasons to come to Bahrain and my proposals for your thoughts are several. Consider the very easy flights and airport shuttle, convenient also by car from Riyadh, Kuwait City and the UAE. See the historic fort of Qal’at al-Bahrain from the 16th century, the Bahrain National Museum, the Al Fateh Grand Mosque, explore the old streets of the Bab al-Bahrain souk and the high-end outlets in Seef and A’ali Malls. Every March the international Formula 1 Grand Prix race is held at the Bahrain International Circuit. Many exhibitions and events are happening throughout the year.
My new and favourite reason to visit Bahrain? Another stay in the Merchant House Hotel!