Hookah/ShishaThe image in my mind of sheikhs smoking shishas (better known to us as hookahs) in street corners is real - Bahrain lives up to it. Streets are dotted with coffee shops serving shishas in innumerable flavors, coffee, tea and snacks. Strangely, smoking the shisha seems to be a private activity. You do see groups of men smoking it, but more often than not you see a lone man with his shisha and a pot of mint tea.
Definitely stop by Al Bindaira, perhaps the hippest coffee shop in Bahrain and grab a shisha and a pot of mint tea
Link to their Adliya location
Arabic coffee and HalwaOne of the many guide books we referred to led us to believe that these shisha shops serve Arabic coffee (a special way to brew coffee with cardamom and saffron). We walked in and out of at least a dozen coffee shops in search for Arabic coffee with no luck. The traditional Arabic coffee has now been replaced by the French and Italian versions; cafe au lait, cappuccino etc... You also find a lot of Turkish coffee in Bahrain.
After hunting around for almost ten days we finally found Arabic coffee at a sweet shop and it was an experience well worth the wait. The traditional way of drinking it is having a sip of the beverage and then biting into a date. The coffee itself does not contain any sugar. The sugar-filled date makes up for it.
The sweet shop however served us coffee with Halwa. We had sips of Arabic coffee and followed it up with spoons of Halwa.
Now, Halwas are a delicacy worth trying. The name of sweet shop you should look for is Showaiter - a family that has been in the sweet business for the past hundred and fifty years. Every store had three colors of halwa - green, red, and orange. They were dotted with several cashew nuts. Within these colors there are two varieties; oil based and ghee (butter) based, definitely opt for the butter. The Halwa with its jello like consistency invites you to eat more of it again and again...
Link to the ubiquitous Showaiter sweet shops
BaklavaYou find Baklavas at several sweetshops all around Bahrain but nothing compares to the ones at Saadeddein pastry. They have about twenty varieties: different shapes and sizes of filo like pastries filled with almonds and pistachios. You can try one of each or more (if you know the store keeper) before buying a few to take back home. They stay fresh without refrigeration for about three weeks.
Link to their Manama location