As we learned the moment we stepped into a local cab and the Bahrain-born driver revealed he'd been a policeman – until taxi driving provided a better income.
Now, that’s a conversation you’re unlikely to have in Dubai. And, as the meter clocked up a sum as much as our usual airport run from Sports City, for a relatively short hop to Bahrain’s main mosque and museum in Manama, we agreed his career decision had been a sound one.
It soaks the Bahraini capital with a golden light that hints at the heat of the day and the pleasant autumnal warmth of the evening to come.
Such views are easier to come by since Downtown Rotana Hotel opened its doors in the spring of 2016.
And it’s fair to say the ‘executive’ lounge in Bahrain’s high-rise new landmark makes the most of location.
Club Rotana, on the 24th floor of this smart, modern tower, is tranquil and comfortable – and the panoramic view across Manama can totally steal your attention.
After that short taxi ride, we arrived at Al Fateh Grand Mosque, the city’s showpiece place of worship.
This elegant building operates free guided tours throughout the day and makes extra clothing available to visitors who arrive attired more for heat than Islamic modesty that a mosque requires.
Situated on the waters edge, this impressive modern building explores the history and culture of Bahrain and reveals antecedence stretching back millennia and of marked contrast to the country’s better known Arab neighbours.
Some of the village displays are worn to the point of being a tad scary – and a startled looking cat raised a few titters as we passed – but overall the museum is a worthwhile stop.
The city beyond, meanwhile, is pedestrian-friendly and we easily navigated our way back to Downtown Rotana, once across a major highway.
Essentially a business hotel during weekdays, at weekends this new property buzzes with families and couples, some attending the Friday brunch in international dining restaurant Flavours On 2.
Upstairs the guest rooms are fresh and modern but comfortable with floor to ceiling windows to maximize those views.
We stayed in a Classic Room, close to the Club Rotana (you have to stay on a different room rate or pay extra to use the facilities, so inquire before you book). This sanctuary offers a variety of places to sit and relax over complimentary hot and cold drinks and snacks. The lounge also serves complimentary canapés and beverages in the evening.
Down below, there’s a generous pool deck with bar service, more city glimpses and an adjacent well-equipped gym.
It may sound like an incongruous mix, but the reality is delicious, imaginative and on view as it is put together in an open kitchen.
The stylish restaurant is also flanked by an industrious bar serving inspired signature cocktails, such as the Downtown Tokyo and the Tiffin Punch.
You could walk off the calories at the nearby Manama Souq...
This crisscross of narrow, partially covered streets sell everything from fabrics, phones and spices to gold, watches and kitchen equipment. Expect to be enthusiastically courted for your Bahraini Dinar, but be sure of what (and if) you want to buy, and what kind of price you are prepared to haggle for.
And if you crave an alternative night, Block 338, in Adliya district is a charming pedestrian quarter that mixes art, boutiques and dining.
The art concept is also applied 30 minutes drive out at Rotana’s beach resort on Amwaj Islands; ART Rotana is a fresh concept that blends stunning design with artistic flourishes for a family-friendly hotel with a difference.
The spa offers a great range of massages that can be enjoyed solo or as a couple, but just wandering through the hotel with its imaginative, template-setting design has a soothing effect.
Among eight dining opportunities is Rosso, an enoteca/bar serving good Italian food in a casual yet stylish setting where you watch your pizza evolving.
When your appetite returns, Flames Steak & Seafood is sophisticated yet relaxed, serving top-notch dishes ranging from a beautifully textured crab cake and indulgent Burgundy snails to a lavish Aussie Wagyu rib eye.
It's an extensive, stylish venue with good breathing space between tables and a menu that offers great choice without going overboard. Some items seem a little pricy, but the quality of what we ate warranted the cost.
THE five star Downtown Rotana, Manama, costs from about 600AED (£130) per Classic Room, per night inclusive of breakfast based on two adults sharing. Access to Club Rotana involves a different room and rate.
STAY at the five star ART Rotana from about 690AED (£150) per Classic Room, per night, inclusive of breakfast, based on two adults sharing. For more on both hotels: www.rotana.com
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