Traditional Bahraini dishes use fish, meat, rice and dates. The best-known traditional food of Bahrain is machbous, fish or meat served with rice. Muhammar is brown sweet rice served with sugar or dates. Bahrainis also eat typical Arabic food such as falafel (deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas served in pita bread) and shawarma (lamb or chicken carved from a rotating spit and wrapped in flat bread). Snacks such as small fried potato cakes and sambousas, crispy pastry cases filled with meat, cheese, sugar or nuts, can be bought in the souks (markets).

Because there is so little agricultural land on the islands, Bahrain produces only a fraction of its own food requirements; its main crops are dates, bananas, citrus fruits, mangoes, pomegranates, tomatoes and cucumbers. The land supports only a few thousand goats, cattle and sheep. Bahrain has to import much of its food. However, the fishing industry provides plenty of fish and shrimps.

Since many workers in Bahrain are from India and Pakistan, many restaurants offer Indian and Pakistani food. Manama, the cosmopolitan capital, has restaurants that serve foods from all over the world.

The drinking of coffee is a traditional part of the Bahraini welcome. Three cupfuls of water and a rounded teaspoon of coffee (gahwa) are poured into a saucepan and then boiled for about two minutes. After adding cardamom and saffron in rosewater, the liquid is poured into a coffee-pot, or dalla. The coffee is left to brew for five or ten minutes before being served in a small cup, or finjan. Courtesy requires guests to accept a second cup if it is offered, but afterwards, the guest may refuse a further serving by shaking the coffee cup from side to side.

   Did you know?

Date cultivation is even more ancient than pearling. Bahraini dates have a special reputation for their succulence and sweetness.

   Baba Ghanoush


1 large eggplant
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
125 ml yogurt
3 tbsp olive oil
Several whole olives


Heat oven to 200°C. Place whole eggplant on a baking sheet and bake until the outer shell is crisp and the inside is soft and mushy (about 1 hour). Let the eggplant cool, then remove and discard the skin and the green cap. Spoon the inside into a food processor or a blender. Add garlic, tahini, salt, lemon juice and yogurt. Purée until creamy. Spoon into a serving dish and garnish with olive oil and whole olives. Serve cold or warm, with sliced pita bread or vegetables for dipping.