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Manama might lack the polish and outlandish commercialism seen in some Gulf capitals, but therein lies its charm. Yes, you'll find all the hallmarks of modern Arab prosperity here – vast air-conditioned shopping malls and daringly designed skyscrapers – but confidently nestled beside all that glass and glamour are delightful relics and reminders of the city's proud heritage as a busy port town. Historic sites are given equal footing with the brash, modern ones. This is most apparent in Manama's Souq, where the hustle and bustle still evokes an ancient bazaar, and the globally diverse local cuisine is slowly elevating the city into a foodie destination.

Manama's world-class National Museum, Beit Al Quran and avant-garde National Theatre represent the commitment of the city to not just preserve the past but actively celebrate it, creating a balance between the old and new rarely witnessed in this region.