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Often overlooked, Qudaibiya is a pocket of Manama with Middle Eastern, Asian and African influences

Shisha pipes are on display at a shop in Qudaibiya, Bahrain, on March 29, 2019. Qudaibiya, is a pocket of Manama where servicemembers can experience an affordable and authentic cultural experience of great food, shopping and exploration.

JOSHUA KARSTEN/STARS AND STRIPES

By JOSHUA KARSTEN | Stars and Stripes | Published: April 3, 2019

Nestled within the main tourist footpaths of Juffair, Adliya and the downtown souk area of Manama, lies an often-overlooked part of this town in Bahrain.

Qudaibiya, pronounced ka-dib-ee-yah, is a pocket of the city that many servicemembers either don’t know about or rarely wander through. It’s an old part of town just north of the Al-Qudaibiya Palace, the palace next to the Grand Mosque.

The area is home to many migrant workers, and with that comes all the authentic restaurants. Thai, Filipino, Ethiopian, African, Pakistani, Turkish — a foodie’s paradise.

“I love this part of town,” said Sorada Malawaijan, a Navy spouse originally from Thailand. “I am always disappointed with the [highly rated] Thai restaurants in the tourist areas because I don’t get that authentic taste I’m looking for.”

Malawaijan explained that restaurants in Qudaibiya cater more to the locals and visiting workers rather than tourists, a feature that better replicates the various cuisines of the chefs’ homelands.

Take a stroll early in the morning to get fresh breads, karak tea and breakfast that does not include pancakes. But be careful; the sidewalks and streets can make for a tumultuous trek compared to the island’s shopping malls. Wear comfortable shoes and leave the baby stroller at home for a better urban hiking experience.

One Bahraini dinar, or BD, has a fixed exchange rate with U.S. dollar at 1BD to $2.65. But no worries; that is more than enough for a meal in Qudaibiya.

For example, a common Filipino breakfast of rice, eggs and longganisa, a handmade pork sausage popular in the Philippines, will set you back 1BD — drink included. An Indian and Sri Lankan favorite called idli, a savory rice pastry served with curry, will also cost less than 1BD. Some karak tea, a spiced black tea mixed with sweet condensed milk, requires only pocket change to get your caffeine fix early in the morning.

After sunset, the main Qudaibiya Avenue comes alive as diners socialize on sidewalk eateries. The neon lights of countless shops illuminate the street with most staying open well into the evening.

For dinner, try some Ethiopian injera, a spongy-textured flatbread made of sourdough and served with various curries. A typical spread with drinks can feed a family of four for less than $20. If the exotic flavors do not excite your taste buds, grab a shawarma with fries and a Coke, also for 1BD.

Qudaibiya, like the main souk just a stone’s throw away, is a great place for bargain hunters as well. You can find cellphone repair shops, luggage, textiles, shoes, gold, fresh produce, travel agencies — the list goes on and on.

“I love strolling around this area,” said Chief Petty Officer Sabrina Parker, who has lived in Bahrain for three years. “All the same shops and services found in the main souk, just with less tourists.”

Parker explained that the prices are less inflated in Qudaibiya because it’s a “locals spot,” a nice change of pace from the high prices common elsewhere in Bahrain.

A favorite for others is finding a deal on a brand-new hookah pipe, or “shisha,” as the locals say. A quality pipe in Qudaibiya starts at 10BD, but haggling might or might not be welcomed depending on the shop owner. If you’re not sure, try it. Qudaibiya, as well as many neighborhoods in Bahrain, is home to countless shisha cafes — also known for their delicious fruit juice creations.

karsten.joshua@stripes.com
Twitter: @joshua_karsten

 

Directions: Leaving the base, swing through Juffair and turn right at the Grand Mosque. Drive to Exhibitions Ave, which is a left at the first traffic light followed by a quick right. Qudaibiya Ave begins at the first roundabout. Head west, and explore.

A local tea cafe in Qudaibiya, Bahrain on March 29, 2019. Qudaibiya is a pocket of Manama where service members can enjoy great food, shopping and exploration.
JOSHUA KARSTEN/STARS AND STRIPES

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