We're most impressed by the contrasts of Bahrain. The capital city of Manama is as sleek and modern as they come, with glittering shopping malls and Formula 1 racing just the tip of its jet-set appeal. Go ahead and shop 'til you drop, if that's your thing. But do save some time and energy for the country's cultural and historical riches. One of the world's oldest advanced civilizations, the Dilmum civilization, had its capital here. The 6th century Bahrain Fort sits atop multiple layers of habitation going back over 5,000 years. Artefacts from the site and others are on display in the exceptional National Museum.

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