Arriving at Bahrain International Airport I followed the signs through to Immigration to have my passport checked, and to buy an on-the-spot visa. I was staying 3 days so I purchased a 72 hour visa for about 4 dinars (each dinar is worth USD 2.70). I then went through to the baggage claim area, and shortly after picking up my bag walked through to the arrival hall. There, as expected was a driver with a placard and my name on it. The Diplomat is a favorite of mine, and partly because when the hotel has your arrival details it sends a car to pick you up. No charge appears on your statement for this service. I was helped to the car and then moved off across the causeway to the diplomatic area of Manama, the Bahrain capital. The Diplomat is a landmark hotel in the area, around 14-storeys high, although it appears higher. The hotel is only a few minutes drive from the airport, and soon we were at the entrance. The driver packed up my luggage and brought it into reception. I checked in immediately, but was asked to wait a half hour or so until my room was ready. I asked the porter then to retrieve, if he could, a suitcase I had left at the hotel on my previous visit, some 4 years ago. To my delight, shortly after, he managed to produce the long-held luggage. Close to a half hour after check-in, I received my key card and was accompanied up to the fourth floor by the porter, and to Room 421. The rooms as I remembered them were very spacious, but since my last visit they have been completely refurbished. A black marble-tiled floor met me at the entrance hall leading to a light gold patterned carpet. There was a two-seater sofa, which doubled as a bed, and a luxurious classic arm chair, which was a focus in the room. There was a desk with a long bench top, phone lamp, and high speed and dial-up Internet access ports. A number from the hotel switchboard operator can provide you with local Internet access, or you can opt for high speed through iport at a cost of around 8 dinars a day. Furnishings were all a rich timber. The desk had cupboards and drawers,. There was another large cabinet containing drawers and cupboard space with a TV on top. Channels included local Arabic and English-speaking channels, BBC world service, CNN, the Movie Channel, and al Jazeera. There is also a hotel information channel (1), however this was not working during my stay. There was a mini bar stacked with snacks and drinks, unfortunately no diet coke, just straight coke. There was a large wardrobe tacking on to the mini bar area, and in the center of the room, a king size bed with rich timber headboard, sidetables, and a doona on top.
The bathroom was quite spacious with a combined bath/shower, large bench, toilet, bidet, with a selection of lemon, orange and apple scented soap, and conditioner/shampoo capsules (quite unique, and a nice touch). The hotel offers a turn-down service at night, including a refresh of the bathroom, and an apple. On arrival at the room I ashek whether Mohammad a house-keeper who I befriended at the hotel on my previous stays was still there. He was and he arrived at my room a few minutes later, for a reunion. It's beaut to visit a hotel and find things and people unchanged, and whilst this hotel had undergone some major changes, and a change of management from Forte to SAS Radisson, it still retained the charming atmosphere I encountered on my first stay here.
I tried the Fiddlers Three, an Irish pub at the hotel, which had been there on my previous stay. A pint of Fosters during Happy Hour was only 1.5 dinars. The head on the beer could have been more lively, but it was more to do with the type of glass used I think than the beer. One lunch-time I tried the Carvery. A selection of salads and bread rolls, followed by roast turkey and gravy, with mashed potatos and vegetables. There was also a selection of fruit and deserts for those still hungary after the meal, of which I was not one. The cost only 2.5 dinars.
The pub features Irish entertainers and other bands during the week. It has a pool table, a homely atmosphere, and the staff, like the entire hotel, very friendly and welcoming.
I tried the gym on the ground floor outside the main building, and alongside the fairly large pool. The gym had a selection of running and climbing machines, nautilus equipment and free-weights. It also had an exercise room. All quite large, plenty of equipment, all up on the first floor. At the ground level was a steam and sauna room with lockers and changing facilities. Also two squash courts.
On one of the nights I tried the Al Fanar Supper Club which is an institution in Bahrain. Sitting atop the hotel, the huge room has panoramic views of the city skyline and ocean. I selected a choice of dishes from the a la carte menu, which probably added up to about 8 or 9 dinars, but I was told there was a minimum charge of 12 dinars. This was probably to cover the entertainment, which gets underway each night at 9.30pm. A bottle of Mateus Rose cost 13 dinars, which was quite expensive. Nonetheless the meal was great, and the service superb; not surprisingly as I was the only diner there. An organist commenced the entertainment at 9.30 as other entertainers were gearing up. I was quite tired though and left early before the main events began. I had experienced the entertainment before, usually a host of singers, dancers and comedians, and of course Arab belly dancers.
I also tried the Al Warah restaurant on the ground floor, near the Lobby. The restaurant, like the rest of the hotel (other than for Fiddlers Three) had been made-over and was very well done. It provides international buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I sampled the buffet breakfast, which was your usual deluxe hotel breakfast buffet, and the lunch fare, which also was excellent with plenty of variety.
In all the hotel offers everything you would want, particularly in a location like Bahrain, which is in the Persian Gulf, and surrounded by countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The country in fact is linked by a huge causeway to Saudi Arabia, from which large numbers of visitors come to Bahrain to experience the more liberal, westernised, lifestyle. The hotel is a great asset to the country, well run, and staffed by talented hospitality professionals. I met up again with Faud, who was previously the Front Office Manager, but is now the Revenue Manager. He told me all the rooms have been done up, and in a variety of styles. He promised to show me them all on my next visit, which I hope will not be far away.
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