Bahrain Weather Overview
Bahrain has an arid desert climate, slightly moderated by its surrounding waters. Temperatures are high year round, though considerably hotter in summer than in winter. Humidity is high but rainfall is incredibly low; the country’s annual average rainfall is 72 mm. The country has little topographical variation and is mostly flat, low-lying desert, though there is a small strip of fertile land along the east coast of Bahrain Island. Its uniformity and small size mean there is little climatic variation from place to place. Surrounding the islands is the shallow Gulf of Bahrain, abundant with coral; the coral, as with Bahrain’s entire natural environment, has suffered extensive damage due to human development. Bahrain is an archipelago of thirty-two islands that sit in the Persian Gulf to the east of Saudi Arabia and south of Qatar, which are its closest neighbours and share its desert climate. The archipelago consists of four main, larger islands - Bahrain Island, Muharraq Island, Umm an Nasan and Sitrah – and twenty-eight smaller islands.
Summer, from March till October, is scorching hot and oppressively humid with no rain. The average high temperature is around the mid 30s at either end of the season, creeping steadily towards around 40°C in the peak months of July and August. Night time temperatures are usually around 10°C cooler than day time highs, but considering the starting point might be 46°C, they provide little relief. The shallow waters surrounding the islands heat up very quickly, reaching an average high of 33°C in the peak months, and this means the usual moderating affects of large bodies of water on islands and coastal areas is greatly lessened. It also means high levels of evaporation which pushes humidity up very high, added to by the moist northeast wind. The combination can only be described as awful. To make matters worse a southwest wind sometimes blows over the area, originating in the Sahara; this is hot, dry and often carries with it large clouds of sand. Around June Bahrain can hope for a cooling north wind but it is by no means reliable. The sun beats down for a merciless eleven hours per day though the sky can often appear hazy. Rainfall is non-existent, though it is a little unpredictable; while the country can be expected to see a drought throughout the summer, a brief thunderstorm could crop up at any time. This is unlikely but possible. Sandstorms can occur at any time in Bahrain. Local weather forecasts are quite good at predicting them so you should be forewarned.
Winter, from November till April, is a real relief; it is cooler and less humid. The temperature drops quickly at the beginning of the season and climbs quickly at the end, creating the most pleasant times to visit Bahrain. January is the coldest month with an average high of 20°C and an average low of 14°C. Surrounding January are periods of enjoyable heat in the 20s though November and April are really very hot with average highs around 30°C. Rainfall is very low and very erratic. In winter the prevailing winds come from the southeast bringing humid air that sometimes forms clouds and rain. Any rain that falls is most likely to fall in these winter months, though some months remain totally dry and annual rainfall varies greatly from year to year. January is usually the wettest month, receiving a staggering average of 20 mm of rain... not a lot. Rain falls in short torrential storms and due to the islands’ hard-baked or sandy terrain and lack of vegetation, flash floods often occur. While the storms are heavy they are not a reason to avoid Bahrain, and more a reason to visit during this period as they lower temperatures. Sunshine levels reduce to their lowest level of seven hours per day in December and January. The sea never gets below 20°C. Sandstorms are most likely in the late winter months when the winds are at their strongest.
Bahrain’s consistently hot and rain-free climate has made it the perfect destination for Formula One racing. This is the country’s largest tourist attraction, though in contrast to this modern sport Bahrain also has ancient ruins with and exemplary Moorish architecture. Due to its abundance of sunshine and white sand it is also increasingly popular with those looking for typical beach holidays. Windsurfing, sailing and kite-surfing are popular in Bahrain due to the regular winds. Scuba diving and snorkelling are also popular activities though the damaged reef is unlikely to be the main draw to the area. Bahrain has a number of serious environmental problems due to rapid development and pollution and oil spills from their oil industry. Fresh water sources are becoming increasingly saline and any plant growth has been largely covered in concrete.
Bahrain is proud of its modernity and liberal laws; it is the most progressive Gulf state in terms of human rights, crime is low and healthcare is of a high standard so it is a relatively safe place to visit. However, it is still an Islamic kingdom and tourists should be careful to respect local customs in terms of dress and composure. While women have been allowed to vote since 2002 and there are a number of women high up in central government, tradition still dictates a rather rigid lifestyle for ‘honourable’ women. Burkhas are the accepted mode of dress for local women and visitors should keep themselves modestly covered. Bikinis are strictly beach-only attire. Men, of course, can wear whatever they like, unless they like mankinis or skirts. Homosexuality is illegal but the law is enforced rather sporadically.
- Capital: Manama
- Area: 665km2
- Population: 718,000
- Currency: Dinar (BHD)