Those shallows once harboured a precious trade in pearls; now the same shallows are being reclaimed for ambitious, high profile developments, such as the twin 50-storey towers of Bahrain's World Trade Centre and the 2,787,000 sq m (30,000,000 sq ft) horseshoe of man-made islands at the southern tip of the country.
In the middle of Bahrain, not far from where the Formula 1 racetrack now draws the crowds, is the point where in 1932 the Arab world first struck gold - black gold, that is - and oil has been the mainstay of the country ever since.
As visitors travel the modest length of Bahrain, visiting the ancient burial mounds, forts, craft markets and potteries, they will run into many reminders of this momentous discovery, not least in the relaxed affluence of Bahrain's multicultural residents.
Al-Areen Wildlife Park & Reserve
Experience the harsh reality of the desert on the edge of the Al-Areen Wildlife Park & Reserve (with a resident herd of Arabian oryx) before the new developments in the area turn the wilderness into a garden.
Take a Portuguese-eyed view of the sea from the strategic Bahrain Fort, built in the 16th-century and recently restored to its former no-nonsense grandeur.
Bahrain National Museum
Unlock the past at the excellent Bahrain National Museum before venturing beyond Manama to find traces of Dilmun, Bahrain's ancient civilization.
Dine with a view
Drive halfway to Saudi Arabia and stop for an egg rollup and coffee at the King Fahd Causeway tower restaurant; from here you can admire the 27km (16 mile), four-lane causeway with its 12,430m viaducts in all its engineering glory.
Explore the souks
Get lost in the souks around Bab al Bahrain and enjoy the nosegays of cardamom coffee, apricot sheesha, sizzling kebabs and heady incense-laced perfumes.
Drive a lap of the circuit on the 90-minute tour of the Formula One Racetrack and see where champions are sprayed local style with pomegranate and rose-water instead of champagne.
Barter for bangles at Bahrain's glittering Gold City in central Manama, a collection of gold shops that will bedazzle even the most jaded of travellers to the Middle East.
Hang out in hip Adliya
Buy a copy of Bahrain Hotel & Restaurant Guide and tick off the hip cocktail bars, Arabian retro restaurants and divine pastry houses of Adliya.
Take a 40-minute boat ride to the Hawar Islands and look out for the dolphins who play in the calm Gulf seas while flamingos stalk through the shallow waters.
The Oil Museum was built in 1992 to mark the 60th anniversary of the discovery of oil. Its grand white building is quaintly at odds with the nodding donkeys and sprawling pipelines of the neighbouring vicinity.
Learn about the formation of pearls and the industry that once sustained this and neighbouring nations at Bahrain National Musuem; better still, don a nose peg and dive for the perfect pearl at Dar Island Resort.
In Murharraq city, pearling has earned parts of the city UNESCO World Heritage status. Listed buildings include the residences of wealthy merchants, shops, storehouses and a mosque; the site is the last remaining example of this tradition.
Rambling the alleyways
Discover the wind towers (traditional air cooling systems) of Muharraq's old houses in a walk around the island's atmospheric backstreets.
The House of Beit al-Jasra
The House of Beit al-Jasra is the birthplace of the ruler of Bahrain and a wonderful example of traditional Bahraini architecture. Developed in 1907 and constructed with exquisite external simplicity, it is built from local materials such as coral stone.
Tombs of Sar and A'Ali
Visit the honeycomb tombs of Sar and the extraordinary town of A'Ali where 170,000 ancient burial mounds lump and bump the landscape, occupying 5% of Bahrain's land mass.
Tree of Life
Sit under the Tree of Life - an ancient mesquite tree that stands in an otherwise treeless desert.