|Discovering Muharraq's hidden charms|
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Close by, in a square off road 913, is one of Bahrain’s prominent landmarks, Bait Siyadi. The ground floor of the house was built in about 1850, but the majlis, where visitors were once welcomed, has a tall and impressive façade, which was constructed in the early 20th Century. This was the home of the wealthy pearl merchant, Ahmed Siyadi.
Unfortunately, the house is currently closed to visitors, but plans are under discussion to restore it to its former glory and to open it to the public as a museum. Yet, it is definitely worth a visit, just to marvel at the Arab-Persian style of architecture, which has been featured on the cover of many publications about Bahrain.
The adjacent Siyadi Mosque, described by Dr. Yarwood as “the best traditional mosque in Muharraq” has a simple ten-metre high minaret, which was built by the Siyadi family about the same time as the house. It too fell into disrepair, but was restored four years ago. The most difficult part of the restoration was not only dealing with termite infestation, a problem in many older buildings in Bahrain, but in finding the traditional building materials for the work. The mosque is open to worshippers and once again serves the Muharraq community.
Within walking distance of Bait Siyadi and Bait Shaikh Isa is the Shaikh Ebrahim Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research. If you walk along lanes 917 and 923 following the brown tourist signs you will soon find the centre. It was built just a few years ago on the spot where Shaikh Ebrahim, an intellectual and man of letters, had his majlis and forum in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, in a part of old Muharraq which has recently become a noted conservation area.
The building evokes, in a modern way, the former majlis with its traditional façade including a large Islamic-style arch, traditional door and mashrabiya. The interior has an open auditorium and there is a small majlis for meetings, an office, and upstairs a reference library with books, mostly in Arabic, on history, literature, and architecture, as well as a number of old documents. Since it opened in 2002, the centre has hosted lectures, poetry recitals, musical and cultural evenings, which have been documented and published in the volumes of Ishraqat.