|Discovering Muharraq's hidden charms|
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From the dhow yards it is not far to visit Arad Fort. The restored Arad Fort and the former Abu Mahir forts overlooked the navigable channels and protected the bay to the west and east of Muharraq. What you see today is the 16th Century Portuguese Fort which was built upon an earlier Islamic fort, discovered in the late 1970s. In the small fort museum there is a copy of a 16th Century Portuguese map which shows the double-walled Arad Fort under siege and the larger Bahrain Fort on the mainland.
The outer wall of the fort was once surrounded by a moat seven metres wide. There is a very unusual entrance, which slopes down and then up, which was probably designed to make it difficult for the entrance to be stormed easily. A well inside the fort provided ample sweet water and water for the moat. Today the fort is another popular visitor attraction that also provides a backdrop for cultural events and festivals.
The Rashid al Oraifi Museum is close to the airport and signposted. This older house is the former family home of the artist, Rashid al Oraifi who is president of the Bahrain Contemporary Arts Association. It has been turned into a mini museum and art gallery to showcase the paintings and sculptures of Mr. Al Oraifi, whose artwork has been much influenced by Bahrain’s Dilmun period of history and in particular by the 4000-year-old Dilmun seals on display at the Bahrain National Museum.
After a busy day of sightseeing in Muharraq, return to the main Bahrain island from the airport road and you will pass the Al Hedaya School and Busaiteen, or little gardens, before crossing the Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Causeway with its two large sail-like structures. Once you cross the main bridge you will really feel that you have been somewhere different; that you have stepped back in time and discovered something of the old Bahrain.