Local architecture is music for the eyes Print E-mail
Article Index
Local architecture is music for the eyes
Building through the ages
Back to the basics
The courtyard in the middle
Cooling the house
Entrance and windows
Majlis and harim
Importance of family
Survival of the fittest
Old houses of Muharraq

Survival of the fittest

Thanks to the demands of modern times there are regrettably few of those old, beautiful houses left, and even the ones surviving are often neglected and thus falling apart.

There is always a fear that a new high-rise building or shopping mall will take the place of the old-timers. Money talks, just as it does anywhere else in the world.

Fortunately, however, there is an increasing interest in preserving the past, the cultural heritage in which the old buildings have a major role.

High-rising Manama

In Bahrain, there is not much left of the old Manama. If you take a boat trip, you'll notice the very Manhattan-like silhouette of the Diplomatic Area in Manama, giving a very modern western image for the town.

Much of this new area is, however, built on reclaimed land. When the Bab Al Bahrain ("gate of Bahrain") was built in 1945, it was almost on the waterfront in the harbour; now you can hardly see the water from it!

If you walk along the narrow streets of the souk, you might occasionally run into a old building in ruins, depicting the sad story of total negligence by the owners.

Probably the best way to learn about how things were in the past is the Heritage Centre near Bab Al Bahrain. There you can see how the people used to live, what their homes looked like etc, in a more or less museum-like environment.

If you are more interested in Bahraini culture, pearl diving, the burial mounds and the like, you should visit the National Museum - the building of which is a fine example of mixing modern architecture with traditional Arabic and Islamic architectural elements.

Speaking of Islam, visitors should not miss the fabulous Beit Al Quran (literally "the home of the Holy Quran"). Here you can see a wide selection of the Holy Qurans, old historical copies in different languages and sizes, some as small as a matchbox!

At the same time the visitor can only admire how well the architect has been able to capture the spirit of the holy book into this building.