Local architecture is music for the eyes Print E-mail
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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

Building through the ages

While sitting inside an air-conditioned limousine, driving along the wide boulevards running between the turquoise Arabian Gulf and the modern skyscrapers of the Diplomatic Area in Manama city it is very difficult to imagine how different the townscapes of the main cities in the Gulf were just a couple of decades ago - before the oil price rise of the Seventies.

At that time many of the now powerful financial centres were just small villages with none of the luxuries of everyday life that were known to the West.

Life went on as it always had, in perfect balance with the nature.

There were no glittering skyscrapers and no air-conditioning which is now an absolute necessity in the Gulf, especially during those steamy summer months July to August when the temperatures soar above 40 C.

(A word of caution here; for people like me who are more used to the cool climes of northern Europe, visiting the Gulf in August is not the most enjoyable experience. After one experience of the lethal combination of extreme heat and humidity, I make sure I visit the Gulf only in winter, which is still like a warm summer to me!)

Considering the very difficult climate it is hard to believe how anyone could have survived here before the advent of electricity and air-conditioning. But still there have been people living in Bahrain for over 5,000 years. How did they do it?

In cold countries like Finland, where I come from, it was possible to manage without electricity - to get warm people just wore more clothes and added more wood to the fireplace.

But how can you get you and your house cooler than the surrounding air - without any modern technology and air-conditioning?