|Bahrain's must-see attractions
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Al Jasra House
Birthplace of a former ruler. Built in 1907, using local materials, this was the birthplace, in 1933, of the late Amir, Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa. One of the most fascinating rooms is one where dates used to be piled in palm-woven baskets and left to ripen. The weight would make the dates at the bottom gradually surrender their nectar which would then be piped into jars and used for cooking. For timings and other information, call 1761 1454.
Shaikh Isa House
Glimpse into 19th century royal life. Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa, the King’s great-great-grandfather, was sovereign from 1869 to 1932, the longest reign of a Bahrain ruler. His home in Muharraq provides a glimpse of royal life in the 19th century with period architecture and wall carvings. It’s also one of the best places to feel the amazing effects of the windtower. For timings and other information, call 1733 4945.
An ancient gem. A short stroll from Shaikh Isa’s house in Muharraq is the Siyadi house which belonged to a pearl merchant in the 19th century. Today, only a small part of the immense residence exists. Climb the steps to the top floor where a salon and antechamber have remarkable ceiling and wall designs, also using mirrors to splendid effect.
Abdulla Al Zayed House
A dramatic transformation. The home of late Abdulla Al Zayed, publisher of the country’s first daily newspaper and a leading intellectual, had fallen into extreme disrepair before it came to the attention of Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa. Shaikha Mai decided to buy and renovate the house, staying close to the original design including the arched doorway, painted ceiling and old-style stained-glass windows. The house is open to the public. Call 1732 4117 for directions.
Ali Reza House
A garden from Wonderland. Built in the early 20th century, the Ali Reza house in the Al Awadiya precinct of Manama is a remarkable example of the homes that existed in this neighbourhood with wide roads and large entrances. After the two-storey home was largely abandoned as a family residence, it became a school and later a restaurant for many years. A Texas oilman restored the house with its monumental functioning windtower in the early 1990s to its Arabian style.
Shaikh Ebrahim House
Inspired by the past. This is a new building with a traditional façade in the heart of old Muharraq. It was built on a plot of land that was originally part of the house and forum of Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, an intellectual and man of letters, in the early 20th century. The design incorporates a large Islamic arch, mashrabiya (traditional windows) and gypsum panels with Arabic calligraphy. A variety of lectures, poetry recitals and cultural evenings are held there, and the house is also open to visitors and researchers during the day. Call 1732 2549 for directions.
Al Orrayed House
Poet’s corner. This house was once the abode of noted Bahraini poet and intellectual Ebrahim Al Orrayed, who lived here for about 30 years. Located in Manama, off Old Palace Road near the Hoora School for Girls, the house was built in the 1940s in the colonial style. The house was bought by Kuwaiti poet and author Shaikha So’ad Al Sabah, who has penned a book about Al Orrayed. It is one of several heritage homes renovated by Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, and was opened to the public last year.
Museum for a musician. This small house, off Shaikh Hamad Avenue and close to the suq, once belonged to the famous Bahraini oud player and songwriter, Mohamed bin Faris. It was recently converted into a museum in honour of the late musician. It houses a collection of his old records, musical instruments and documents. Bin Faris was famous for his contribution to Al Sout, a form of urban Bahraini folk music. Call 17322549 for directions.
Former craft centre. This recently renovated house was once a small scale production centre for unique local embroidery as well as handicrafts by women artisans before it fell into disrepair. Call 17322549 for directions.