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Striking it rich: Bahrain's first oil well
By Amira Al Hussaini   »   Tucked in the heart of the desert is one of Bahrain’s best-kept secrets - our very own oil museum or Dar An Naft.

Located adjacent to Discovery Well # 1, at the foot of Jebal Al Dukhan, it was opened by former Ruler, His Highness Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa on June 2, 1992.

The museum, set up by Bapco to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of oil in Bahrain, sums up the history of Bahrain.

The opening was celebrated with much fanfare – fitting for the museum which is the only one of its type dedicated to the history of oil in the Gulf, says Oil Under-Secretary Mohammed Saleh Shaikh Ali, who is also Bapco president.

“This museum is a special one – close to the heart of all Bahrainis and a place tourists ought to visit to learn more about why Bahrain is what it is today,” he said.

It tells visitors the story of how the kingdom was transformed from a pearling community to an oil-rich modern kingdom.

Dar An Naft, or the House of Oil, is dedicated to the theme of oil - its search, discovery and development in Bahrain and the impact it had on the life of Bahrainis.

It vividly takes the visitors from a fishing community, whose economic and social live revolved on the pearling seasons to what the Kingdom is today - a cosmopolitan modern financial hub and promising industrial centre.

It also traces how the search for water led to the search for oil, owing to a time honoured tradition - a given word is written in stone - in this case the word of the late ruler Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa given to New Zealander Major Frank Holmes.

You learn this story and many more as you walk through the museum’s picture gallery, historic documents, displays of items used in the first petroleum exploration expeditions which came to Bahrain, samples of Bahrain’s rocks,  oil and minerals as well as models of oil well drilling and well logging equipment.

The museum also houses numerous exhibits, connected with rocks and Earth’s history. After all, it was from those rock formations and fossils that oil was discovered.

The rocks, showcased in the museum, come from all over the world. They include Geodes, limestone and dolomite from Bahrain and beautiful large Amethyst and white quartz pieces from elsewhere, to name a few.  In this collection, the prized piece is definitely one of the biggest desert roses ever found anywhere. There are also fossils from Bahrain and other places, as well as shark tooth, dating back to 50 million years, samples of which could still be found in the desert surrounding the museum.

The museum sums up the history of the discovery of oil in Bahrain as well as the modern history of the nation itself.  Bahraini Arabs have always known an oil seepage, Ain Al Qar (Pool of Tar), found near Jebal Al Dukhan and which is estimated to be over 5,000 years old.

Since Dilmun era, the “pool” has had its many uses. It was used locally and even carted off on donkey back all the way to Zallaq and from there put on dhows and transported across the sea to the nearby Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, on mainland Arabia.  According to evidence found today, it was used to seal the cracks in dhows. The dhows were also painted with this tar from the outside to protect them from the salty water – a practise that continued well into the 1930s.  Some of the tribes in Saudi Arabia, found other uses for the tar – some even used it to shine their leather goods.

Holmes knew about this seepage, from which oil found about 2,000 feet below the surface flowed through several small faults – creating the “pool.”

It was here that he set up camp and wrote his report, which came in handy to the geologists who later came their equipment to look for the black gold.

In June 1932, oil was first discovered in Bahrain, making the Kingdom the first in the Gulf to uncover this hidden treasure that was to bring the region immense wealth in a few years.

With the discovery of oil, came a progressive change, which touched the lives of all Bahrainis and turned a new leaf to a new chapter of development.

To visit the museum, contact telephone number 17753257 or 17753822 or email  


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