Muharraq, the former capital of Bahrain, is known for its cultural splendour and traditional Bahraini houses dot the town’s narrow lanes. The Shaikh Isa bin Ali house is Bahrain’s most impressive example of Gulf Islāmic architecture featuring four courtyards and beautiful carved wooden doors and perforated gypsum panels.
The beautifully restored houses that make up the Shaikh Ebrahim Centre for Culture and Research give an important insight into aspects of Bahrain’s heritage. From embroidery at Kurar House to pearling history at the Bin Matar House, the former home of a renowned pearl merchant, the houses reflect the Centre’s commitment to preserving both traditional architecture and history. The Shaikh Ebrahim lecture hall, Iqra Children’s Library, Heraf al Diyar, Nukhida House (the first house restored along the pearling trail), Kurar House, Abdullah al Zayed House, House of Coffee, Bin Matar House, Bu Zaboon House and Mohammed Bin Faris House all showcase different aspects of Bahrain’s rich heritage.
Hosting regular art exhibitions and film screenings in the old city is Maison Jamsheer, another example of the traditional courtyard houses and which is a stone’s throw away from the Shaikh Ebrahim Centre.
However, several old homes are still in line for restoration as is clear from these pictures I took yesterday while going around the by-lanes of the oldest part of Muharraq. A pedestrian walkway at one of these very famous old houses, the 150-year old Al Jalahma Family Home, collapsed recently as it was awaiting restoration. The house had, in fact, been earmarked for renovation as a United Nations (UN) World Heritage Site.
The property is part of the Pearl Route project, which involves restoring a historical neighbourhood where people involved in the pearl industry used to live and trade.
Its former owner decided to connect both sections of the house with a covered path by mixing sand, clay, rocks, bamboo and wood to create a ceiling. A few years ago it became a pedestrian footpath for residents moving around the neighbourhood.
The whole landmark, which historians have deemed one of its kind in the Gulf, is registered under Bahrain’s Culture Ministry.