“Not only am I awesome, I’m Bahraini too” says a sticker outside this curio shop tucked away in the by-lanes of Old Muharraq Town. And, of course, one cannot help but notice a larger than life-size model of Superman, wearing the traditional Bahraini headgear. Maybe, the sticker should’ve read: “Not only am I awesome, I’m Superman – and Bahraini.”
Until a couple of days ago, I wasn’t even aware this place exists in Bahrain.
However, a visit to Muharraq’s Coast Guard base revealed the excavations and restoration that have been going on for years.
The site is now in the final stages of completion and a new museum will open shortly. And this will throw light on the ancient pearling industry in this tiny island nation.
Bu Maher Fort was first built during the Portuguese occupation of Bahrain. Renovation works first commenced in the 1970’s, during which only some of it was rebuilt but in 2010, excavation works had the site uncovered until its original foundations and dimensions were visible.
The fort represents the first step on Bahrain’s historic Pearling Trail, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A dedicated visitor center, established next to the fort, houses an illustrated map of the Pearling Trail and models of the sites that can be found along the way.
The visitor center aims to introduce the public to the architectural character that went hand in hand with the traditional pearling trade, as well as highlighting its surrounding environment both within Bahrain and beyond, and building an understanding of the social components of that era.
The Ministry of Culture also now offers daily trips by sea from the Bahrain National Museum to the fort, which help shed light on part of the story of Bahrain’s traditional pearl divers and sailors, and enable people to re-live some of their experiences and sea expeditions.
This is especially so since the Bu Maher Fort and its coastline was the spot from which pearling dhows departed and returned many months later.
I found this picture of a rotting and disintegrating dhow – resembling the skeleton of a dinosaur – in an area off the coast of Muharraq, Bahrain they call ‘The Graveyard’ for such craft as well as old fishing boats. Uncanny that it resembles what it does and at the location where it is!
A Bahrain sunset is always special. And, if it’s winter, even more so!
This evening wasn’t any different. Even it meant parking on the emergency lane of a high-speed highway and clicking away, it was worth the while. The cloud formation, the buildings and the sun about to set made for a phenomenal sight!
One of the several old houses on Bahrain’s Muharraq Island, which are earmarked for complete renovation as part of a comprehensive Culture Ministry project to restore historical buildings. This particular mansion, one of the oldest, is visibly in a dilapidated state, with even its once majestic walls almost ready to give way. However, the intricate glass work on the doors and the ‘semi circular’ windows, the appeal of which is accentuated by the mesh covering them and popularly known as ‘Jali’, seem to be in perfect shape.
Hopefully, these splendid structures will soon be back to their once majestic glory!