The well-known old Muharraq settlement was known to be Bahrain’s capital from 1810 to 1923, and happened to be the peak years of the pearling economy. Even today, Muharraq has been known to be the dominant city of Bahrain, and the second largest island.
For several centuries the Arabian Gulf’s pearling capital was Muharraq and was known to be the Gulf’s most active and prosperous pearling city. Muharraqpossessed the largest fleet of pearling vessels and housed the largest number of pearl divers. It was directly involved in pearling activities and promoted the supply of pearls to industries. Towards the last decades of the pearling economy, the city of Muharraq was notable as it was built largely of coral stone, and stood out of the many other Arabian Gulf settlements.
In comparison, during the twentieth century, the other pearling centers of the Gulf such as Dubai, were made of “barasti” which were palm material. Preserving the stone constructions during those times turned out to be for the good as the stone constructions ensured the survival of significant elements in Muharraq. These now serve as an exceptional testimony of the pearling societies, not only of Bahrain but of the Arabian Gulf region.
Muharraq’s role in the Gulf began to diminish with the sudden plunge in the pearling economy and the discovery of oil and gas resources in Bahrain and the City to Manama simultaneously. With the development pressures that were developed through its new capital, helped Muharraq retain much of its atmosphere.
In spite of having a huge number of modern constructions, most parts of Muharraq city, and its street patterns are seen to be the same. Similar to the pearling era, the area is seen characterized by a maze of narrow, often picturesque alleyways.
Why Muharraq as the Capital of Islamic Culture? Muharraq continues to retain the features of the classic Islamic city with its alleyways winding into residential quarters in combination with larger axial thoroughfares. These special features connected with the center of each Farij to the seashore and the market which were crucial elements in the pearling economy. Conveying the ideas of Islam, the suburban architecture seen in the neighborhood has seen to be made of modest exteriors, and screens the interiors that sustain the privacy of domestic life.
The year of 2018 celebrates Muharraq as the Capital of Islamic Culture in the Kingdom of Bahrain; designated by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO). This year, the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities envisions an exciting year-long cultural program that is aimed at promoting Islamic Arts and Culture.