Memory of Muharraq
Discover Muharraq history and find out about its main highlights from the 1st century to the 21st Century.
Beginning of 1st century AD
The Greek geographer Strabo provides the first mention of « Arados » (Muharraq Island) in its Geography.
2nd century AD
« Arados » (Muharraq island) is again mentioned in the Geography of Claudius Ptolemy, the famous Greco-Roman mathematician, , astronomer and geographer.
Middle of the 7th century
The island of Muharraq probably appears under the name of Masmahij, in a letter written by Iso’yahb III, Head of the Nestorian Church, which mentions the different Christian communities in the Arabian Gulf area.
Beginning of the 10th century AD
The geographer Al Tabarî mentions the village of « Samahij » (still existing on Muharraq island).
Beginning of the 13th century
The toponym « Samahij » is mentioned in Muʿjam al-buldān (geographical encyclopedia) of Yaqût
Construction of Arad Fort
Arad Fort was built between the end of the 15th century and the early part of the 16th century during the Portuguese colonial period. Its seaside location made it important militarily to secure and monitor the beaches for any foreign attacks. Built in the form of a square, each of the fort’s four corners had watchtowers interconnected by elevated walkways with nose-shaped slits for bowmen and infantry. The fort was further fortified by a trench that was filled with water from a well dug to the northwest of the trench.
Construction of Bu Maher Fort
Bu Maher fort was built between the end of the 15th and early 16th centuries during the Portuguese colonial period, to act as a defensive fortification for the narrow canal to the southeast of Muharraq Island, a waterway which leads to the docking sites the western part of the coast all the way to the port of Manama.
Beginning of the 17th century
A representation of a circular tower appear for the first time at Bu Maher on a Portuguese map in the Livro do Estado da India Oriental by Pedro Barreto de Resende.
19th Century – 1800s
Construction of Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa’s House
Located in Muharraq, the house is considered one of the oldest homes that reflect the beauty of old Islamic architecture. It was built by Shaikh Hassan bin Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Fateh during the reign of his father and served as a place of residence for his sons and grandchildren. It later became the home of Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa, the 7th ruler of Bahrain who made it the seat of his government. The house is an authentic example of local architectural style, as exemplified by its its Bad-ghir (wind towers) – a signature feature of local architecture — and wall and window decorations.
Reconstruction of Arad Fort
In 1800 during the reign of Shaikh Salman bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Oman seized control of Bahrain under the command of Sultan bin Ahmed, the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, who promptly appointed his brother Said bin Ahmed as governor. Said made Arad Fort the seat of his government and main military command centre. The Omanis added nose-shaped slits around each corner of the fort’s upper wall from which they poured boiling hot oil and date molasses on attacking enemies, a well-known tactical defensive system used in Omani military buildings from the Yaruba dynasty.
Reconstruction of Bu Maher Fort
Shaikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Fateh, the third ruler of Bahrain, rebuilt Bu Maher Fort on the ruins of the old fort and renamed it Muharraq Fort. He also restored its four towers and added a wooden observation room atop each one. Bu Maher Fort was of great importance to the pearl trade for two main reasons: it protected the coast of Muharraq and the fleet of pearling vessels at the beginning and end of each diving season, and also safeguarded Muharraq’s main water source.
Construction of Al-Qaisariyah Suq
Al-Qaisariyah Suq is one of Bahrain’s most well-known traditional marketplaces. Located in the old part of Muharraq, it is a typical example of local Islamic architecture. The market kept expanding its footprint from when it was built in the early part of the 19th century to meet the fast-growing economic needs of local residents during a period of political, social, and cultural stability.
19th Century – 1820s
A British map (by Lts. Brucks and Rogers) clearly show a four-cornered fort at the location of Bu Maher.
Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Ali Al Khalifa House
Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa House is one of the oldest buildings in Old Muharraq. Built in the first half of the 19th century during the reign of Shaikh Abdullah bin Ahmed, the third ruler of Bahrain (1825 – 1843), it was first inhabited by a few members of the Al Khalifa family in the 19th century then served as the residence of the late Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa (1942 – 1961). After that, it was used intermittently as a guest house then abandoned altogether in 1973. The house has many superb architectural elements, from designs to decorations and engravings, which illustrate the period in which it was built.
19th Century – 1860s
Construction of Siyadi Mosque
Siyadi Mosque is Muharraq’s oldest mosque and still hosts daily prayer to this very day. The building is part of the Siyadi complex which belonged to the famous pearl merchant Ahmed Siyadi during the 19th century, and is distinguished by its simple yet elegant design and plaster decorations typical of local Islamic architecture.
20th Century – 1910s
Establishment of Bahrain’s first literary club
In 1913, Shaikh Mohammed bin Isa contributed to the establishment of the very first literary club in Bahrain along with a small group of young men from Muharraq, which included: Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the poet Shaikh Mohammed Saleh Youssif Al-Khonji, the poet Qassim bin Mohammed Al-Shirawi, the poet Abdullah bin Ali Al Zaed, and literary figure Nasser Mubarak Al-Khairi, among others.
Opening of Al-Hedaya Al-Khalifiya School
Considered Bahrain’s very first formal school, Al-Hedaya Al-Khalifiya School opened in Muharraq with Shaikh Abdullah bin Isa Al Khalifa serving as its first chairman. The school was temporarily headquartered in the residence of Hajj Ali bin Ebrahim Al-Zayani. The school is an important milestone in the history of modern education in the country.
20th Century – 1920s
Establishment of the Literary Club of Muharraq
The Literary Club of Muharraq was established just one year after the establishment of the formal education system in Bahrain.
The first stage play in Bahrain
This period witnessed a blossoming of the theatrical movement in Bahrain the wider GCC region. Al-Hedaya Al-Khalifiya’s theatre hosted the stage play “Al-Qadi bi-Amr Allah”, and soon thereafter other schools in Bahrain started their own plays inspired by events and characters from Arab history.
Establishment of the first government clinic
The very first government-run clinic was opened in a small shop located on the ground floor of the Salman bin Hussein bin Matar House in Muharraq. The clinic was managed by Dr. Bandar Kar whose duties included making rounds by boat to check the health of sailors during the pearl diving season.
Establishment of Muharraq Municipality
Muharraq Municipality’s first orders of business included establishing a numbering system for homes and shops and imposing certain fees on them. Over time, its roles and responsibilities expanded to include certain civil works such as expanding and paving roads using crude mechanisms, as well as organizing public marketplaces.
Opening of the first girls’ school
This year witnessed the opening of the very first formal government school for girls not only in Muharraq, but Bahrain and the entire GCC region. The school was named Khadija Al-Kubra Girls’ School then it changed to Al-Estiqlal School.
Establishment of the first football sports team
The very first football sports team was established this year, Al-Khalifi football team in Muharraq.
Establishment of the National Bookstore
Ebrahim bin Mohammed Obaid established a commercial bookstore he named The National Bookstore. Along with selling books, he also taught Quran from his shop which is located in Al-Qaisariyah Suq in Muharraq.
20th Century – 1930s
Construction of Siyadi House
Built in 1930, Siyadi House is one of the old houses that reflect local traditional architecture. It is known for its distinctive decorations and authentic Bahraini-style majlis, which is beautifully adorned with lovely patterns and wooden windows, a reflection of the high social status enjoyed by great pearl merchants.
Introduction of electricity to Muharraq Island
Connecting Muharraq to Manama’s power grid was completed this year, a project carried out by Calders Cable Construction Company.
Construction of the first airport in Bahrain
Bahrain Airport (formerly known as Muharraq Airport) was built in 1932. It started as a simple hut made from palm fronds used by Royal British Airlines for its flights between Europe and India. The airport had very simple facilities and most of the travelers were transit passengers. The airport’s systems were further developed after British airline Imperial Airways started flying regularly into it. This included ringing a large bell whenever the airplane landed in order to alert passengers that they must board. When the plane approached, the bell was rung four times, then six times when it was about to take off.
20th Century – 1940s
Opening of Shaikh Hamad Bridge between Manama and Muharraq
On Friday, December 18th, the Shaikh Hamad Bridge connecting Manama and Muharraq was officially opened, and was moveable in order to allow large ships to pass through. Before the bridge, people used to commute between the two cities by boat.
Establishment of Hidd Municipality
After the establishment of Muharraq Municipality, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa established Al-Hidd Municipality in order for municipal services to cover the entirety of Muharraq Island.
20th Century – 1970s
Opening of Bahrain International Airport
His Highness Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa opened the Bahrain International Airport whose foundation stone was laid by His Highness Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The airport was the first stop made by the Concord airplane on its maiden international flight, and was considered at the time one of the most modern airports in the Middle East.
Opening of the Dry Dock
In November, His Highness Shaikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa officially launched the dry dock project, and signal the start of its operations as a marine repair facility.
Khalifa bin Salman Port
The port is located in Al Had Industrial Area just 13 km from Bahrain International Airport and is connected to the Old Port of Salman – via a 5 km bridge,
The inscription of the “Pearling path: Testimony of an Island Economy”
The “Pearling path: Testimony of an Island Economy” was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to become the second cultural landmark in Bahrain inscribed on the list, following the inscription of Qala’at Al-Bahrain in 2007. The Pearling Path extends for about 3 kilometers, starting from the pearling sites (known locally as “hayrat”) near Bu Maher Fort which was built in 1840, to Siyadi House in the heart of Muharraq, which will serve as the main pearling museum.
Muharraq Capital of Islamic Culture
The Kingdom of Bahrain celebrates Muharraq Capital of Islamic Culture following its designation by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO)