Bahrain known as the ‘Pearl of the Gulf’ is a tiny archipelago of a cluster of islands located in the Persian Gulf. Surrounded by water on all sides this place used to be a meeting point of civilizations from antiquity. Although Bahrain is a small country on the map, there are a few sights that can be of interest to the curious traveler. One among these is the Qal’at al Bahrain or the Bahrain Fort or the Portuguese Fort.
Earlier this year, a few of my friends and I decided to pay a visit to this fort only a stone’s throw away from some of Bahrain’s major shopping centers in the Seef district.
The History of the Fort
The now standing fort was built by the Portuguese on fortifications left over from the Dilmun era. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
Dilmun was what Bahrain was called during the time when trade existed between the Mesopotamian civilization and the Indus Valley civilization a long long time ago. The fort seems to have been the capital of Dilmun at that time. Archeologists have now unearthed remnants of previous forts and settlements next to the current fort and it is interesting that these have lasted throughout the centuries. A lot of artifacts were found at these sights that point to how the forts were used in history. The fort was used as a military, residential, commercial and religious site at different times.
The Portuguese explorers of the 16th century decided to keep this as their base when the island was ruled by them. Later, the Persian forces of Shah Abbas overthrew and expelled the Portuguese from Bahrain.
The area of the fort called Al Qalah is surrounded by palm trees and overlooks the city of Manama, the present capital of Bahrain, a perfect mix of the old and new.
Bahrain Fort Museum
There is a museum now built next to the fort which displays some of the artifacts that were discovered at the fort by archeologists. The museum now maintains the fort and the entire premises. There are also guided tours that are organized by the museum within the fort premises. There is also a seaside cafe here for visitors.
The entrance fee for the museum is BHD 2 ($5.3) while entrance to the fort in free.
The fort is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8am to 6pm.
When to visit
Since summers are harsh and humid in Bahrain, winters are the most preferred time to visit when its cool and sufficiently windy.
The Fort is located in Al Qalah near Karbabad beach about 4-5 kms from Manama City. The closest international airport is the Bahrain International Airport which is about 10-12 km from the fort. The Bahrain airport is serviced by flights from all GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) cities such as Riyadh, Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Dammam, etc. The national carrier of Bahrain, Gulf Air flies to 43 destinations in 23 countries.
If you are visiting Bahrain, make sure this is on your must visit list.
Some more photos from my visit:
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