It was a sunny winter morning in this wonderful island called Bahrain. I had no particular plan in mind, just maybe roam the streets of the old Muharraq and click some photographs while I learn how to take them on my new camera.
Bahrain is a cluster of islands, an archipelago, bang in the center of the Persian Gulf, hardly the same size as Singapore. Two of the main islands are Manama and Muharraq. Both very significant in the history of the region as a whole.
Muharraq island used to host the rulers of Bahrain back in the day when it served as the capital until it got replaced by Manama. It is also considered the cultural heart of Bahrain. While a lot has changed around this island with yacht clubs, residential islands, super malls, even the airport, Muharraq still preserves a lot of its old Arab world charm. The entire island is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site apart from the Q’alat al Bahrain which is located in Manama.
I never got the chance to live on this island and was always in and around Manama. But I had heard that there was a lot of heritage intact in this place and it would be worth a visit. The government is also doing all they can to preserve this part of their cultural legacy.
So that morning, I set out to explore some of the narrow lanes and bylanes of this small little treasure island of Bahrain, and here’s what I came across.
It started with me noticing some beautifully carved doors, windows, and entrances to some centuries-old houses
As I walked further down the streets, I stumbled across a Khubz shop and ordered for some Khubz (traditional bread) stuffed with cheese, cooked in the traditional clay ovens.
With the energy packed food done, I continued the walk and encountered an old coffee shop.
Retired men sit around these coffee shops to sip on the traditional Sulaimani tea. Sharing their woes, maybe some gossip and rekindling old friendships. Some even sit down for a board game or two. Even with the advent of technology and all the advances, it is truly remarkable to find places like these and people who are engaged with them.
The men happily invited me in for a nice cup of the Sulaimani tea and talked about the history of the place. The walls inside the coffee shop were covered with old photographs of the local men who come there. Large posters of all the named rulers from the G.C.C (Gulf Cooperation Council is a group of 6 countries mainly Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait) could be seen on the wall. A show of their loyalties to the rulers of the land. Surprisingly amongst them were also pictures of Saddam Hussein who some consider a huge figure.
Hearing stories of the past is definitely my cup of tea and so I sat there for a while and enjoyed their fantastic company.
With the fresh cup of tea done, I bid salaam to the gentlemen and continued my walk where until I discover an antique store.
Getting to Muharraq
The old town of Muharraq is located on the same island as the Bahrain International Airport which is about 3-4 km away. 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.
Life was slow-paced in this part of Bahrain and with the winter breeze blowing that day it was a good photo walk indeed. It only reassured me that there is more to some places than what meets the eye and what comes on TV. Bahrain is truly a nation small in size but with a big heart.
Pin this image!