Most people love to know the traditional history of famous spots in a country. For Bahrain, this historic spot is Muharraq’s traditional housing, which has become a significant tourist attraction.
History of Muharraq traditional housing
The Gulf country of Bahrain is home to what used to be one of the most thriving pearling cities in the world. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, Muharraq, then the capital city of Bahrain, was at the centre of this flourishing trade. However, with the discovery of oil and the availability of cheaper options, Muharraq’s pearling economy declined and later went into extinction.
Because it thrived on these Bahrain pearls, many of the housing structures in Bahrain were constructed with coral stones fetched from the surrounding shallow seas. This unique feature differentiated Muharraq’s traditional housing from the temporary forms made with palm leaves and trucks of other regional pearling settlements.
In remarkable ways, before the rise of oil production and the rundown of these traditional houses, the harvest of these Bahrain pearls shaped the country’s social structure, culture, and national identity.
When the world changed, Muharraq saw little economic development, properties were destroyed, and the old city suffered negligence. Its traditional houses were mainly left untouched, although in bad condition. Many families that trace their history to pearling collection still own these homes, and some even live in them.
The ownership of these homes helped preserve and protect the traditional housing in Bahrain that is today a source of the rich cultural identity of the Arabian Gulf.
Importance of these Bahrain treasures
With Muharraq’s traditional housing, we find pearling history in all its fullness. It reveals the tradition of pearling and the wealth the Gulf region enjoyed from pearl trading.
In addition, it highlights the history and traditional experience that gives meaning to contemporary sights through the Arabia Gulf. Lastly, it signifies human interaction with the environment that shaped the economy of these old societies and the social system they produced.
The traditional houses in Bahrain reveal the need for history to be preserved so that memories and cultural heritage would not be lost to the shores of time.
Muharraq’s traditional housing: a merge of History and Modernisation
Once overridden for oil and cheaper alternatives, these Bahrain pearls have become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Recognising these ancient treasures led to an initiative that aims to preserve the city’s identity and encourage people to live there rather than destroy them.
The pearling pathway consists of seventeen buildings. They include three offshore oyster beds, a part of the seashore, and a fortress on the southern tip of Muharraq, where ships set off for these oyster beds. These structures comprise the last evidence of a pearling history in the entire region.
Now, the sole surviving pearling centre in the region is enjoying a revitalisation. It saw the contributions of architects, planners, and researchers to improve the environment and provide public, community, and cultural venues. The “Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy” was established from this initiative.
With several developments to make these structures more regal and inviting, the future is merging with the past to provide a viable legacy.