As part of our coverage for Al Manakh 2, we recently visited some of the most important cultural attractions of Bahrain. From the renovated cultural centers in Al Muharraq to the pedestrian areas of Al Adliya, Bahrain is definitely on the right track to become a cultural hub for the region.
Muharraq, which used to be Bahrain’s capital until 1923, provides a glimpse into an alternative Bahrain with its old style-houses. Under the leadership of Sheikh Mai Bint Mohammad Al Khalifa, the Bahraini Minister of Culture, Information and Tourism, an entire effort to restore several old houses in Al Muharraq was undertaken a few years ago. It started with the Sheikh Ebrahim Center, a research center in tribute to the Minister’s grandfather, a well-known intellectual in the early part of the 20th century. The Bait Abdullah Al Zayed (House of Bahrain Press Heritage), Bait Mohammad Bin Faris (House of Music), House of Kurar (House of Embroidery) and Iqra House, housing a children’s library have all been restored and all promote specific aspects of the Bahraini culture. In addition to resuscitating elements of the Bahraini heritage, the Ministry of Culture is also working on a larger architectural program including a National theatre and a Pearl Heritage Trail. The Ministry recently unveiled plans for a state-of-the-art museum to be built at a 5000-year old archaeological site in Saar. The designs have been created by Japanese architect Tadao Ando and sponsored by Durrat Al Bahrain.
Back to Manama, Al Adliya is the bohemian, multicultural and busy neighborhood of the city. A home to culture and entertainment, the area is almost entirely pedestrian. The many townhouses of Al Adliya have been turned into art galleries, cafes and trendy restaurants. The Al Riwaq Gallery located in the neighborhood has now opened a new space of of 650m2 devoted to contemporary art in the Al Aali Mall, Bahrain. The gallery is at the forefront of the art and cultural life of Bahrain.
Our trip to Bahrain’s cultural life finished with a visit of the La Fontaine Art Center, a beautiful example of 19th-century Islamic architecture. The Centre was once a pearl merchant’s home and combines and art gallery, a luxurious spa, a designer boutique and an award winning restaurant.