Muharraq, Capital of Islamic Culture 2018


Muharraq / Kingdom of Bahrein

Arab Region’s Capital of Islamic Culture 2018

The history of the Kingdom of Bahrain is traced back to the 3rd century B.C. Excavations point to possible settlement and civilization in the form of trade clusters in the islands of Bahrain, known then as Dilmun, which was the leading trader in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The country is also referred to as “Tylos” and “Arados” in maps drawn by Ptolemy. The Islamic history of Bahrain began at 630 A.D/ 8-9 A.H. when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sent Abu Al-Ala’a Al-Hadrami to conquer Bahrain. This year marks a turning point in the history of the Bahraini society as it shifted from temporary settlement for trade to a permanent one and the country was renamed Bahrain.

Located in the east of Manama, the current capital of Bahrain, Muharraq is the second largest island in the country and is connected to the capital with three modern bridges. According to historical narratives, the Canaanites inhabited the shores of the Gulf and some of them settled in the Tarout and Arad Islands, renamed A’rad. Other narratives mention that Aradus Island used to produce cotton in 1st century B.C. Many communities populated the island in the past and each community named it differently, thus the various appellations of Muharraq.

Historical accounts differ about the etymology of “Muharraq”. Some say the name was a title of the pre-Islamic Arab poet Imru’ al-Qais. Other accounts argue that Muharraq (from haraqa, “burn” in Arabic) was the title of the Ghassanid kings who used to penalize their enemies by torching their homes. The same title was also said to have been conferred on Al-Mundhir ibn al-Harith, the famous Ghassanid king, for having set the city of Al-Hirah ablaze, etc. In any event, all these narratives are evidence that the name “Muharraq” is history-steeped.

These migration movements continued during the Islamic era throughout the successive Muslim dynasties that ruled Bahrain.

The Modern history of Muharraq begins with the advent of Al Khalifah dynasty led by Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fateh at Bahrain Islands in 1783. After his death, his son Abdullah bin Ahmad Al-Fateh made Muharraq a capital for his country. Therefore, the year 1796 marks the establishment of Muharraq as the epicenter of political power. After many political conflicts in the Gulf which culminated in the victory of Al Khalifah at the Battle of Khakeekera in 1810, Muharraq became an important political, trading and economic center.

As many cities in the Gulf, Muharraq suffered from the scourge of colonialism. However, it quickly regained its trade and economic importance. More interestingly, Muharraq still maintains a large portion of its historic and architectural landmarks more than other cities in the Gulf.

Monuments in Muharraq:

Siyadi House: is the house of Ahmed bin Jasim Siyadi, a well-known pearl merchant in Bahrain in the 19th Century. It is one of the architectural landmarks of the “Pearling Trail, Testimony of an island economy” Project thanks to its beautiful architecture. Its special corners and curves make it a unique historical monument.


Siyadi Mosque: one of the historic mosques in Muharraq. It is part of Siyadi Complex built by the famous pearl merchant Ahmed bin Jasim Siyadi in the 19th Century.


Sheikh Isa bin Ali House: located in downtown Muharraq, the house was built by Sheikh Hassan bin Abdullah bin Ahmad Al-Fateh at the end of the 18th Century. The house is known for its large walls and small gates designed to shield it from heat in summer and freezing cold in winter.


Arad Castle: situated in westernmost Arad, the Castle is built in the architectural style of Islamic Castles prior to the Portuguese invasion of Bahrain in 1622. This square-shaped castle is one of the integrated defense forts in Bahrain.


Bu Maher Castle: in south of Bu Maher area. It was built by Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmad Al-Fateh following the victory of Al Khalifah in the Battle of Khakeekera in 1810.


Al-Hidayah Al-Khalifiyah, the first boys’ school in the Gulf, saw light in Muharraq in 1919. Khadija bint Khuwailid School, the first girls’ school also in the Gulf, was established in Muharraq in 1928. Muharraq, as other cities in Bahrain, is known to have an illiteracy rate lower than 2.5%.

Muharraq Capital of Islamic Culture for 2018:

The Kingdom of Bahrain will host an extraordinary session of the Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers within the framework of the events scheduled as part of the celebration.