Bahrain’s ancient culture and past are carefully being restored and showcased by the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research through beautifully renovated houses and buildings in Muharraq.
The Bahraini city of Muharraq, the country’s former capital, is an eclectic mix of wide open spaces, stunning beaches and a maze of narrow alleys with traditional Bahraini houses. The latter of course is concentrated almost in the centre of the city where a cluster of narrow alleys form an irregular grid, winding a bit and meeting each other in blind perpendicular joints.
The entrance to the cluster is nondescript but as it turns round a corner, the alley is flanked by brilliant white houses, which glitter in the mid morning sun. Most are restored houses and are fronted by beautiful wooden doors, some of them with exquisite carvings. Parts of the walls also have colourful murals but at the centre of it all is the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research. It is named after a prominent Bahraini with interest in education and social science who established conversations on culture, philosophy and arts and is meant as a platform for these activities. The building housing the centre has an eclectic collection of books and artefacts and has exquisite wooden carved doors and windows.
As part of its mandate the centre has restored many houses in the locality as is evident while walking around. On an alley near the centre is the House of Art, a building with a bright blue door.
Stepping through it reveals a spacious courtyard with a tree in a large pot surrounded by little rooms displaying interesting art works as well as poignant works by noted poet Mahmoud Darwish. At the Kurar House, the airy courtyard has a couple of lush green trees while old ladies demonstrated exquisite embroidery being done on abayas, cushion covers and other articles.
Others include the Ibrahim Al Arrayed House for Poetry, which is dedicated to the preeminent Bahraini poet, the Abdullah Al Zayed House for Press Heritage which honours the memory of pioneering Bahraini journalist and publisher, and the Mohammed bin Faris House for Sut Music, which seeks to preserve Bahraini music. There is also evidence of Bahrain’s pearl trading history through the bin Matar house.
In between the houses and buildings, where it opens up into a little square is also a water garden with interesting water features, columns and benches, providing a kind of dreamy respite, while Raazji dishes up some delectable Bahraini dishes as well as aromatic and refreshing coffee.