Pearling, testimony of an island economy, is a group of historic sites related to the harvest and trade of natural pearls. It centers around the island city of Muharraq, the main pearl trading city in the Gulf and prominent in the world until the introduction of cultured pearls by Japan in the 1930s. A pearl industry already existed here in Roman times.
The inscribed area is a serial nomination of 15 sites, comprising:
• Three Oyster beds in the territorial waters of Bahrain
• Bû Mâhir Seashore & Qal‘at Bû Mâhir fortress
• Muharraq city (remaining 19th/20th century buildings of the merchant quarter)
Visit January 2011
I loved it! The Shaikh Isa Bin Ali House is the single most impressive sight that I have encountered in Bahrain. As I was a bit underwhelmed by the other "attractions" of the island (the forts, the tumuli), this is a kind of site that I really like. It is centered on a few streets in South Muharraq. Here you'll find glimpses of another era, when the Bahraini lived from the pearl trade, and before all that came with the oil. The narrow streets have a slight resemblance to Zanzibar.
I started with a visit to the Shaikh Isa Bin Ali House - this was used as the seat of government in the late 19th century (Muharraq was Bahrain's capital at that time) and the residence of the ruler. It is a complex consisting of 4 separate quarters, almost a labyrinth to walk in. The decoration of the doors and windows is wonderfully done. The house also has the best example of a Wind Tower, a local implementation of early airconditioning.
Closeby are the Siyadi House and adjacent mosque. The house unfortunately is closed to visitors - I wonder if it will open again after the area has become a WHS. It does look stunning enough from the outside though.
I read in the National Museum that they plan to connect 16 or 17 historic buildings in Muharraq with the dhow harbour in a 3km long heritage trail. When I visited I did not find any clear evidence that this has been implemented yet. And there's not much activity left in the dhow harbour.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
|Paul Tanner (UK):|
We visited most of Bahrain’s T List sites in 2005 and, with Bahrain hosting the 2011 WHC, are interested to guess which (if any) might be inscribed as that country’s “reward”! Could it be the “Pearling and its Cultural Landscapes in Bahrain” site? This site was only added to Bahrain’s T List in May 2008. We didn’t go out to see the Oyster Beds which consitute 3 of the 4 proposed areas but the remaining part of the site consists of “The coastal cultural landscape of "Bu Maher" (which) comprises dhow cleaning, maintenance and landing facilities.” And “groups of historic buildings and locations, located parallel to the historic coastline, which represent the core places of the social, cultural and economic system of pearling”. The island of Muharraq, where all these are situated, is the hub of Bahrain’s sightseeing area and, in common with most other visitors, we visited the Dhow harbour etc (photo) and the traditional buildings behind it. It is certainly an interesting, pleasant and relaxing area – but of WHS "quality"? I personally would have doubted it, BUT Bahrain appears to be embarked on a successful long term strategy both to preserve its historic remains and also to develop its regional tourism credentials. Building the wonderful National Museum was a key plank in the strategy. Restoration of the Qal’at Al Bahrain commenced in the early 1980s and eventually yielded the country’s first inscription in 2005. Now Bahrain is going to host the 2011 WHC and has got itself made “World Heritage Regional Centre for Arab countries”. This is a country which is well focussed on playing the UNESCO game. So I wasn’t surprised to find this “link” which indicates that the Pearling area on Muharraq is due for a major development leading to consideration for WH status in 2010 – nicely in advance of that 2011 WHC!! I certainly wouldn’t bet against Bahrain achieving this objective and it being the prize with which to burnish that WHC in 2011! But let's also hope they don't turn the area into too much of a "shopping oportunity"!
| Date posted: February 2009|
Have you been to Pearling, testimony of an island economy? Share your experiences!
Add your own review