Bahrain area guide: Muharraq

Everything you need to know about the former Bahrain capital

Bahrain area guide: Muharraq

If you’re looking to discover the history of Bahrain, Muharraq is your best shot – this city was the capital of Bahrain until 1923 and has been occupied for thousands of years. The buildings here are older than the shiny newer parts of Manama and you’ll get a real feel for the Kingdom on a trip here.

Muharraq plays host to one of the country’s three UNESCO world heritage sites: the Bahrain Pearling Path. To truly understand the Kingdom, you need to realise the importance of pearling, which was once a mainstay of the economy (until oil was discovered). The trail takes you to various historical buildings, including homes belonging to traders, plus shops and storehouses. You can also visit Bu Maher Fort, built in the 19th century, or the dhow building yard where you can see people building the boats formerly used by pearl divers.

Other attractions in Muharraq include the souq where you can test out your haggling skills. While exploring the streets and trying to pick out a bargain, make sure you try some halwa – a traditional sweet enjoyed across the kingdom.

As 2018’s capital of Islamic culture, there’s no shortage of amazing museums and historical buildings to visit. These include the Shaikh Isa bin Ali House, where the former ruler of Bahrain lived until 1932. You can wander around and find out about life before oil was discovered.

There’s also the Shaikh Ebrahim Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa Centre, which hosts exhibitions and talks about Bahraini history, and the Busaad Art Gallery that features the work of respected artist Ebrahim Busaad.

Another must-visit site in Muharraq is Arad Fort. The 15th-century structure was built to protect Arad Island, which has since been joined to Muharraq via land reclamation. It has been used by invading armies such as the Portuguese.

There are plenty of traditional spots to get food as well – Bu Khalaf Coffee Shop serves up proper karak tea, or you can get a coffee here and eat dates. Top restaurants on the island include Saffron by Jena, which puts a contemporary twist on Bahraini food, or the traditional Freej Bin Al Rashdan.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Arad Fort
This 15th century fort played an important role in protecting Bahrain during invasions.
Open Sat-Thu 9am-5pm. Road 4233, Arad (1729 8777).

Bahrain Pearling Path
Find out about the Island of Pearls on this path that is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
Qal’at Bu Mahir and Bu Mahir Visitor’s Centre: Open Wed-Mon, 10.15am-4.30pm. Pearling Path Visitor and Experience Centre: Open Thu-Tue, 10am-5pm. Al Nukhidhah House: Sat-Thu, 8am-1pm, 4pm-7pm. Muharraq (1729 8777).

Busaad Art Gallery
Explore the work of the noted Bahraini artist Ebrahim Busaad in this museum that is housed in the home he used to live and work in.
Free. Open Sat-Thu, 9am-1pm, 4pm-8pm. Busaad Art Gallery, Muharraq (1700 0020).

Kurar House
The Bahraini art of Kurar embroidery, which uses a golden thread, is preserved at this centre. You can watch elderly women at work and passing the art on to younger generations.
Open Sat-Thu 8am-1pm, 4pm-7pm. Kurar House, Lane 918, Muharraq (1732 2549).

Muharraq Souq
Head here for a huge selection of sweets plus the usual fare found in souqs.
Open 7am-10pm. Muharraq Souq (no number).

Vertical Garden
This green space is brightening up the city. It’s perfect for Instagram shots.
Open 24 hours. Sh Abdulla Avenue, Muharraq (no number).

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