#9 Historic Houses
Landmarks of Bahrain’s long-established heritage, the historic houses on the island give us glimpses into the past – the times, the architecture, and the lives of Bahrain’s royalty and citizens.
Shaikh Isa Bin Ali House
Once home to Shaikh Isa bin Ali, the longest ruler of Bahrain from 1869-1932, the Isa bin Ali House is one of the best-preserved examples of local architecture before the discovery of oil. The house has a simple architectural design, built with materials such as coral stones, mud, gypsum, date palm trees, and lime. It has multiple staircases, intricate archways, and courtyards – giving a glimpse into the life of a royal in Bahrain in the 19th century. The building is divided into four sections, with separate areas for the Shaikh, family, guests, and servants.
The Siyadi House (Bayt Siyadi) is part of the Siyadi complex along with the Siyadi Majlis and Siyadi Mosque – created by one of Bahrain’s leading grand pearl merchant families. It is also part of the Bahrain pearling trail, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kingdom. Today, the House, which dates back to 1931, illustrates the immense wealth of a grand pearling merchant and is still occupied by the builder’s grandson.
Beit Al Quran
Beit Al Quran is a multi-purpose complex that showcases a collection of Quranic manuscripts written on parchment, rice, peas, and grains, and pays homage to Islam’s holy books from nearly every century since the advent of Islam in 610. It is claimed to be the only institute in the world devoted to the Quran. The library holds over 50,000 books that center on Islam written in Arabic, English, and French. The building is engraved with Arabic script and houses a mosque, auditorium, madrasa (religious school), and museum. It also hosts a variety of art exhibitions.
Al Sakhir Palace
The Al-Sakhir Palace is a palace in the Sakhir desert built in 1901. It is one of the most eminent buildings in the Kingdom and was once home to Shaikh Hamad bin Isa, Ruler of Bahrain, in 1925. It was built in the traditional Islamic fashion, consisting of grand arches and columns, a dome, and an imposing minaret towering above. Today, the palace is used for some of the most honorable and significant occasions in Bahrain.
Described as the majlis of the boat captain (nukhidhah) Jassim Ajaj built in the 1920s, Nukhida House is the first house to be restored along the Pearling Path. Historically, it is said to be a very important place for the pearling industry. It is where divers and visitors were hosted when they came to Bahrain. It was also the meeting location for ship crews ahead of the pearl diving season. Today, it houses an exhibit on dive captains.
Bait Al-Kurar or Kurar House was established in 2007 to preserve the dying Bahraini art of Kurar – a form of embroidery used in weaving traditional clothes with golden thread. The building provides a venue for elderly Bahraini women to meet with younger generations and pass on the art of Kurar.
Abdullah Al Zayed House
The Abdullah Al Zayed House is a 100-year-old building that was once home to the founder of the first weekly newspaper in Bahrain and the Gulf. It has been restored and dedicated to the preservation of the Kingdom’s press heritage and unique architectural traditions.
Bin Matar House
Built on reclaimed land surrounded by sea in 1905, the Bin Matar House was constructed in a traditionally Bahraini manner with the use of pal, tree trunks, sea stone, and gypsum. It was initially used as the majlis of Salman Hussein Bin Matar, one of Bahrain’s most prominent pearling merchants. The building was eventually used as a clinic for Dr Banderkar and the home of the Al Eslah Club. However, the top floor was retained as a residence by the Bin Matar family until 2002.
Mohammed bin Faris House
A reconstruction of the house of Bahraini singer and musician Mohammed bin Faris at the site of the original building. The Mohammed bin Faris Sut Music House was opened on 12 September 2005 as a museum commemorating his achievements. He was a master of the Sut, a type of music, giving it a particularly Bahraini form.
La Maison Jamsheer
The former home of the Jamsheer family, La Maison Jamsheer has been transformed into a Bahraini-French cultural centre. It hosts various exhibitions for art, architecture, and heritage. It is also a location for lectures and serves as a residence for experts and postgraduate students.
This article is part of an ongoing series – 51 Great Things About Bahrain as a tribute to the Kingdom’s 51st National Day. Read more in this special edition.