Dilmun

Manama Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 11 › view all entries
National Museum

Unfortunately, Ahmed's friend from the museum wasn't free today.  Ahmed offered to show us around himself, which is very, very kind considering he was working afternoon shifts and had just come off nights.  Lorna, Ahmed and I all went off to the National Museum, leaving Lucy to enjoy the sunshine. 

The National Museum is in a modern looking building next to the sea on the edge of Manama, close to the bridges.  On teh way in was a row of modern sculptures, including the one of the fish on the bicycle here.  I was pretty much stunned by the arch with teh purple flowers, too.  The museum itself is lovely - I will write a review, but I can't help you with admission charges etc as they don't seem to apply to Ahmed, who walked right by the booth after a brief chat with the ticket people.

Very cool, very practical skyscraper
  I don't know what the chat was about, as my Arabic barely covers "thank you", but it sounded a lot more like "Hi, How are you?  Lovely Weather" than "Why aren't you paying for a ticket?"  So maybe no one has to pay.  I don't know. 

The museum has modern art and things in a side gallery, but we didn't have time to look at that.  We went straight to the room with artefacts from Ancient Dilmun.  There were some astonishingly well preserved objects, including a bull's head that was from 2,500 BC.  Give or take a century.  I didn't want to take pictures as it might damage things, but I think it's on the museum's publicity and website.  There were also some seals adn some jewelry that looked exactly like bead necklaces I might wear today - people are people.

Me in Bahrain fort
  After Dilmun, Alexander the Great came and called it Tylos, and then it was one of the first areas to convert to Islam.  The museum also has a collection of beautiful Qu'arans (is that spelled right?) with the most incredible, detailed flower borders and some more modern one that the King has donated.  The documetn rooms have some interesting things, including a passport issued by the British protectorate to the Sheik ("Distinguishing marks: None.  Occupation: Heir Apparent to the Throne" - the British Empire must have been a very, very strange place...)

The other interesting part of the museum was the ethnographical displays, which had lots of manakins and models of traditional Bahraini crafts and occupations, and a wedding.  Normally, I would rush by this sort of display without paying it much mind, on my way to more old pots or an art gallery.

Bahrain Fort
  I don't know why - one of those things.  But Ahmed really brought the displays to life.  A lot of the crafts are either still around, albeit in more modern form, or recent, and it turns out that Ahmed has been, amongst other things, a chemist, a shi[p wright, a fisherman, and an artist.  So he was able to explain about weddings, and what it is like on a dhow, and the tools for grading pearls, and all sorts of interesting odds and ends of information that I probably wouldn't have come across.  the information in teh museum is very good, adn very detailed, but there is nothing like having a personal guide in these matters!

I should really make a note about pearl diving at this point.  Bahrain has the perfect waters for natural pearls, and before oil was discovered, this was their major industry.

Manama from the fort
  Although there are very few pearl boats now, it is still one of the few places in teh world where you can buy a natural pearly - most of the other pearls in the world are cultured. 

Ahemd dropped us in the Bahrain mall, and we decided to have lunch there.  We had wonderful kebab at a nice Persian restaurant, and I had more lemon-and-mint juice.  It sort of proves that there is no need for food court food to be gorss, as it often is in teh UK. 

After that, feeling brave, we decided to go back to Bahrain Fort.  We went in the way we had gone the night before, which may actually be the wrong way, through a little village with bright wall paintings.  The sun had finally beaten the North wind, adn the weather was glorious.

Bahrain fort
  The fort is surrounded by what look like archeological digs, although they might just be holes.  You never know.  Although the fort is a world heritage site, entrance is free and there are no signs explaining anything.  in some ways, that is annoying, because I would have liked to know more about what the domed roofs and grooved floors were for and how the fort was built and what it was defending from who.  But it was also nice, because it was so utterly uncommercial.  It also meant that we were allowed to climb up and down steep stairs without large signs going "HAZARD - do not climb!  Walk slowly!  Please don't sue us if you bump anything!" which is what I am used to.  The view from the walls was lovely, and the breeze was great.
Village near the fort
 

That evening, we went to Isa town souk for a walk. I was fascinated - cliche as it might sound, the smell of spices and second hand carpets and things was unique, and I desparately wished there was someone around who could tell me what you made out of the enormous spice mountains (a sort of pilaf-curry-rice thing called Machboos, it turns out, which is totally delicious and I NEED THE RECIPE, readers, help!).  Souks are more like shopping streets, and a little like basildon market in that they have permanent shops and lock ups, than the markets my Disney-addled brain had been expecting, but totally wonderful. 

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
National Museum
National Museum
Very cool, very practical skyscrap…
Very cool, very practical skyscra…
Me in Bahrain fort
Me in Bahrain fort
Bahrain Fort
Bahrain Fort
Manama from the fort
Manama from the fort
Bahrain fort
Bahrain fort
Village near the fort
Village near the fort
Manama
photo by: cmgervais