Sheik Isa's House

Al Muharraq Travel Blog

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Sheik Isa's house

Today, we went to Sheik Isa’s House.  Not the house of the current sheik you understand; the Palace of the current King’s grandfather, in Muharak. 

The palace is very beautiful.  It is built around a series of courtyards, which ehen it was in use allowed the family, servants and guests to have their own spaces.  The palace is full of beautifully carved archways and doors, space and light.  The woodwork is teak, which survives the salty air well, and Ahmed told us how they would have been carved with a special nail like tool rather than a chisel, to get the decoration right.  The windows were mostly carved gypsum screens, and the roofs were made of date palms and reeds. 

The house was wonderfully cool.

Sheik Isa's house
  There is also a working wind tower.  Wind towers are what they had in the region before air conditioning had been dreamt of.  OK, well people had definitely dreamed of better ways to get cool, but I doubt they would have dreamed that you would do it by burning vast amounts of coal somewhere and piping the power down wires.  The tower is open to the wind on all four sides, with walls inside the tower that channel the winds and breezes down the tower into the room below.  This can be shut up with shutters for winter.  If anyone is a green architect, the design works incredibly well and it’s absolutely worth reviving. 

We climbed up to the roof on the only staircase that was broken, resulting in a bit of a scuffed elbow for me, and as we got to the top the call to prayer began.  There are several mosques surrounding the palace, and as they all started the call one at a time, it was incredibly atmospheric.

E-Book display in the cultural centre
   Once the call was over then Ahmed told us about the time he had gone to the palace as a child when a wedding was on, and how good the celebrations had been.  

After that we went for a walk in the town, around the alley ways.  There are beautiful blossom trees near the palace, and another very, very old house that you can normally look around but it was closed.  We ended up in a small cultural centre and children’s library, both of which were beautiful too.  

After that, we went to the souk and Ahmed got us some Halwa, the local sweet.  It’s slightly like jelly sweets, and slightly like Turkish delight, and tastes of herbs, in a good way.  There were also little sweet samosa like things and a coffee that was green instead of brown and tasted of cardamom.

Children's library
 Apparently, it is traditional to drink the cardamom coffee because otherwise the halwa is too sweet, and I can understand that completely.  

That evening, lorna, Lucy, Richard and I went to Bab al Bahrain, the big souk in Manamah.  It is an amazing place, full of as many little shops selling sari silk, fabric, handicrafts, and jewellery as you can imagine.  There are also lots of counterfeit bags and designer watches, so if someone sells you a prada bag for the equivalent of ÂŁ20, then you know what the score is!  Mind you, you should know that anyway, right?  And some of the bags are very nice indeed.  

The gold, on the other hand, is real, and the prices are adjusted based on the price of gold on the international markets.  It is also 22k, as opposed to the 9k you’d buy in the UK.

Doorway
  Some of the purest stuff has a yellowish sheen that makes it look slightly fake, because I was so used to the less pure, brassy stuff you get in the UK!   It would be an absolute insult not to barter, or at least ask for a discount.  I got a beautiful necklace with a certified natural pearl in it, and was very pleased with my purchase indeed.  And 11m of sari silk, which I will make something out of as soon as I can find someone to lend me a sewing machine!

Later, we went to Fiddler’s Green at the Diplomat on Manamah, an Irish Bar.  Fiddler’s Green was a legend about heaven that sailors used to believe in, so it is appropriate that when we were there, we were joined by two members of the US Navy, desperate for a chat.  The band on that evening were from Glasgow, of all places.

Wind tower
 They were called the Boxtones and we enjoyed them a lot.  Dinner was nice too.  Of course, there is something slightly surreal about having a pint of Amstel and some fish and chips in an Irish bar in an Arabic country.  But life is full of surreal moments.  It was a great night.  

 

Lord_Mike says:
Fiddler's Green...been there, done that!
Posted on: Apr 09, 2009
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Sheik Isas house
Sheik Isa's house
Sheik Isas house
Sheik Isa's house
E-Book display in the cultural cen…
E-Book display in the cultural ce…
Childrens library
Children's library
Doorway
Doorway
Wind tower
Wind tower
Very old house
Very old house
Reed roof
Reed roof
Wind tower from below
Wind tower from below
Cultural centre
Cultural centre
Sea front
Sea front
Palace
Palace
Doors
Doors
Courtyard
Courtyard
The Sign that Did Not Apply to Us
The Sign that Did Not Apply to Us
Rooms
Rooms
Wind tower
Wind tower
from the roof
from the roof
Carvings
Carvings
Windows
Windows
Mosque
Mosque
Courtyard
Courtyard
Old kitchens
Old kitchens
Old mosque
Old mosque
Old house doorway
Old house doorway
Flowers
Flowers
E-book
E-book
Cultural centre
Cultural centre
Cultural centre
Cultural centre
Childrens library
Children's library
Cultural centre
Cultural centre
Sweet shop
Sweet shop
sea front
sea front
Bab al Bahrain
Bab al Bahrain
Boxtones
Boxtones
Al Muharraq Sights & Attractions review
Sheik ISa's House
First, if I can apologise for the spelling? I don't know quite how this ought to be spelled, so please let me know if I'm wrong. I have no idea … read entire review