Showcase History & Culture

Museum — a window to Bahrain’s culture



Situated in Manama, the Bahrain National Museum is one of the largest of its kind in West Asia

One of the lesser-known but interesting countries of the Arabian Gulf, the kingdom of Bahrain has a myriad of attractions. After exploring its fascinating Al Fateh Grand mosque, the Bahrain International Circuit (a big centre for motorsports in West Asia), an array of restaurants offering scrumptious local and international cuisines, Bahrain Fort and the watersports at the Marassi beach, it was time for a close look of the Bahrain National Museum.

We had actually been passing by this famous building several times a day on our way to other parts of country. The Bahrain National Museum is one of the newest and largest museums in West Asia and located in a central area of Manama.

The architecturally stunning National Theatre of Bahrain is next-door and both these structures constitute two of the biggest landmarks in the capital city of Manama.



Spread over an area of approximately 28,000 sq ft, the museum has nine major galleries, six major sections and it covers around 5,000 years of the country’s history. The hall covering the archaeological finds from ancient Dilmun is considered one of the historically significant areas of the museum and of special interest to students of the history of the region. Entering the museum one is struck by the immaculately maintained interiors and facade area but then the whole of Bahrain presents a picture of cleanliness. The country also strikes as modern and cosmopolitan and thus makes residents as well as visitors (like us) from diverse cultures feel much at home.

A vast and detailed satellite photo of Bahrain covers much of the ground floor of the museum and makes for an impressive entrance. We look down and successfully locate the point at which we or, rather, the museum building is standing. The sprawling Ancient History section comprises The Hall of Graves, which has burial mounds, skeletal remains and neatly captioned specimens. We are told that these mounds were excavated from different sites in the desert and re-assembled here for the museum. Since such places spook me out, I prefer to move on to the next gallery after a cursory glance at these exhibits.

Woman and child sculpture at the entrance

Woman and child sculpture at the entrance   | Photo Credit: Aruna Chandaraju

Basalt sculpture

The guide Zahra Almoamen later points out what is considered an important exhibit — the Durand Stone, a longish, black basalt sculpture which dates back to the Babylonian era. The other well-known exhibits of the museum include seals from the early Dilmun period, different kinds of pearls, centuries-old oil lamps, a restored 1932 Buick car and an interesting tableau, which depicts a scene from the Epic of Gilgamesh. Also on view are well-preserved pottery and jewellery — thousands of years old — the board above reads 2250 to 2050 BCE. Household implements and tools are displayed too.

One of the outstanding galleries and my favourite is the one on traditional trades and crafts which recreate scenes from the past and educates one about the history, art and cultural heritage of Bahrain. The dioramas aer all superbly crafted and carefully designed to offer a comprehensive look at all aspects of life. There are market scenes complete with sacks of typical local produce, and sellers in traditional garb.

Museum — a window to Bahrain’s culture

Among the impressive creations here are the barber at work, the tailor with his sewing machine in conversation with a customer and pearls being extracted from their shells. There is a Baraha too, which is a small meeting place near the seashore for locals but especially pearl-divers returning from pearling. In fact, exhibits related to pearl-diving, ships and ship-building abound in the museum, which is natural considering Bahrain is a seaside country.

There are old Quranic manuscripts in this museum as part of the documents and manuscripts gallery. This also contains notes on astronomy and several historical documents. The natural history section focuses on the nature and environment of Bahrain i.e. its flora and fauna.

For me, what is outside the Bahrain National Museum is just as fascinating as the inside. The large dramatic courtyard is embellished with modern art — large, contemporary sculptures. On the other side is the pearl diver sculpture. This is one of the most iconic images of Bahrain.

The sculpture is apt considering that Bahrain has a long history of pearl-diving and for 2,000 years, Bahraini pearls were prized as the finest natural ones in the world. Alongside is another sculpture, pognant and related to the subject — a mother with child looking out for her husband to return from his journey on the seas.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 8:15:04 AM |

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