"Bahrain, the two waters" Top 5 Page for this destination Bahrain by kokoryko
Bahrain Travel Guide: 634 reviews and 1,444 photos
Why two waters? What are these two waters?
One evident water is the sea, Bahrain is an island located in the Arabic (Persian) Gulf. In order not to shock some susceptibilities, I will call it “the Gulf”, shortly.
The other water is fresh water: this fresh water is the mother of civilisation here, a multi-millenary civilisation, back to Assyria, and possibly earlier.
Where does this fresh water come from? No hills around, only the sea, and it is not the rainfall which provides for the water used here in agriculture. The fresh water comes from Hijaz and Najd mountains in Arabia, it flows slowly underground eastward in Tertiary aged porous and permeable rocks and emerges in artesian way on Bahrain and even in the sea North of Bahrain where fresh water springs have been identified few meters below sea level offshore. This water is a so-called “fossil water”, it flows since the last “pluvial” event corresponding to the Riss-Würm interglacial age (25000-30000 years before present); since it is pumped a lot in modern times, and is not renewed (dry climate in Najd nowadays), less and less water is available in Bahrain. (I have posted a picture with explanations on one of my tips about gardens)
Bahrain is located between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, half way between the Strait of Hormuz and the Chott el Arab; Bahrain is linked to Saudi Arabia by a 26 km long bridge (King Fahd Causeway) since 1986; The main Island is flat with the highest hill (Djebel Dukhan hill of smoke, in fact this hill is often surrounded by fog or mist clouds) culminating at 135 m of elevation. The northern area is “green”, with palm groves and irrigated fields, most of the island being desertic. Some other small islands complete the emirate.
Water is mother of civilisation, and here we are in presence of a possible mini-Mesopotamia (between the rivers in ancient Greek): Bahrain is rich in history and ancient civilizations have only recently been discovered by international archaeologists. It is believed that for tens of thousands of years, nomads travelled over Bahrain's desert and primitive flint tools testify to this history. Recent finds have evidenced that Bahrain was indeed the site of the lost civilization of Dilmun dating from the third millennium BC, often refered to as the fabled Garden of Eden and described as "paradise" in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The land is repeatedly mentioned in Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian inscriptions as an important seaport between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, due to the perennial abundance of sweet water. By 600BC, Bahrain was absorbed into the new Babylonian Empire and once again flourished as a prosperous entity. In 323BC, two of "Alexander the Great" ships arrived and new trade routes opened, resulting in such a strong Greek influence that Dilmun was renamed Tylos. Bahrain was also the site of the largest prehistoric cemetery in the world. At one stage an estimated 170,000 burial mounds covered the central and western areas. Archaeological finds of those that have been uncovered, reveal evidence of two distinct civilizations the Dilmun and Tylos -two thousand years apart, dating from the third and first millennia.
Since the Greeks, history was marked by the spreading of Islam until the arrival of Portuguese sailors; from the 16th century to AD 1743 the control of Bahrain drifted between the Portuguese and the Persians; it became a British protectorate end 19th century.
Oil was discovered in 1931 and brought rapid modernization and “improvements” to Bahrain. The British withdrew from Bahrain in August 1971, making Bahrain an independent emirate. The oil boom of the 1980s greatly benefited Bahrain, but its downturn was felt badly. However, the country had already begun to diversify its economy, and had benefited from the Lebanese civil war that began in the 1970s; Bahrain replaced Beirut as the Middle East's financial hub as Lebanon's large banking sector was driven out of the country by the war.
In March 1999, Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah succeeded his father as head of state and instituted elections for parliament, gave women the right to vote and released all political prisoners; moves described by Amnesty International as representing an 'historic period for human rights'.
Today, high glass-concrete towers are under construction on the sea-side, showing the prosperity of this small country rich essentially of archaeological treasures.
Bahrain counts about 700.000 inhabitants of which there are 250000 non-nationals, mainly migrant workers. The capital city Manama counts 250000 inhabitants.
Bahrain is not a popular tourist destination, but it deserves a bit attention from travellers who intentionally or occasionally arrive at Manama airport. The old city of Manama, with its souks, the city of Muharraq with its palaces are worth a visit for having a flavour of Arabic city life.
The national museum is a modern cultural spot in Bahrain; it displays arts, history, and has a great section on local customs and traditions. The Bahrain city life is the usual of these modern cities of Middle East with hectic traffic on big avenues and quiet life in the back-streets; many modern and traditional shops offer almost anything to the must-go-shopping from electronics to traditional gold jewellery through all sorts of Indian and Arabic shops. A big choice of restaurants is available, in the 5 star hotels or just at the corner of the street and if “international” food is well represented, all sorts of middle east foods can be found in either high class restaurants or market stalls, and the Indian or far Eastern (Thai, Philippine) food is well represented. The nightlife here seems lively as well, for the interested people, and the petro-dollars rich Saudi come to Bahrain over week ends spend their money in all sorts of nightclubs you may find in hotels or in some specialised areas, going from high range belly dance clubs to dirty “pick-up places”.
But the most interesting (to me, at least) and fascinating was to discover the archaeological richness of this country, discovering that people build cities here at the same time as the Sumerian between Tigris and Euphrates, Babylonian civilisation has links with Bahrain, and this water civilisation is still present today as it was 4000 years ago in some places of this island.
And . . . this water, is source of life, (look at the tree of life which grows here in Bahrain) source of civilisation and the associated myths, like Gilgamesh who is also present in old Dilmun civilisation.
I recently found one of my pictures somewhere on the web where it has nothing to do.
It arrived there without permission.
My pictures are far from being works of art, but be kind and ask if you want to use.
Unless otherwise marked, I am the author of the pictures.
- Pros:Good surprises at each street corner
- Cons:Climate; very hot in summer and too bright sun
- In a nutshell:Not like the Emirates. .
The museum has an ethnographic section, a traditional arts section, a section on Tylos (Greek settlement of the... more travel advice
A big number of stone seals has been found in the temples and graves; their use is not clear, but they probably were... more travel advice
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