When I learned that Bahrain had a 15th Century Portuguese fort, I knew that I had to make a visit. I have visited many forts like this as there are many in the Persian Gulf, down the coast of Oman and Yemen, and even on the coast of Africa. The Portuguese only controlled Bahrain for a little over a century until the Persians conquered in 1603. The island was conquered back and forth between the Persians and Arabs until it was finally conquered by Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa in 1783.
Before the Portuguese, Bahrain has an interesting history. Excavations point to settlement in the 3rd Millenium B.C. The area is mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh and he called the land Dilmun and sought eternal life at the islands natural fresh water springs. The island became an important trading center between Mesopotamia and India and a city called Qalat Al Bahrain was founded at the current site where the fort now stands.
Aryan forces who destroyed the Indus Valley from 1800 to 1600 B.C. decimated the trade that once flowed past this island. By 600 B.C. Greeks settled the Island and named it Tylos. I visited a similar Greek settlement on the southern coast of Iran in 2002. Bahrain then turned to its own resources and again flourished in fishing and by harvesting pearls from the ocean. After Babylon fell to the Persians, Bahrain once again capitalized on the trade that made its way past the island and down the Persian Gulf. By 323 B.C. Bahrain gained its independence again until it was conquered by the Portuguese in the late 1400′s.
The island has abundant natural fresh water springs allowing for irrigation and cultivation. It really is like an oasis on the hot ocean of the Persian Gulf. I also learned that the flag – Red and White – symbolizes the color of a white pearl on red silk. The pearl traders and vendors did, and still do, showcase the beautiful pearls on red silk to highlight their natural white lustre.
Like a big kid, I was able to climb around and explore all through out the fort. Up on the ramparts I shot a photo down inside of the main courtyard:
The rest of my time in Bahrain was spent at the mall shopping, going out to eat and catching a movie at the theaer – not much that was blog worthy. Outside of the fort I shot this photo of the Manama skyline. It doesn’t have too many skyscrapers, yet, but it is growing…
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