Manama, essentially a modern city, has been an important trading center in the Persian Gulf since antiquity.

Historic manuscripts suggest that Bahrain was the location of the ancient civilization of Dilmun, which existed during the Bronze Age and is considered one of the oldest trading civilizations in the world. Dilmun served as a major port in the trading routes between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley Civilization, playing a critical role in the exchange of goods and ideas. Its strategic location made it a melting pot of cultures, where various peoples interacted and traded with one another.

The Sumerians, one of the earliest civilizations in history, regarded Dilmun as a sacred land and an essential part of their creation mythology. The Sumerians believed that their god of creation, intelligence, and water, Enki, and the mother goddess of fertility and mountains, Ninhursag, had created Dilmun as a paradise, a land of purity, cleanliness, and brightness where the gods lived. The saga of Enki and Ninhursag described Dilmun as the “garden of the Great Gods and Earthly paradise”.

“Thus, from that moment on, Dilmun was blessed by Enki with everlasting agricultural and trade superiority, for through its waterways and quays, fruits and grains were sold and exchanged by the people of Dilmun and beyond.”

Sumerian Myth: Enki and Ninhursag

The significance of Dilmun is clear from the numerous artifacts that have been discovered on the island of Bahrain. These artifacts offer valuable insight into the culture, trade, and religious beliefs of this ancient civilization. The remains of Dilmun’s grand architecture, temples, and burial mounds, demonstrate the extent of their wealth and religious beliefs.

In classical antiquity, the island of Bahrain, known as Tylos to the ancient Greeks, was renowned as the hub of the pearl trade for the burgeoning Hellenistic empire. From ancient times to the 19th century, its pearl fisheries were considered the finest in the world. The pearling industry thrived until the emergence of Japanese cultured pearls in the 1930s.

In the 7th century, during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, Bahrain embraced the Islamic faith.

After the Arab rule, Bahrain was controlled by the Portuguese and Persian Empires, followed by invasions from the ruling dynasties of Saudi Arabia and Oman. During the Pax Britannica era, the British Empire consolidated its trade routes and took over the role of the ‘global policeman’. A treaty was signed between Britain and Bahrain, wherein the British agreed to protect Bahrain in exchange for control over Bahraini foreign affairs. Following the rise of Arab nationalism in the Middle East, Bahrain gained its independence in 1971.

Today, Bahrain is slowly but surely rebuilding itself after the tumultuous events of the Arab Spring, which was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East and North Africa in 2010 and 2011. Nowadays, the vestiges of the city’s history as a bustling port town are eclipsed by the symbols of modern opulence: vast air-conditioned shopping malls and soaring skyscrapers.

Bahrain National Museum

The Bahrain National Museum offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the region. Divided into four themed galleries, the museum’s collection covers a range of topics. The Dilmun collection provides insight into the life of the ancient trading civilization of the Persian Gulf. The highlights of this exhibition include are the Barbar temple treasures, the Saar settlement finds, and a significant collection of stamp-seals. The Tylos and Islam collection focuses on the period when Bahrain was the center of the pearl trade during classical antiquity, as well as displaying Islamic decorative artifacts. The Customs and Traditions collection uses dioramas to depict various aspects of life in the archipelago in the early 20th century, such as birth ceremony, traditional wedding, and religious practices. Similarly, the Traditional Trades and Crafts collection recreates a traditional Bahraini souq [marketplace], with the emphasize on local craftsmanship. This exhibition also explores the pearling heritage that has shaped the life in the region for thousands of years.

Beit Al Quran

Beit Al Quran [House of Quran] is a museum dedicated to Islam’s holy book, which Muslims believe to be a divine revelation. The museum features a remarkable collection of ancient Qurans, including manuscripts dating back to the birth of Islam in 610 AD and some of the earliest translations of the Quran into European languages. In addition to its rich collection of Qurans, the museum has more than 50,000 books in Arabic, English and French, primarily focusing on Islam. Notably, the museum contains a copy of an 18th-century English translation of the Quran, which was purchased by Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers and third President of the United States.

Samuel Noah Kramer (1972) Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievements in the Third Millennium BC

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