February 17, 2014

1006 BAHRAIN - Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy (UNESCO WHS)

Located on the island with the same name, Muharraq (literary "burned down" in Arabic) has long been a centre of religiosity, and even the capital of Bahrain until 1923, when it was replaced by Manama. Its origins goes back to the time of Dilmun (Telmun) 5,000 years ago, but the city became important during the era of Tylos, when Bahrain came under domination of the Seleucid Empire. By the 5th century AD, it had become a major centre of Nestorian Christianity. Taken by the Portuguese (1521) and then by the Persians (1602), Al-Muharraq passed to the control of the Āl Khalīfah dynasty in 1783. It developed as a trade centre, its harbour being the chief headquarters for the formerly important Bahraini pearl-diving industry, virtually extinct since the 1930s.

Pearl diving in Bahrain was first mentioned in Assyrian texts dating to 2000 BC, referring to "fish eyes" from Dilmun, but the golden age of pearling was between the 1850s and 1930, when pearls were more precious than diamonds. After the collapse of this industry, most divers switched to the newly founded oil sector. Currently, the trading of cultured pearls in Bahrain is prohibited. The Bahrain pearling trail, 3.5km long, consisting of 17 buildings in Murharraq, 3 oyster beds located in the nearby sea, a segment of the coast and the seafront Bu Mahir fortress in the southern tip of Muharraq, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.

The buildings listed were the residences and majlises of rich pearl merchants and includes the home of Shaikh Isa ibn Ali Al Khalifa, Bahrain's ruler between 1869 to 1932 (in the postcard), built in 1907 with local materials. One of the most fascinating rooms is one where dates used to be piled in palm-woven baskets and left to ripen. The weight would make the dates at the bottom gradually surrender their nectar which would then be piped into jars and used for cooking.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of the Arab Summit Conference 2003 set, about which I wrote here. The second stamp, depicting the King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, is part of a definitive series, about which I wrote here

Muharraq - Wikipedia
Bahrain Pearling Trail - Wikipedia
Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy - UNESCO official website

sender: Edwin G. Saliendra (direct swap)
sent from Budaiya (Bahrain), on 03.02.2013

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