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Must-Read Book for Bahrain History enthusiasts

I've spent the past week reading this book about the history of Manama.

Available in local Bahraini bookstores

Written by Abdul Karim al Orrayed , who is a lifelong artist and historian (born in the 1930s!), he also received the Shaikh Isa Medal for his contributions in art in 2007.

The book was originally written in Arabic and was translated by Loona al Orrayed (the author's daughter). The book is 358 pages long , so mind you, it is a good long read.

To make it easier to explain the book, I'll list the positives and negatives of the book.

Positive:

  • The book talks about Manama history and it is, according to the author, written via numerous accounts from eye-witnesses and people who lived through those times
  • The book is well sourced (although the references are written in Arabic)
  • The book generally explains Bahraini customs in a satisfactory method (and often detailed).
  • The book has 6 Chapters dealing with Manama history, detailing each and every village that used to exist in the present location of Manama , often with vivid descriptions.
  • A whole chapter is dedicated to the oldest known continuously inhabited village of Bahrain, Bilad al Qadeem, with numerous units explaining the society, cultural and education aspect of the community.
  • The book provides accounts of foreigners' accounts of Bahrain, from visitors in the 19th century to those of Charles Belgrave in the early 30s and 60s.
  • The book takes a particular interest in highlighting the intellectual climate that existed in Manama, both in the 11th century and in the 20th century.
  • The book details and outlines carefully how Bahrain had modernized during the 20th century, and provides an excellent case-study about the American Missionary Hospital's role in pioneering healthcare in the country.
  • The book contains a chapter devoted to explaining the history of Islam in Bahrain and also highlighting the different religions present in Manama, each having a description of their own.
  • Religious buildings, events are clearly marked in the book, and perhaps most interestingly is that the book highlights the lives of minority religious groups such as the Jews in Bahrain.
  • And most interestingly, an index of families of Bahrain is provided.
  • Colourful pictures and illustrations are present!
Criticism:

  • False information is written in the book, with the idea that Phoenicians had lived in Bahrain in 2600 BC, when they had not existed until centuries later.
  • The book often becomes too detailed and easy to get lost in.
  • The 'table of contents' is on the right side of the book , instead of the traditional left side (not much of a problem but unorthodox).
  • Grammatical mistakes are present in some chapters.
  • The book does not highlight the Persian community in Bahrain, aside from mere mentions.
  • Certain family names are not present in the family index.
  • Book does not state when Arabic transliterations occur, therefore making it difficult to understand the word in Arabic (for example, Um Ehmar is written in the book , when it is pronounced Um E7mar)
  • Though the book is greatly detailed, not everything is present.
All in all, I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in Bahraini history, but mind you, I do not guarantee its accuracy (see the Phoenician example). Though, the author deserves praise. The book has obviously taken a very long time to write, to the very detail, and especially deserves to be commended for providing pictures and illustrations into the book (thus preventing it from becoming too boring!). It records Manama's history, from a time of villages, swamps and springs to becoming a cosmopolitan metropolis


The book does something that has never been done before, and that is to contain the history of a country (or capital) that is smaller than the City of London!

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