Sunday, 29 May 2011

The British and The Khalifas - Changes in Bahrain

The Rise of the Al-Khalifa Family:

The Bani Utbah was a tribal confederation that had comprised of leading families in the Qatari and Eastern Arabian region. This included the clans of Al Binali, Al Khalifa (which presently rule Bahrain), Al Sabah (who presently rule Kuwait) and al Jalahima (well known for the pirate, Rahmah ibn Jabir al Jalahima!)
The location of Al Zubarah, now a ghost town

In the year 1782, a war erupted between the Bani Utbah tribal-confederation (based in Zubarah, Qatar) and the Madhukirs (آل مذكور) , who were at the time the rulers of Bahrain, they were also believed to have been Huwala (Again, Sunni Persians in Arabia and vice versa). This war had occurred because the prosperity and emerging position of  a flourishing pearling centre and trading centre at Zubarah, which had brought it to the attention of the two main regional powers at that time, Persia and Oman. Zubarah offered great potential wealth because of the extensive pearls found in its waters. At the time, it was believed there was a shortage of pearls (you’d think after 3 millenniums, it would run out!).

 An interesting thing is that the Bani Utbah tribe were believed to have been (or related)called the Bin Ali tribe (آل بن علي) of Bahrain, which already showed the influence they had in the region. The governor of Bahrain at the time, Nasr Al-Madhkur, led an army to Zubarah to fend off the invading tribe, which proved in vain as his army had collapsed (some suggest desertion) and a victory ensued for the Bani Utbah tribe

. By 1783, the Islands of Bahrain were lost to the Bani Utbah tribe for good, and a mass migration towards the island was reported , this was believed to have caused the extravagant growth of Date-Palm farms throughout the island.
A portrait of Ahmed the Conqueror

The clan that was placed in charge of Bahrain was, as you might guess, the Al Khalifa family. In fact, the commander of the Bani Utbah invasion was Ahmed ibn Mohammed al Khalifa, now commonly referred to as Ahmed al Fateh (Ahmed the Conqueror). The main mosque of Bahrain was built in his honour. He was also the first ruler of the Khalifa Dynasty.

 It is said that the Al Khalifa clan were supported by a naval fleet from Kuwait and several Bedouin clans based in Zubara in its invasion of Bahrain. These clans included Al Mannai, Al Jalahima, Al Bin Ali, Al Bu Romaih, Al Hajri, Al Muhannadi, Al Nuaim, Al Buainain, Al Bukuwarah and Al Thawawida. The Khalifas were thought to have originally been based in Jaww  (a village on the east coast of Bahrain) along with the Al Bu Romaih tribe. Later, they had moved to Riffa, the de facto power-house of Bahrain.

For a brief period of two years, 1800-1802, Oman had invaded Bahrain for unclear reasons, where it was believed that a 12 year old child was installed as the ruler of the land, then based in Arad Fort.

British De Facto Control:

The Khalifa Dynasty’s control over Bahrain was reinforced when, in 1820, it signed a treaty  with Britain where, according to Historians, the British recognized the Khalifas as the legitimate Rulers of Bahrain. The reason why Bahrain sought British recognition was because it was the regional powerhouse in the region , at the time. This treaty, alongside with dozen others that was signed in 1861, was called the Perpetual Truce of Peace and Friendship treaty. 

According to its terms, the United Kingdom would provide protection from naval assault and assistance for land assaults in return for pledges from Bahrain to only dispose of land to the United Kingdom (if to anyone) and not to enter relationships with other foreign governments without British consent. The treaty was modified in 1892 and 1951. 

Between the years 1869 to 1872, Ottoman influence in the region was apparent, Ottoman naval ships had periodically appeared by the coasts , it was unclear if any hostilities had occurred (but due to the defense pack with Britain, I doubt it). Perhaps the most important part of that treaty was that he British promised to support the rule of the Al Khalifa in Bahrain, securing its unstable position as rulers of the country. 

Wikipedia sums it nicely
- According to School of Oriental and African Studies academic, Nelida Fuccaro, this treaty relationship with Britain was one aspect of an evolving polity: From this perspective state building under the Al Khalifa shayks should not be considered exclusively as the result of Britain's informal empire in the Persian Gulf. In fact, it was a long process of strategic negotiation with different sections of the local population in order to establish a pre-eminence of their particularly artistic Sunni/Bedouin tradition of family rule.

The Cosmopolitan Society of Bahrain:
Generally speaking ,the period after 1850 was a peaceful and prosperous one. In this time, Bahrain had somewhat lowered its dependency on Pearls and had invested again into becoming a trading hub (as it once was , in ages past). This was achieved when it had overtaken Basra, Kuwait and Muscat as the trading centre of the Gulf.

At around the same time, Bahrain was believed to have undergone a socio-economic revamp. The tribal system was being called for abandonment and the adoption of a Modern state was called for. Of course, this booming period led to mass immigration to Bahrain from Persian , Arab and Indian merchants . 

According to one contemporary account; 
 Mixed with the indigenous population [of Manamah] are numerous strangers and settlers, some of whom have been established here for many generations back, attracted from other lands by the profits of either commerce or the pearl fishery, and still retaining more or less the physiognomy and garb of their native countries. Thus the gray-coloured dress of the southern Persian, the saffron-stained vest of Oman, the white robe of Nejed, and the striped gown of Bagdad, are often to be seen mingling with the light garments of Bahreyn, its blue and red turban, its white silk-fringed cloth worn Banian fashion round the waist, and its frock-like overall; while a small but unmistakable colony of Indians, merchants by profession, and mainly from Guzerat, Cutch, and their vicinity, keep up here all their peculiarities of costume and manner, and live among the motley crowd, ‘among them, but not of them’.
 From: WG Palgrave, Narrative of a Year's Journey through Central and Eastern Arabia (1862-3)

Bahrain was described as a cosmopolitan society at the time, in Palgrave’s book, he describes the people as having an open – even urbane – outlook: "Of religious controversy I have never heard one word. In short, instead of Zelators and fanatics, camel-drivers and Bedouins, we have at Bahrain [Manama] something like ‘men of the world, who know the world like men’ a great relief to the mind; certainly it was so to mine”.
The Ahmed al Fateh Mosque, built in the capital Manama

The trading families of this period could even be equivalent to the Borgias and Medicis of Italy, or even greater.

And this wealth  gave them extensive power, and among the most prominent were the Persian Al Safar family, who held the position of Native Agents of Britain in 19th Century.

The Al Safar enjoyed an 'exceptionally close' relationship with the Al Khalifa clan from 1869.

Once again, all comments are welcome and appreciate you reading this.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Omani Invasion of Bahrain and the "Century of Madness"

The Omani Invasion:

During the beginning of the 18th Century, an Afghan uprising (in Afghanistan) and subsequent invasion of Persia by the Afghans caused regional instability which resulted in the Persians pulling out their garrisons from Bahrain. Taking advantage of the confusion, the Sultanate of Oman (in 1717), then a regional power in the Gulf, invaded the island thus lifting 115 years of Safavid control of the island.

The Bahraini cleric, Shaikh Yousif al Bahrani (the cleric I previously mentioned) provided a detailed account of this invasion in his autobiography and book:

The earth shook and everything came to a standstill while preparations were made to do battle with these vile men [the Khārijite Omani invasion force]. The first year they came to seize it they returned disappointed, for they were unable to do so. Nor were they able to succeed the second time a year later, despite the help they received from all of the Bedouin and outlaws. The third time, however, they were able to surround Bahrain by controlling the sea, for Bahrain is an island. In this way they eventually weakened its inhabitants and then took it by force. It was a horrific battle and a terrible catastrophe, for all the killing, plunder, pillage, and bloodshed that took place.

After the Khārijites had conquered it and granted the inhabitants safe passage, the people—especially the notables—fled to al-Qaṭīf and other regions. Among them was my father—God have mercy upon him—accompanied by his dependents [i.e., wives] and children, who traveled with them to al-Qaṭīf. But he left me in Bahrain in the house we owned in al-Shākhūra because some chests filled with bundles of our possessions, including books, gold coins, and clothes, were hidden there. He had taken a large portion of our possessions up to the fortress in which everyone had planned to [take refuge] when we were besieged, but he had left some behind in the house, stored in hiding places. Everything in the fortress was lost after the Khārijites took it by force, and we all left the fortress with nothing but the clothes on our backs. So when my father left for al-Qaṭīf, I remained in Bahrain; he had ordered me to gather whatever books remained in the fortress and save them from the hands of the Khārijites. I did manage to save a number of books that I found there along with some that were left in the house, which I sent to him a few at a time. These years passed in an utter lack of prosperity.I then traveled to al-Qaṭīf to visit my father and stayed there two or three months, but my father grew fed up with sitting in al-Qaṭīf because of the large number of dependents he had with him, the miserable conditions, and his lack of money, so he grew determined to return to Bahrain even though it was in the hands of the Khārijites. Fate, however, intervened between him and his plans, for the Persian army, along with a large number of Bedouins, arrived at that time to liberate Bahrain from the hands of the Khārijites. We followed the events closely and waited to see the outcome of these disasters; eventually the wheel of fortune turned against the Persians, they were all killed, and Bahrain was burned. Our house in the village [of al-Shākhūra] was among those burned.During this time, I was traveling back and forth to Bahrain in order to take care of the date palms we owned there and gather the harvest, then returning to al-Qaṭīf to study. [This continued] until Bahrain was taken from the hands of the Khārijites by treaty, after a great sum had been paid to their commander, because of the Persian king's weakness and impotence, and his empire's decline through bad administration. 
Political Limbo in Bahrain:

No clear historical evidence suggests that the Omanis had stayed for a significant period of time aside from the data above. It is widely believed that Bahrain had been pillaged by the Omanis simply for wealth. However, when the Omanis had left, political instability in the island had led to many invasions by Huwala Bedouins. These were Sunni Arabs who had migrated to Persia in the early centuries, it also applies vice versa( Sunni Persians settling in Arabia). Al Bahrani says that these tribes had 'ruined' Bahrain.
A map (in Arabic) showing the extent of the Omani Empire

Almost constant warfare between various Sunni bedouin tribes, the Kharajite Omanis and then the Persians under Nadir Shah (who had sought to re-establish Persian dominance in the island) and Karim Khan Zand laid waste to much of Bahrain, while the high taxes imposed by the Omanis drove out both the ulema,pearl merchants and the pearl divers .

In 1736, Bahrain had been recaptured by Persia , along with the aid of the British and the Dutch. But afterwards, it was ruled by the Arabs of Abu Shahr of the Bushire-based Al Madhkur family but it was indirectly a vassal state to (then De Facto Shah) Karim Khan of the Safavids.

The years of almost constant warfare and instability in the period led to a demographic collapse - German geographer and Arabist Carsten Niebuhr found in 1763 that Bahrain's 360 towns and villages had, through warfare and economic distress, been reduced to only 60.The influence of Iran was further undermined at the end of the 18th century when the ideological power struggle between the Akhbari-Usuli strands culminated in victory for the Akhbaris in Bahrain (Bet you thought they all died out :P )

Thursday, 26 May 2011

History of Bahrain: Arabs, Portuguese and Persians - Colonialism in Bahrain

Rise of the Arab Tribes:

In 1058 AD, a Shia rebellion against the remaining Qarmatian puppet rulers resulted in the complete annihilation of Qarmatian politics and the ascendency of Uyunids to the leadership. This dynasty is of the Abdul Qays tribe of Eastern Arabia, they had ruled from 1076 to 1235. The Unyunids were not much significant as they were mostly seen as Vassels for the Seljuks at the time. The Unyunids had relied heavily on the Power of Banu Amir Tribes. Banu Amir itself is a very large and old confederation of Arab tribes, mostly based in the Nejd (Central) region of Arabia. A prominent tribe amongst this confederation was the Banu Uqyal tribe, which had “branches” throughout Arabia. So powerful it was, that it had kicked out the Unyunids from power in 1230s (this was after an invasion from the Kingdom of Fars), thus establishing the Usfurids dynasty.

The dynasty was named Usfurids, in homage of its founder, Usfur ibn Rashid — gained control over eastern Arabia, including the islands of Bahrain. The late Middle Ages were a time of chronic instability with local disputes allowing various Persian-based Arab Kingdoms based in Qais, Qishm and Hormuz to involve themselves in Bahrain's affairs.In 1330, the islands became tributary to the rulers of Hormuz, which obviously was a Persian kingdom at the time.

According to some historians, I’ll take Juan Cole as an example, it was said that under Sunni rule that Twelver Shiaism became established in Bahrain, as Shia Bahrainis gradually moved away from the radical side of Ismaili Qarmatian sect to the more quietist Twelver or Imami branch, a process which the Sunni rulers encouraged (in order to prevent Partisan Activities) . But even in the 14th century, the North African traveller Ibn Battuta visiting Qatif around 1331, found it inhabited by Arabs whom he described as "extremist Shi`is" (rafidiyya ghulat, which mind you was an insult), which I presume is how a 14th century Sunni would describe Ismailis. Ibn Battuta also noted the great wealth of the area thanks to the pearling industry.
In the 1400s, another branch of Bani Uqyal tribe took control of Bahrain, led by Zamil ibn Jabir, who founded the Jabrid dynasty which promoted Sunni Malikism actively.

A rough sum-up of their events would be ;

“Their most prominent ruler was Ajwad ibn Zamil, who died in 1507. He was described by his contemporaries as having been "of Najdi origin." Ajwad's elder brother had earlier established the dynasty in the early 15th century by deposing and killing the last Jarwanid ruler in Qatif. At their height, the Jabrids controlled the entire Arabian coast on the Persian Gulf, including the islands of Bahrain, and regularly led expeditions into central Arabia and Oman. One contemporary scholar described Ajwad ibn Zamil as "the king of al-Ahsa and Qatif and the leader of the people of Najd." Following his death, his kingdom was divided among some of his descendants, with Migrin ibn Zamil (possibly his grandson) inheriting al-Hasa, Qatif, and Bahrain. Migrin fell in battle in Bahrain in a failed attempt to repel an invasion of Bahrain by the Portuguese in 1521.”
The Jabrid kingdom collapsed soon afterwards on the mainland, after an invasion of al-Hasa by the Muntafiq tribe of Basrah, and later by the Ottoman Turks.

The Portuguese arrive:

It is believed that the First Portuguese traveller to visit Bahrain was Duarte Barbosa in 1485. He was a Portuguese writer and Portuguese India officer between 1500 and 1516–17, with the post of scrivener in Cannanore factory and sometimes interpreter of the local language (malayalam). His "Book of Duarte Barbosa" (Livro de Duarte Barbosa) is one of the earliest examples of Portuguese travel literature, written circa 1516, shortly after the arrival in the Indian Ocean. In 1519 Duarte Barbosa embarked on the first expedition to circumnavigate the world, led by his brother-in-law Ferdinand Magellan, dying in 1521 at the feast of rajah Humabon in Cebu at the Philippines.
The Portuguese Empire

At one point, in 1481, Bahrain was visited by the renowned Arab Cartographer Ahmed Bin Majid, who was best known for helping Vasco De Gama (the Portuguese navigator) reach India from Africa. The Wikipedia article gives a good description of his visit in Bahrain:
He gave a contemporary account of the country that the first Portuguese would have seen: "In Awal (Bahrain) there are 360 villages and sweet water can be found in a number of places. A most wonderful al-Qasasir, where a man can dive into the salt sea with a skin and can fill it with fresh water while he is submerged in the salt water. Around Bahrain are pearl fisheries and a number of islands all of which have pearl fisheries and connected with this trade are 1,000 ships"

After the whole mingling with the Portuguese for some years, it was expected that they would soon forcefully invade Bahrain and take over the island. That happened in 1521 when a Portuguese commander, Antonio Correira, invaded with his army (approved by the King of Portugal at the time) in order to take control of the wealth from the Pearl Industry. This invasion had also resulted in the final demise of Jabrid dynasty (It is said that Correira’s coat of arms features the beheaded head of the last King of the Jabrids, King Murqin). After the invasion, Correira was said to have ruled Bahrain for the next few decades (but overall, Portuguese rule lasted for 80 years).

But, the legacy that the Portuguese left here was the Qal’at al Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) which they’ve built in the Karbabad district of Bahrain, in accordance with the ruling system at the time (A fort rules over an area, etc..). This Fort still stands and, surprisingly, it is now a UNESCO Heritage site!

The Safavid Empire:

The Portuguese were viewed as brutal overseers, so hated that once they had executed the island’s richest traders in 1602. This sparked an uprising against the Portuguese regime. What was interesting at the time was that this coincided with many regional disputes between the Portuguese and other European Powers in the region. During the massive confusion that swept the region, the Persian Ruler Shah Abbas I of the Safavid Empire, invaded the island (generally seen with support from the people) and had absorbed the island into the Safavid Empire.
A portrait of Shah Abbas I (Mid)
Bahrain was controlled under Safavid control from 1602 – 1717 AD. During this time, the Safavids , wary of how the Portuguese were kicked out due to Unpopularity, had tried to control Bahrain, not by force but through ideology. Indeed, the Safavid era of Bahrain was another spiritual renaissance for Bahrain as it had led to the rise of many influential Shia clerics and other Ullema. Indeed, many Shia clerics were brought
to Persia to help convert the populace.

An example of one such cleric would be Yusuf ibn Ahmed al-Bahrani , who was a renown and influential scholar at his time, who had also been said to have adopted the Akhbari school of thought, which was different from the Usuli school of thought that was adopted by the State. Thus, for a brief period, a Shia Schism had emerged where the followers of Al Bahrani were centred in the Western side of Bahrain , around Diraz especially. But the majority who followed the Usuli thought were centered around Bilad al Qadeem, then Capital of Bahrain. Later in his life, he would be the top scholar in the city of Karbala, then a prestigious city where scholars had studied the Islamic studies. A book that al Bahrani had written is available if you'd like to read - An Account of the Life of the Author and the Events That Have Befallen Him, Autobiography of Yūsuf al-Bahrānī (1696–1772) from Lu’lu’at al-Baḥrayn, featured in Interpreting the Self, Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition, Edited by Dwight F. Reynolds, University of California Press Berkeley 2001
Map of the Safavid Empire

However, the Safavids' strategy was in many ways too successful: the power and influence of the religious class meant that they had a great deal of autonomy, and it was the subsequent tension between Safavid state and the clergy that drove Bahrain's theological vitality. Part of this flourishing was borne of the Bahraini clerics' adherence to conservative Akhbari Shiaism, while the Safavids encouraged the more state-centric, Usulism. Attempts by the Persians to reign in the Bahraini ulema were often counterproductive, and ended up strengthening the clerics against their local land-owning Bahraini rivals who challenged the clerics' control over the lucrative pearl trade. While the Portuguese themselves favoured the Sunni over the Shia, the Safavids were said to have favoured the Shia.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A History of Islamic Bahrain and The Qarmatian Republic

The Birth of Islamic Bahrain:

Bahrain had been amongst the first nations to embrace Islam. This was done via the sending of the Prophet Mohammed(PBUH)’s representative Al-Ala'a Al-Hadhrami. Bahrain was thought to have embraced Islam in 629 AD. During the Caliphate of Umar I, the companion of the Prophet , Abu Huraiya  was appointed as the governor of Bahrain.

Local legends here say he came to Bahrain , a man with no proper shoes or sandals, and had left with pearls and items that were fit for a mighty governor (or even king). .

The Al Khamis Mosque, one of the earliest mosques in the region, was built in 692 AD. And (as wikipedia says it) The expansion of Islam did not affect Bahrain's reliance on trade, and its prosperity continued to be dependent on markets in Mesopotamia. After Baghdad emerged as the seat of the caliph in 750 and the main centre of Islamic civilization, Bahrain greatly benefited from the city's increased demand for foreign goods especially from China and South Asia.
Al Khamis Mosque

During the early Islamic period, Bahrain had become a centre for spiritual knowledge and Islamic Scholarships in the Middle Eastern region, attracting would-be Clerics from all reaches of the region including Yemen and Egypt.

Perhaps, the most notable of all Bahraini clerics was Sheikh Maitham Al Bahrani (died in 1299). (The mosque of Sheikh Maitham and his tomb can be visited in the outskirts of the capital, Manama, near the district of Mahooz).

Sheikh Bahrani was a leading Shia Twelver Scholar, the sort that were normally oppressed in other regions (but the Mongols took care of the Abbassids , if I recall correctly ) , he had been known to be an advocate of Rationalism and was widely associated with Philosophy at the time.

He is known to have written widely on such theology related philosophical issues as epistimology and ontology.

But before this Islamic Golden Age of Bahrain had occurred , a very dark and , as one contemporary account describes it, a “Century of Terrorism”. The Rise of the Qarmatians.

The Qarmatian Republic:

To begin with, the Qarmatians were self-proclaimed Ismailis (a Shia branch) from the Khuzestan region (SW) of Persia and from around Kufa. Except, they practically weren’t, They were radicals or thought to be break-away radicals from the Fatamid Dynasty. In the 3rd Hijri Century (899 AD, approx.), they had launched the Qarmatian revolution in the Bahrain region (Which at the time, also included Eastern Arabia).

The leader, Abu Sa'id al-Hasan al-Janaby, tried to make a Utopian society in the region and had reasoned that he planned to build a society based on reason and equality. The state was governed by a council of six with a chief who was a first among equals.

All property within the community was distributed evenly among all initiates. The Qarmatians were organized as an esoteric society but not as a secret one; their activities were public and openly propagated, but new members had to undergo an initiation ceremony involving seven stages. The Qarmatian world view was one where every phenomenon repeated itself in cycles, where every incident was replayed over and over again.

However, the thing that made them so horrible was that they had used Bahrain as a raiding base. True it is, the Qarmatians launced deadly raids on the unsuspecting caravans of Arabia, often being pilgrim caravans. In the year 906 AD, A devastating assault on a caravan was thought to have led to atleast 20,000 casualties. Under the brutal rule of Abu Tahir Al-Jannabi they came close to capturing Baghdad in 923 and sacked Mecca in 930. The sacking of Mecca signified their official breakage from Islam.

Unable to gain entry to the city initially, Abu Tahir called upon the right of all Muslims to enter the city and gave his oath that he came in peace. Once inside, his troops set upon massacring the citizens and pilgrims of Mecca, killing pilgrims and dumping their bodies into the Zam Zam as well as desecrating other holy sites. Tahir even stole the Black Stone, a sacred part of the Kaaba of Mecca, from Mecca and had brought it to Bahrain.

This was a complete embarrassment for the Abbasids , they were the masters of the Islamic Caliphate and their most sacred city had been sacked. On the other hand, The attack on Mecca symbolized the Qarmatians’ break with the Islamic world – it was believed to have been aimed to prompt the appearance of the Mahdi who would bring about the final cycle of the world and end the era of Islam. Tahir had soon set about the burning of all religious texts, Muslims and Christian alike, as well as instituting the worship of fire (He was believed to have secretly been a Zorastarian).

According to historian Al-Juwayni, the Stone was returned twenty-three years later, in 952. The Qarmatians held the Black Stone for ransom, and forced the Abbasids to pay a huge sum for its return.

It was wrapped in a sack and thrown into the Friday Mosque of Kufa, accompanied by a note saying "By command we took it, and by command we have brought it back." Its abduction and removal caused further damage, breaking the stone into seven pieces.

Its abductor, Abu Tahir, is said to have met a terrible fate; according to Qutb al-Din, "the filthy Abu Tahir was afflicted with a gangrenous sore, his flesh was eaten away by worms, and he died a most terrible death." It was believed that he died of Smallpox. The Abbasids later crushed the Qarmatian republic. Soon after, its citizens tried to forget its ways and had adopted the quieter life of Twelver Shia Islam.

And now, the Dark Age of Bahrain has subsided and the Golden Enlightment age has begun!

I'm open to all criticism or feed backs.

A History of Pre-Islamic Bahrain

This essay is about the brilliant and rich history of Bahrain's ancient Past. I have taken the initiative to write these essays and raise awareness about Bahrain's rich historical past. Bahrain is a land that had seen the Assryians, Sumerians, Mesopotamians, Indus Valley(ians?), Achaemenians, Parthians, Sassanids and even the Hellenic Greeks from Alexander the Great's time! Please note this is about Pre-Islamic Bahrain and expect more essays about its history after Islam. I assure you, its richer 


Pre-Islamic Bahrain:
Dilmun: Sumerian’s Paradise:

During the Pre-Islamic era of Bahrain, which is (circa) the beginning of the fourth Millenium BC until the 7th Century AD. Dilmun (Bahrain’s Oldest name) was first mentioned in Sumerian clay tablets around the 4th Millenium BC, in the Sumerian city of Urk (In Mesopotamia). In those records were trade data, dealing with goods and supplies brought from Dilmun. Dilmun was considered a trading hub , as it was strategically located between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. Trade flourished in this time and had lead to prosperous development of the island. Known items that had been exchanged included ; Timber, Dates, Pearl (Called Fish eyes), Ivory, Lapis Lazuli (a precious gem), gold and other minerals. It is also believed that Dilmun was heavily involved in trade with the Magan (Present Day Oman) culture.

Literary references to Meluhhan trade date from the Akkadian, the Third Dynasty of Ur, and Isin-Larsa Periods (c. 2350–1800 BC), but the trade probably started in the Early Dynastic Period (c. 2600 BC). Some Meluhhan vessels may have sailed directly to Mesopotamian ports, but by the Isin-Larsa Period, Dilmun monopolized the trade. The local national Museum here says that this golden age supposedly lasted between Circa 2200-1600 BC.

Dilmun was very much mentioned when it had come to Sumerian Mythology. Dilmun is described in the epic story of Enki and Ninhursag as the site at which the Creation occurred. Ninlil, the Sumerian goddess of air and south wind had her home in Dilmun. It is also featured in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Another story, popular with locals here deals with Gilgamesh , in search of a flower that is said to have granted immortality to those who consume it. This was said to only grow in Dilmun, which was at the time, full of freshwater springs. Anyways, Gilgamesh finally found the flower after searching, day and night, for it. Once he had it(it was submerged in the water), he decided to rest up in the springs. While he was bathing, a snake had emerged and ate the flower.

Persian and Hellenic Control:
From around the 6th Century BC to the 3rd Century BC, Bahrain had been conquered by the Persian Empire, then ruled by the Achaemenians Dynasty. This is during the wave of expansionism that had ensued the region due to Persian dominance in the region at the time.

At the end of the 3rd Century BC, Bahrain had been “discovered” (or captured) by an officer of Alexander the Great. The officer was Nearchus (Νέαρχος, Lived c.360 -300 BC), He was a navarch in Alexander’s army during his expedition to India. Anyways, the Greeks had renamed Dilmun as “Tylos”, believed to relate to the pearls and oysters located there. The Greek admiral Nearchus is believed to have been the first of Alexander's commanders to visit this islands, and he found a verdant land that was part of a wide trading network; he recorded: “That in the island of Tylos, situated in the Persian Gulf, are large plantations of cotton tree, from which are manufactured clothes called sindones, a very different degrees of value, some being costly, others less expensive. The use of these is not confined to India, but extends to Arabia.” The Greek historian, Theophrastus, states that much of the islands were covered in these cotton trees and that Tylos was famous for exporting walking canes engraved with emblems that were customarily carried in Babylon.

It is unclear whether Bahrain had been part of the Seleucid Empire although recent excavations have shown support to this idea. Alexander had planned to settle the eastern shores of the Persian Gulf with Greek colonists, and although it is not clear that this happened on the scale he envisaged, Tylos was very much part of the Hellenised world: the language of the upper classes was Greek (although Aramaic was in everyday use), while Zeus was worshipped in the form of the Arabian sun-god Shams. Tylos even became the site of Greek athletic contests, as some sources say. Ancient Greeks at the time had speculated whether Pheonicians were descended from the inhabitants of Tylos, citing the naming similarity between Tylos and Tyre as a factor, another one is that Pheonicians were known to have maintained their Persian Gulf heritage.

To quote Wikipedia (I had to , at some point  ) - With the waning of Seleucid Greek power, Tylos was incorporated into Characene or Mesenian, the state founded in what today is Kuwait by Hyspaosines in 127BC. A building inscriptions found in Bahrain indicate that Hyspoasines occupied the islands, (and it also mention his wife, Thalassia). From the third century BC to arrival of Islam in the seventh AD, Bahrain was controlled by two other Iranian dynasties of Parthians and Sassanids.
By about 250 BC, Seleucids lost their tritories to Parthians, an Iranian tribe from Central Asia. Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman. Because they needed to control the Persian Gulf trade route, the Parthians established garrisons in the southern coast of Persian Gulf.

Now, this control was thought to have last until the 3rd Century AD , Where the Sassanids overcame the Parthians and had taken over the land. The ruler of the Sassanid Dynasty had moved into the Bahrain region to capture it from the Parthian governor (Wiki says his name was Sanatruq). Later, a guy called Shapur I was appointed as the governor of Bahrain who is said to have contructed vast cities and improved the infrastructure of the island. By this time, Tylos (which is Old Hellenic name given to Bahrain) had been renamed “Mishmahig”, a Middle-Persian word that meant “ewe-fish”, presumably due to the abundance of fish here. However, some Historians believe The name 'ewe-fish' would appear to suggest that the name /Tulos/ is related to Hebrew /ṭāleh/ 'lamb' (Strong's 2924).

Here's a map of the Sassanid Empire at around 600AD :
Click the image to open in full size.During the advent of the 1st Millenium AD, Bahrain, which was pre-dominately Pagan, had developed a Christian community, believed to have followed the Nestorianism Doctrine of Christianity. In fact, a village in Bahrain (called Samaheej) was once the seat of Bishops from all over the Persian Gulf). After Persian Influence had waned on the island, the Island was renamed “Awal” by its Pagan tribes, who were powerful at the time. Awal was believed to be the name of an ox diety. . Awal resembled the head of an ox. As for the meaning of this name, there are awwal 'first, first part, previous'; awwalan 'firstly, at first'; awwalī 'prime, primordial, original'. Awal also means 'the best' in many Indian languages. Similarly the deity Awal of Bahrain appears to be very similar to the deity Nandi of the Hindus. Indus valley civilization also had a deity like an ox. It suggest that there were religious and cultural links between the two cultures.

Awal has been the last name given to Bahrain, prior to the rise of Islam in the region. Afterwards, it had been known as Bahrain for 1400 years to come.

A picture of Awal:
Click the image to open in full size.

I'd like to thank you for reading this and I'm open to all questions or criticisms (I know I did put some Wiki things )

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Review - Rome:Total War, A Game For the Ages.

I figured that it would be a good idea to write about a game (maybe once a week or something) so lets get started. I've already made one before, back in August about Hearts of Iron II .

Caesar is angry because he realized he was bald.
Rome:Total War

So, a basic summary of this game would be;
  • Its a somewhat historical game, based in the early Roman Republic era (230BC onwards)
  • Its a strategic real time and also a turn-based game.
  • The game offers almost realistic battles from various factions ranging from the mighty Chariots of the Ptolemy Pharaohs of Egypt to the mighty phalanxes of Greece.

Technical Stuff :
The game is basically playable on all types of computers, so you do not have to worry about graphics and all (though it would be best if you had good ones). The game is atleast 2 GB large but trust me , it is worth the space.

The Strategic Overview:
You are the controller of your respective faction, and your goal is ,basically put, to conquer Rome and 50 provinces. It might seem difficult but actually, its a pretty fun experience if you're the patient kind.

Ok, right here we see the general overview of the map. The faction is Egypt, it controls basically the Middle Eastern part of the map as well as North Africa.

But what is universal is that, to be successful in this game, you have to please your populace. You control your own settlements in the beginning of the campaign and can upgrade it as the game progresses and the population of the settlement increases.

You can train soldiers (you NEED them) at these settlements too and depending on the quality of the barracks at your settlement, the quality of your soldiers increase. You can upgrade your barracks as the population of your settlement increases. Also, you have a wide range of choices to choose from, from infantry and archers to cavalry. Almost all factions have these. Each faction have their own special units and buildings (such as worship buildings) and their ups and downs.

The Greek Phalanx holds off the Roman Advance.
The Battle Interface is one of the most realistic types you'd ever see in a game (beside other Total War games). 
The image , to the left, shows you the general style of battle. Units look as realistic as possible, albeit for some bugs but the battles often are life-like. Friendly fire exists here, so expect some losses if you accidently threw a rock from a catapult at your own men. Movement of troops is generally easy and organized (depending on your faction).
In Battle, each side usually has a special unit called the General. Usually on horseback, he has his own heavy cavalry that usually deals a heavy blow to the enemy as well as inspiring fleeing troops.
Speaking of them, the game introduces a system of routing. That is, if your army is getting crushed by a very powerful enemy, they won't sit around for the onslaught (unless they are that brave) and would flee from the battlefield.
 The various unit types in this game includes catapults, siege towers, archers, exploding pigs (I know, its awkward!) and Elephants!
Behold the mighty elephant!
The game also has a siege assault feature. Which means, you can attack the enemy's settlement (either a village, fort, town or city) with your armies (and don't forget your siege equipment). You can do this if you got the skills for it or you could play it safe and lay siege to it. This means, you don't attack them but just wait outside. After a number of turns (usually 3 or 4), the enemy army approaches you and fights. Should you win, you'll be successful and the settlement will be yours.
Also, in the game is a system of families. Which means, you can have lots of new generals via sons of your own generals or adopted generals or even married ones. Each general has three stats- Command, Influence and Management.
  • Command is needed for Controling your armies. The better your command, the better the General is at fighting.
  • Management is needed for managing your settlements. If your settlement doesn't have a governor in it, you'll probably face a revolt. Hence, a general with good Management skills should be placed here.
  • Influence is needed for diplomatic skills.
The Game also includes assassins and Diplomats and the sort.
This picture shows the starting points of most of the factions in the game. Each colour represents a certain faction.

Factions like Roman Families, Carthage, Egypt, Parthia , Gauls, Germania, Britons and many more are included!

So What are you waiting for ? Get this game!!!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Just an Essay about Dilmun AKA Bahrain- The Lost Sumerian Paradise

I've written this essay a while back and thought it would be fun to share it with you guys:

Dilmun: The Lost Sumerian Paradise:

 The former name of Bahrain, believed to have housed a civilization thousands of years ago in the BC era of Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley's trade prosperity. Dilmun was often viewed as a supply stop by traders and sea merchants when crisscrossing between the two powers. In this article, we shall examine the History of this ancient and truly, the Lost Paradise of Dilmun.
This map shows the old trade routes.

One of the most significant and impressive civilization of the ancients were that of the ancient Indus Civilization which had flourished from about 2500 to 1500 BC. It is thought to have covered the vast territory of present day Pakistan/Iran's Baluchistan region as well as land in the foot of the Himalayas.

Dilmun, however had appeared in historical text, via clay tablets uncovered by Archaeologists, the clay tablets were written in Sumerian Language and were found near the city of Uruk.The contents were simply a list of goods that had earlier been transferred to or from Dilmun to Mesopotamia.It had been believed that Dilmun was a supply base for Copper, however archaeologists concluded that there wouldn't have been much in Dilmun at the time. Also, it shows that Dilmun was a large exporter of Dates, Timber (it had been called "Land of a Million Date Palms) and "Fish Eyes"(Believed to be the old name for Pearls).

The Island was extensively inhabited during the late half of the Third Millennium BC.Tablets shown had proved that Dilmun had been more prosperous and had richer trade links to Mesopotamia than Magan (Present Day Oman).[1]

The Library of Congress states:
Archaeological evidence suggests that Dilmun returned to prosperity after the Assyrian Empire stabilized the Tigris-Euphrates area at the end of the second millennium B.C. A powerful ruler in Mesopotamia meant a prosperous gulf, and Ashurbanipal, the Assyrian king who ruled in the seventh century B.C., was particularly strong. He extended Assyrian influence as far as Egypt and controlled an empire that stretched from North Africa to the Persian Gulf. The Egyptians, however, regained control of their country about a half-century after they lost it. A series of other conquests of varying lengths followed. In 325 B.C., Alexander the Great sent a fleet from India to follow the eastern, or Persian, coast of the gulf up to the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and sent other ships to explore the Arab side of the waterway. The temporary Greek presence in the area increased Western interest in the gulf during the next two centuries. Alexander's successors, however, did not control the area long enough to make the gulf a part of the Greek world. By about 250 B.C., the Greeks lost all territory east of Syria to the Parthians, a Persian dynasty in the East. The Parthians brought the gulf under Persian control and extended their influence as far as Oman.
The Parthian conquests demarcated the distinction between the Greek world of the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Empire in the East. The Greeks, and the Romans after them, depended on the Red Sea route, whereas the Parthians depended on the Persian Gulf route. Because they needed to keep the merchants who plied those routes under their control, the Parthians established garrisons as far south as Oman. In the third century A.D., the Sassanians, another Persian dynasty, succeeded the Parthians and held the area until the rise of Islam four centuries later. Under Sassanian rule, Persian control over the gulf reached its height. Oman was no longer a threat, and the Sassanians were strong enough to establish agricultural colonies and to engage some of the nomadic tribes in the interior as a border guard to protect their western flank from the Romans.
This agricultural and military contact gave people in the gulf greater exposure to Persian culture, as reflected in certain irrigation techniques still used in Oman. The gulf continued to be a crossroads, however, and its people learned about Persian beliefs, such as Zoroastrianism, as well as about Semitic and Mediterranean ideas.
Judaism and Christianity arrived in the gulf from a number of directions: from Jewish and Christian tribes in the Arabian desert; from Ethiopian Christians to the south; and from Mesopotamia, where Jewish and Christian communities flourished under Sassanian rule. Whereas Zoroastrianism seems to have been confined to Persian colonists, Christianity and Judaism were adopted by some Arabs. The popularity of these religions paled, however, when compared with the enthusiasm with which the Arabs greeted Islam.

I hope you've enjoyed this. 

Monday, 9 May 2011

World War 2 - ON FACEBOOK!!!

 Yes, this is quite a global phenomenon. Its basically a picture that describes the events of WW2 but in a funny way. I hope you enjoy it while I go get some rest for the night.
P.S.- You might want to click and zoom in on it :)

World War 2 on Facebook- Epic
I myself like the Germany part the most.
Its so hilarious.
People should make more of these, thats
what I think.

History - Unheard of

First off, sincere apologies for the whole delay after the new year, I had completely forgotten about this blog until a colleague of mine reminded me of it.

Anyways, at School, often a times I get frustrated. Not because of some lousy test (that does occasionally happen) or a rude teacher or anything but because of this ; Ignorance. I see a guy from class and I asked him whether he had ever heard of the Ottoman Empire before. He replied no. I then asked him if he had known anything about the Safavids, he replied no. I asked him what did he know ? He replied," Bahrain was once British!".

Smart man...

But really, I must say that it is either that this person genuinely does not know about them (this proved false after I've 'questioned' other students) or is messing with me. I was in total shock. At school, we're taught of the Royal Family of Britain, the House of Windsor, the House of Tudors and all that. We've been taught about Union Jack and of Winston Churchill, of Bonny Prince Charles and the New Model Army. But never had I seen nor experienced a lecture about the history of the Middle East. Nothing about Arabia, nothing about the Mongols ever invading the Middle East (in fact, my teacher denied it!) nor anything about the Ottomans! (Refer to the previous paragraph)

How can we really have a generation that had forgotten its heritage ? I'm not saying I'm against them learning about the Brits, but really, Regional History first!

Oh God, I'm not going to tell you guys the story of the time when someone asked me what was the significance of the Nile.

H1N1 Swine Flu in Bahrain - A Case Study

Colourised electron microscope photograph of the H1N1 virus (CDC) As the world turns its eyes towards China and the seemingly escalatin...