Saturday 17 June 2017

Bilad al Qadeem in 1908 - A Brief History Of A Bahraini Village

The Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia (abbreviated Lorimer, after its author) is one of the more remarkable by-products of British colonial intelligence-gathering. I've already spoken about it in great detail in prior posts but would like to re-emphasise the importance to historians (and amateur history geeks) that this document presents. It showcases a Domesday book (much like that of the Normans) written from a colonial British point of view of much of the Arabian peninsula, highlighting histories (finished in 1915) and major/minor geographical settlements  (finished in 1908) from the then-large towns of Manama and Muharraq to small hamlets spread across the plains of Arabia.

As you can imagine, I will delve into a series of posts about the entries of Bahrain's villages in the Gazetteer to appreciate an idea or snapshot of what the Bahrain of 1908 really looked like back then & in turn help understand the history of Bahrain. I will start with Bilad al Qadeem because it's literally the oldest and I feel that maybe we owe it that much.

Bilad al Qadeem
A large scattered village on Bahrain Island about 1.5 miles southwest of Manama fort. It consists of 350 mud & red huts, along with the ruins of many well-built houses. 
There is a south-western suburb called Bilad-al-Rafi (بلاد الرفيع) and the ground on the northwest side of the village, called Suq-al-Khamis (سوق الخميس), is the scene of a largely attended market which is held every Thursday throughout the year. 
About half a mile west of the existing habitations are the ruins of the Madrasah Abu Zeidan (مدرسة ابو زيدان) mosque*, with two slender and not inelegant minarets, 70 feet high, still standing; in combination with Jebel Dukhan, these minarets form the leading mark for vessels entering Manamah harbour. 
The Khamis Mosque (likely the Abu Zeidan too)
In the midst of the ruined part of the village is the Abu Zaidan spring, over which is built a modern Shia'h mosque, its beautifully clear waters fill a tank to which all the notabilities of Bahrain resort for hot bathing in the hot weather. 
The people of Bilad-al-Qadim are Baharnah who gain a livelihood as pearl merchants, cultivators and tailors. Livestock include 21 donkeys and 7 cattle. Date palms are estimated at 11,500 trees, and there are some figs, almonds and pomegranates. The rose and jessamine grow. 
*The Abu Zeidan mosque is very likely referring to the Khamis Mosque.

If you would like to read more about the history of Bilad al Qadeem (which is now a suburb of Manama, the capital city of Bahrain), the Wikipedia page is a great place to start.

This sketch map of Bahrain in 1936 shows the 'minarets' (centre), believed to stand for the minarets of the Abu Zeidan mosque of Bilad al Qadeem, which guided naval vessels to Manama port (QDL)

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