Bahrain launches plans for iconic area revival

June 27, 2012

An old bank building in central Manama is to be turned into a museum under an initiative launched by the minister of culture.

Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammad Al Khalifa has already taken steps to transform the HSBC building near Bab Al Bahrain, the iconic white gate to the old Manama market, into a museum of fine art that will house pieces by Arab artists from Bahrain and the region.

The move is part of plans to reinvigorate areas that have profound and rich heritage and cultural significance and connotations, the minister, one of three women with portfolios in the government, said.

It will also bring back people who have been lured away from central Manama by new shopping malls in the suburbs of the capital, as they will have new reasons to return to Bab Al Bahrain, the 1949 gate, and the Souq area with the re-vitalisation of tourism and cultural activities.

Under the initiative, the old post office across from the Gate will also be turned into a museum that will showcase rare postal items.

Shaikha Mai has secured the full support of Patrick Gallagher, CEO of HSBC Bank, on the issue and Bernard Khoury, the US-educated Lebanese architect will design the museum. In 2001, he won the Borromini Prize offered by the municipality of Rome to architects under 40.

Shaikha Mai has reinforced her interest in culture and heritage by restoring several old houses, turning them into museums that highlighted Bahrain’s history.

The Shaikh Ebrahim Centre, the best-known private cultural premise in Muharraq, has hosted several concerts, lectures and cultural events that often brought together Bahrainis, foreigners and diplomats.

However, Shaikha Mai had had several standoffs with conservatives in Muharraq over the merit of the centre after they claimed that its activities clashed with the religious mindset prevailing in the area and which opposed concerts and the mingling of men and women.

The annual Spring of Culture festival in March was used by both parties to reinforce their argument.

Shaikha Mai also waded into controversy with the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament when she refused the request of conservative lawmakers to cancel the Spring of Culture or the Manama Capital of Arab Culture activities over the events in Syria.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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