A 15th century Islamic fort stands well preserved off the coast of Bahrain, a testament to its sturdy construction (and reconstruction).
A short five minute drive from the sleek modernity of Bahrain’s International Airport sits one of the oldest archaeological sites on the island. Arad Fort is not as large or as celebrated as its nearby sibling the Bahrain Fort, but it is this reason that Arad is worth a trip, as a visitor will often find themselves the only person there inside the fort, allowing one to absorb the history uninterrupted.
Built in the 15th century using traditional Islamic building techniques (palm trees, the abundance of coral limestone found on the beaches), Arad Fort was constructed on a strategically important waterway linking the small island with the rest of Bahrain, and to aid in keeping invading marauders out. Bahrain was at one time the seat of power and trading in the ancient Arabian Gulf, the heart of what was then known as the Dilmun, or Telmun civilization, linking Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley together through trade. But following the rise of Islam, the island was fought over and controlled by a number of different civilizations. Fort Arad was built by the Bedouin dynasty known as the Jabrids to help fortify the island after they took control in the mid-1400’s.
Alas, the fortress did not live up to its purpose as the Portuguese handily invaded and seized Bahrain in 1521, killing the Jabrid’s ruler in the process, and controlling the much coveted island for nearly a century until they were defeated by Persia. Over the next few centuries Arad Fort became an area of much fighting in Bahrain, usually whenever the island was attacked by marauders or changed hands through use of force. It was not until 1820, that the Al Khalifa family were installed as the royal monarchy by Britain, and still make up much of the current government of modern day Bahrain.
In 1980 the fort was restored with the same materials used during its original construction. There are really no restrictions on where you can go or what you can touch, making the fort a fun place to hop around and a great interactive experience, especially for a family with energetic little minions. Comfortable shoes are a must if one wants to climb about on the ramparts.
Know Before You Go
Located in Muharraq, just South of Bahrain International Airport