10.26.2013

having a look-see at the Bahrain National Museum

During Eid I spent some time on the island and decided that it's time to delve into Bahrain's past.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the National Museum a treasure chest of a unique historical legacy here in the Middle East. Just by looking at the size of Bahrain, one doesn't immediately see the importance it had/has in the region.  Such a small little island nation that holds such a huge legacy from the past. 

Small island, small museum, large treasure chest. Walking through the displays, I was left with an intense desire to delve deeper into Bahrain's past heritage.  The present is so in-your-face in terms of cutting edge architecture downtown, a large expat presence, glitzy shopping centers to whittle away time, and small (or large) fortunes while trying to keep cool during the intense summer months where air conditioning turns from necessity to life-saving staple. I see all that and, impressive as it is on some scale, doesn't do much for me.  I want to unfold Bahrain's past. I want to dig deep.  I want to be let in.  I want to understand what happened.

What happened?  I know this much to start: Dilmun happened.  Dilmun (the ancient name for Bahrain going back to 2500 BC) was important mainly as a trade center-obviously enough by its positioning as an island in the Arabian Sea. It is said that it did not engage in war.  To me, this means that there would have been a prolific engagement in the arts by its denizens.

The most significant artifacts unearthed are these Dilmun Seals.  They tend to depict ordinary life events in Dilmun. Were the seals units of monetary exchange? Were they made solely for the sake of art? Were they a sort of talisman?

There is reference to Dilmun being the Garden of Eden.  There is reference to Dilmun being where Gilgamesh came to in search for immortality (only to be tricked in the end). Dilmun is referenced as being the home of Utnapishtim- the man that God saved from 'The Flood'.  All this, of course, is based on loose interpretations, but who cares really.  This is interesting shit. Dilmun was special to the Sumerians and to 'Enki' in particular (the god of sweet water).

I'll write more about this as I find out more about this myself.  I'm not too comfortable writing this solely based on initial research of mine. As well, I'm not sure how to reference references...

At any rate, Dilmun was full of burial mounds- mostly in the central and some in the northern areas of the main island. Along with these mounds are the seals- that have been found in other locations of Mesopotamia as well. They serve as the main evidence for trade routes between Mesopotamia and as far away places as the Indus/Harapa civilization.

I promise I will get more information to you all about this soon.  For now, you will have to make do with these pictures I took of the museum. Most are of the exterior because it is just so modern and fits the landscape.  Very inspiring indeed.  Hope you enjoy!



The entire 1st floor flooring is a map of Bahrain.  It is really cool and interactive as well.  You can look at the display cases to see the relief maps and press buttons, and colored tape on the floor lights up to that part of the map on the floor, and leads to the walls, which have more information about the specific places.  I spent a lot of time looking at the ground at the museum.  I didn't notice a lot of other people doing this... I must have looked like a burned-out hippie chick looking for something on the floor that I dropped... heh heh



There was a display on loan from Russia. These were all traditional fabrics and costumes.  They were amazing.