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Bahrain: Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali

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Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali | Bahrain | Asia

[Visited: April 2001, August 2013]

In the maze of narrow streets and alleys on Muharraq Island, at the far end of a rectangular square, stands Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali. Built around 1800 and one of the oldest houses of Bahrain, it clearly stands out amidst the surrounding modern apartment blocks. From the outside, it appears like a fortress; a sturdy construction with white-washed walls without windows or doors. On both sides, cars were passing on an asphalted road. We walked around the structure, past the Sheikh Isa bin Ali Mosque, to arrive on the backside of the house, where we found the entrance. A warm afternoon light was falling on the walls, and entered through the richly decorated doorway.

Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Room on the second floor

A friendly man in what seemed like military clothes waved us through, saying the ticket seller was not in. We soon found ourselves on a quiet courtyard. The most remarkable feature was the wind tower. We wanted to take advantage of the light, and climbed to the second floor. Here, you can walk on the roof, and visit the various rooms that have been built on top of the ground floor. Around us, we noticed a multitude of satellite dishes on top of the buildings surrounding the historic house. On the east side of the building, on the side of the Grand Mosque, are the guest quarters. Here, you can find a room with stained glass windows, and fine wooden doors. The sun shone right through the room, giving it a serene appearance. We walked to the central part of the house, where another, bigger room can be found on top of the family quarters.

Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Exterior view of Bait Sheikh Isa Bin

This is an altogether different room; there is a hallway, where you can appreciate the finely decorated wall and doors. Here, no stained glass, but rather carved wood and gypsum that make the room stand out. We walked around the wind tower, the ancient way of providing fresh air throughout the building. A square structure, it is open on all sides, with walls inside funneling the wind down. Once on the ground floor again, we noticed big wooden shutters that could be opened or closed according to the season, to let the air in in summer, or prevent cold air from entering in winter. And indeed, when we stood under the tower, we felt a welcome breeze cooling down our skin. We walked around the sheikh quarters, the family and visitor quarters, each with a courtyard and separate well. In some places, we saw old black and white pictures depicting the history of the house, big enough to be a small fortress. When we left the historic building of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali, the sun was just down, and we were surrounded by the call to prayer.

Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Wind tower on the courtyard of the family quarters
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Light falling into a room on the second floor through stained glass windows
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Covered passage between the Sheikh quarter and the family quarter
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Decorated wooden door in the house
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Detail of wooden doors
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Close-up of a wooden door
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): One flight of stairs in the house
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Afternoon sun on the wall of the traditional Bahraini house
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Looking up into a wind tower
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): The decorated doorway of the entrance door
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Coloured stained glass window in a room on the second floor
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): View of room on the second floor
Picture of Bait Sheikh Isa bin Ali (Bahrain): Wooden painted beams decorate the ceiling of many rooms of the house

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