In Preparation for HRH Visit to Muharraq,
H.E Minister of Culture Inspects first phase of Suq Al-Qaysaria restoration Project
In preparation for HRH, Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Kahlifa, Premier Minister, visit’s to Muharraq, H.E Minister of Culture, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammad Al-Khalifa made an inspection visit to Suq Al-Qaysaria in old town of Muharraq to check the latest restoration and rehabilitation works planned for this pioneer project. Al-Qaysraia conservation project of historic urban areas involves the restoration of 14 shops and historical monuments, most of them on the UNESCO World Heritage List, side by side with cultural, social and economic development of the inhabitants along with the promotion and enhancement of the commercial and handicraft businesses. This task is carried out within the framework of a master plan taking into consideration the direct setting as well as the overall environment of historic Muharraq city due to the involved impacts on the area where the efforts of rehabilitation and enhancement are being carried out. Therefore, the public participation through the Municipal Council is a cornerstone in the process of rehabilitation of historic areas or traditional world-renowned towns and suqs. The project works started in December 2010 with the restoration and rehabilitation of historical shops and traditional commerce utilities, which had been neglected and closed in order to revive their forgotten traditional commercial activities. The idea behind this project, is partly to bring life back to this shops and activities, and also to preserve the architectural fabric and historical heritage, including the artifacts discovered beneath the earth surface, such as the historical walls or the date’s traditional factories and ovens (Madbassa), discovered by the Ministry’s archaeological expeditions. Therefore, the special historical character of this area requires a specific architecture studies that take into account the historical and archaeological remains, which must not be damaged or distorted. The aim of the project and conservation efforts of Suq Al Qayraria compound is to repair all damage, while at the same time preserving the building from the future hazards of decay and destruction; to restore its historic design as far as possible; and to keep to a minimum all the changes and additions which were necessary for the building's new function as a traditional coffee shop, public WC or a pearl trail facilities. The new facilities will bring life back ton these places, long seen as the heart of Suq Al Qaysaria and constitute a solid foundation for a new tourist attraction, given the UNESCO nomination sites in the old city and the region as a whole. The Ministry has deployed considerable efforts to maintain the status quo regarding the owners of these shops at the Suq. In fact, the names of these shops were historically associated with the merchants’ families, who registered these commerce facilities and have become a heritage to be preserved as part of the memory of the place. Famous Bahraini families, such as Abdulwahab Al-Khalifa, Siyadi and Fakhro families have contributed largely to the economy and the history of the region as a whole. The Ministry of Culture has contacted all the owners of these shops and the landowners who have exclusive property rights over the space near the planed project in order to reach an agreement concerning the restoration and rehabilitation activities undergone by the Ministry. Once, these works are carried out, the owners of these shops can re-open and exploit their commerce facilities again, providing that they preserve the historical aspect while trading and that they carry out the required future maintenance and restoration works, without changing the historical character of the area. The Ministry of Culture preserves an exclusive right to monitor and determine the type of commercial activity and to follow-up future maintenance works. It is worth mentioning that during the restoration and excavation works, many dates' factories and oven (Madbassa) were discovered in the neighboring empty space near the project. Thus, the designs were remodeled to take into account the new historical findings, try to exhibit some of these madbassa to the passer-bys in order to remind them of their modern historic existence. A documentary movie will be screened continuously in the planned coffee shop, reminding the Suq's customers of its history and to clarify the different development phases of the project. Al Aali Architecture, in cooperation with the technical office of the Ministry of Culture, managed the project design, while Europe Contractors Company executed the maintenance and restoration, in coordination of course, with the Ministry restoration team supervision. Interior design was done by Habib & Associates company with an overall cost of almost 150.000 BD. The technical committee presided by Dr. Abdullah Al-Sulaiti, Salman Al-Mahari, Abdulkarim Al-Aridhi, Marwa Nabeel, Ahmad Al-Jishi, Fatima al-Saad, Rachid Moutawa, architect Ghassan al-Shimali and Dr. Alaa al-Habashi monitored and managed the maintenance works.