Sheikha Mai Saves Bahrain's Architectural Heritage

bahrain-muharraqAfter her grandfather’s house was demolished, Sheikha Mai committed to preserving Bahrain’s venerable places Image by dunsky via flickr

Though most of our architectural news depicts ongoing developments (like in Bahrain), the BBC series giving prominence to “heritage heroes” preserving more venerable developments, marinated in history, has steered our green news reel in a different direction. 

We are especially proud to brag about the shepherds fielding one-third of all UNESCO’s world heritage sites in the Middle East.  Sheikha Mai was the first such shepherdess to shine in the BBC’s spotlight. 

Also Bahrain’s first female Minister of Culture, Sheikha Mai became interested in Bahrain’s historic settlements when her grandfather’s home was demolished. She told Time Out Bahrain that her grandfather, Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa was a central cultural personality in Bahrain during the early 1900s, so she founded the Shaikh Ebrahim Centre as a tribute to his legacy. The center is also the platform from which she launched her initial architectural preservation programs.

mosque-muharraq-bahrainAmong the projects on Bahrain’s defensive radar are traditional houses in Muharraq, the former capital, a Pearl Heritage Trail also in Muharraq, and the famous burial mounds that are unique to Bahrain.

In addition to her efforts to preserve it, Sheikha Mai has miraculously found the time to publish 10 books about Bahrain’s heritage. UNESCO was so impressed by this progress that they chose the smallest Arab state to host the World Heritage Regional Centre for Arab countries.

Sheikha Mai’s work should not overshadow that of the Middle East’s proceeding heroes: Be sure to visit the BBC’s Heritage Heroes Website to learn more about programs featuring the following sites:  Beirut, 26th and 27th of June, Saudi Arabia 10th, and 11th of July, Morocco 17th and 18th of July, and Turkey on the 24th and 25th of July. 

Also stay tuned for a discussion among a panel of urban experts who met in Riyadh to unwrap the numerous challenges facing a heritage preservationist.  They are numerous, the challenges, so we salute the people who stand up against them.

[image by Hussain Shafei via flickr]

More green news from Bahrain:
Dumping by Construction Crews Killing Bahrain Coral
Durrat Al Bahrain Artificial Islands – “A Place Like No Other”
Made-At-Home Cottage Industry Booming in Island Kingdom of Bahrain

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