Bahrain Fort - History and Facts | History Hit

Bahrain Fort

Manama, Capital Governorate, Bahrain

The Bahrain Fort or Qal'at al Bahrain is an ancient tell and a former Portuguese military fortification on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Antara Bate

17 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Bahrain Fort

The Bahrain Fort, also known as Qal’at al Bahrain, is an ancient tell and a former Portuguese military fortification in Manama, Bahrain.

Excavation of the Bahrain Fort site has revealed that it is an artificial mound made up of layers created by successive occupation dating back as far as 2300 BC. This type of mound is known as a “tell”.

Bahrain Fort history

Whilst only around a quarter of Qal’at al Bahrain has been uncovered, the excavations revealed streets, residential structures and monuments from 2300 BC surrounded by a protective wall, a further fortification dated 1450 BC, a temple from the Iron Age together with sanitation systems and lavish residences and several sarcophagi. The Bahrain Fort site has been occupied continuously from 2300 BC to the 18th century.

The fort was the capital of the important Dilmun civilisation mentioned in the 4th century BC Sumerian cuneiform clay tablets. It provides an outstanding example of the might of Dilmun, and its successors during the Tylos and Islamic periods, as expressed by their control of trade through the Persian Gulf. These qualities are manifested in the monumental and defensive architecture of the site, the well preserved urban fabric and the significant finds made by archaeologists excavating the tell. The sea tower, probably an ancient lighthouse, is unique in the region as an example of ancient maritime architecture and the adjacent sea channel demonstrates the tremendous importance of this city in maritime trade routes throughout antiquity.

Qal’at al Bahrain or Bahrain Fort is probably most well known and is named after, the Portuguese fort found in the northern part of the site. This fort has a history dating back to the early 16th century, but it was in 1561, under Portuguese rule, that it became an important military installation protecting trade routes from Africa, India and Europe and gained its currently identifiable shape.

Sources from 17th century imply that Bahrain fort was actually ineffective as a military stronghold as it was inaccessible by sea, a factor believed to be central to its abandonment.

The site was only rediscovered in 1954. Restoration began in 1987.

Bahrain Fort today

The Bahrain Fort is incredibly well preserved, allowing visitors to appreciate its history and former structures and also gaining it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list.

The fort is supported by a stylish, modern visitor centre and a museum. Opened in February 2008, the Bahrain Fort Site Museum seeks to maintain the ancient historic features of the site, as well as document the archaeological periods by preserving the artefacts discovered at the site. The museum’s collection showcases five different historical periods which are arranged chronologically, each within its own separate gallery.

Getting to Bahrain Fort

Bahrain fort is located just 4 km away from Manama, the capital of Bahrain, which is approximately 10 minutes drive.