It's a good day to be a supporter of a team in Red. Arsenal have won the premiership, AC Milan the Serie A, Liverpool qualified for the Champions League (thank god), but most importantly, Muharraq won the Bahraini Premiership league.
Ahhh... It's good to see some things never change in Bahrain. We can be become a kingdom, we can have a parliament, we can turn a huge chunk of desert into a race track, but Muharraq will remain the best and most recognized football team in Bahrain. As the (in)famous Singaimeh put it, you could go to the depths of the Congolese Jungles, and they'd know about Muharraq and Hmood Sultan. I'm sorely going to miss standing in the Casino, watching people in cars trying to get as close to death as possible without commiting suicide, with the added risk of the police deciding to throw a tear-gas bomb. Most importantly, however, I'm going to miss taking the piss out of sore West Riffa fans. Ahh, the joys of Muharraq winning the league.
Here's to you Muharraq, congratulations!
Speaking of Muharraq, one of the (very) few reasons I like the city I'm in right now (hint: "the city of dreaming spires" or "the most English of all cities") is that it reminds me of my hometown. It has ancient and historic buildings, narrow and winding allies, and a history you can write volumes about.
This, I think, is what distinguishes Muharraq from most of the other areas in Bahrain. A'ali, Isa Town, and Saar may have nice, grand houses, with wide and paved highways, but to me the area seems bland and soulless. Everything has been built in the last 30 years, and there is no uniqueness whatsoever. The houses are like Henry Ford's T-models of houses, where you can have any house you like, as long as it looks the same. The design of these areas as well look like lego games: square neighbourhoods, with square houses in them, with square Air-conditioners sticking out of them, and a huge highway cutting through.
You can immediately see, though, that Muharraq has character. Each house looks distinct from the other house, and in each fereej (alley) you can find a senile old man who'll blabber on about its history for ages. It is one of the few places in Bahrain where you can still find remnants of traditional Bahraini architecture. Unlike other places in Bahrain, Muharraq does not look like it was built by a kid playing lego, but has undergone what the English like to call, organic growth, just like London. The character of the city developed over centuries of construction, intermingling, and events.
Sadly, however, I am also utterly daydreaming. In the city i'm in now, although everything has a traditional feeling to it, everything is well kept after. Any building with any historic significance, even if it is not a landmark, is preserved by law. People fight tooth and nail before anything is knocked down. Admittedly they do take to the extreme. I used to live in a very average house, but apparently one of the walls (just one!) was listed, so you could change everything in the house except the wall!! This great effort reflects on the way the city looks. Historic but shining, ancient but new.
Muharraq on the other hand, instead of being historic but shining, ancient but new, looks like historic but slowly falling apart, ancient but abandoned. Old houses that you could once tell had magnificently decorated doors and windmills look now delapetated and falling apart. They are usually abandoned, with hungry alley cuts and young men doing drugs and alcohol sitting in them. The streets, instead of being nicely paved (maybe cobbled?) look dirty and unsafe. The houses that are built again, instead of being restored to look as they did before, are knocked down and a bland, soulless house is built on the spot which looks like every other house in bahrain. Slowly, Muharraq, like the rest of Bahrain, is turning into one big soulless, indistinguishable, Suburbia.
the beautifully preserved buildings
There has been a lot of talk recently about Bahrain wanting to move to "clean" and "family" tourism. Well, doesn't restoring these houses to their old glory seem like one of the best ways to do this? Tourists, when they come to a country, don't want only flashy malls and McDonalds. They want a place with a bit of character, a bit of history. Restoring these houses to be living monuments would be a great way to achieve this. From the outside they'd have a traditional design, but from the inside they would be like any other modern house, with people living in them. Just witness how London, Paris, Venice, or Budapest have applied this. It could revitalize the whole area, with tourists coming in to wander through the alleys of Muharraq.
Hopefully, the time is not too late, and Muharraq, just like its football team, can be still restored to its old glory.