The Watch

Suq Al-Qaysariya

Muharraq, Bahrain

2010 World Monuments Watch

The traditional markets of Suq al-Qaysariya have been an intrinsic element of the urban fabric of Muharraq, Bahrain’s second largest city, for the past 200 years. The market, just steps away from the seashore, was an integral part of Muharraq’s historic pearl industry. With the Japanese innovation of cultured pearls in the 1930s, the suq lost its primary significance for trading and boat building and slowly declined. Suq al-Qaysariya is subdivided into several smaller markets catering to specialized goods, such as spices, incense, household items, local sweets, and clothing, and is one of the few surviving traditional markets that were once widespread in the Gulf region. The original shops that remain have preserved the décor and the local architectural features of wooden beams, gutters, and impressive ceiling works. However, neglect and development pressures have already resulted in loss and deterioration throughout the suq. A proposal has been put forward to demolish what remains of the original market in order to build an upscale shopping mall, which would disrupt and fracture the current users and traditional ambiance of the market. The Ministry of Culture, the local community, and the merchants oppose the wholesale destruction, seeking partial protection for a small part of the original suq.

Since the Watch

Following the 2010 Watch, the Ministry of Culture of the Kingdom of Bahrain succeeded in preventing the demolition of the historic market. Led by the Ministry, stakeholders in Muharraq agreed to a plan for the restoration and modernization of Suq al-Qaysariya. A pilot project to restore and preserve the use of six traditional shops, as well as improve the surrounding infrastructure, took place between December 2010 and January 2012. A seminar on the vision for the area was organized in November 2013. Meanwhile, an ensemble of sites in Muharraq, as well as offshore oyster beds, all associated with the cultural tradition of pearling, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2012. The ensemble includes sections of Suq al-Qaysariya. March 2015

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