HomeArchiveLIVE! The 2017 WAHO Conference - Bahrain

LIVE! The 2017 WAHO Conference – Bahrain

LIVE! The 2017 WAHO Conference - Bahrain

February 2017 sees the running of the WAHO Conference in Bahrain. Check back daily to The Arabian Magazine for live news and reporting from this prestigious event that sees people arrive from around the world to celebrate the horses and the culture of one region, as well as attending to the important business of WAHO – the World Arabian Horse Organization.

Our numbers here in Bahrain are dwindling; at the Swiss-Bel, the breakfast room has been full of international guests, all here because of the Arabian horse. Today, there were just a handful of us, and the majority of people have already headed either on to Kuwait or Scottsdale, or home.

We leave on the 1.50am flight tomorrow morning – one that was delayed for six hours last night, and we are hoping that the same doesn’t happen tonight! This time tomorrow, we will be on our way home to Norfolk to see our own horses, get the cats back home from the cattery, and to do the washing. There is nothing mundane about that sentance – although some may read it thus. Instead, that day will give us all a chance to reflect on the past two weeks – time that has been nothing short of incredible.

This was my very first WAHO Conference, and I almost immediately understood why so many delegates continue to go to the Conferences around the world. The obvious reason is that it gives you a chance to see the world and experiences not only horses in different regions, but also the varied cultures around the world as well. Then there is the educational side – the talks from some of the most learned people in our industry, all sharing their deep insight into the world of the Arabian horse.

But it is more than just that. It is the people on the trip as well, the ‘WAHO Family’. Peter Pond uttered that phrase early on- but he is very definitely right in what he says. This is like one, big, happy family. We travel the world all the time and meet at shows and events. But WAHO is very different. It is very specific. Yes, there has been a show, yes there has been racing, but it is the kind of person who goes on this trip that makes this so different. There as so many breeders – old breeders, covering many decades, as well as those just starting out. The people who attend these Conferences are the true heart of the industry. They may not care so much about showing or racing or endurance – but they do care a lot about the Arabian breed, they care about the horses, and they care about what happens to them. WAHO works to make the Arabian world a better place – and it is the delegates who come, Conference after Conference, who all do their bit to try and make that happen.

There is nothing in the world quite like the feeling at a WAHO Conference as we truly come fromall walks of life. Other events will have a bloodline in common, a type of horse, a show, a particular breeding programme. But WAHO brings all of these people, and more together, and it opens your eyes to the whole world of the Arabian horse, not just a section of it.

So, as I prepare to pack my case and head back to England, I feel very grateful that I was able to attend this conference. And like many, I am already eagerly planning the next one – Australia in February 2019.

If you have enjoyed this report, and want to find out more about WAHO, please go to their website and join. I am a life member and even if I wasn’t a life member before this trip, I definitely would be now. Thank you to The Royal Family of Bahrain and the whole team at WAHO, both here and back in the UK, for making this such an amazing trip. All I want to do now is go home and look through the photographs, and relive this amazing two weeks in this beautiful country.

bahrain flag

stallion and friend

race winner





tree of life


10.46: Our time here in Bahrain is beginning to draw to a close, and already many people have left. But while the end may be just around the corner, we still have the second day of the show to enjoy.

There is no getting around it; yesterday was freezing! Very few stayed until the very end of the day as it was wet, cold, and hot drinks were not plentiful. In spite of this, the quality of horses was high, and there were some delightful fillies and mares shown. More of that in a seperate report… 

Before I pack up and go to the show, however, I wanted to share some more images from The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain on Sunday. That day was one that will firmly stay in my memory forever, and there is much to be written about events there. For now, however, please enjoy this fabulous photos, taken by Emma Maxwell. They truly capture just a few of the many special horses found in this part of the world.

The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain

The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain

The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain

The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain

The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain

The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain

The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain

The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain

10.51: Last night saw the end of The Pearls of Bahrain part of the tour, and we – eventually! – spent the evening at Al Rashediah Stud. It was a wonderful night looking at straight Egyptian Arabians, and the presentation ended with two giants of the Arabian breed being shown together. This was Jamil Al Rayyan (Ansata Hejazi x Dana Al Rayyan) and ZT Faa’iq (Anaza El Farid x ZT Jamdusah). Again, there will be more to follow on this presentaiton, but I am clock watching as today see the start of the First Bahrani International ECAHO Show, and the buses leave soon. 

So, with that in mind – please visit and like The Arabian Magazine Facebook Page and there you will see the video of Jamil and Faa’iq together. For now, please enjoy the photographs below, and there will be a more detailed report later!



jamil and faaiq

10.44: Yesterday, we went to HRH Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Khalifa Stud. There, we would see more pure Bahraini Arabians, including special families where the line only exists at this farm. In spite of the terrible weather en route, the rain held off for the presentation iteself and it was wonderful to not only see the family groups, but note those that you truly identified with.

Mention must be made to British handlers Ryan Jones, Stephen McCormick and Dave Smyth, who had only met these horses, and those of the HRH The King’s, two weeks previously. They did a great job showing all the horses, and it was obvious that they had built up a rapport with some of them.

The presentation ended with a traditional song – with Ryan and Stephen joining in! You can watch this at The Arabian Magazine Facebook page.

Much more will come in The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine, but here are a few shots of the day from my camera to keep you going.

al khalifa

al khalifa

al khalifa

al khalifa

al khalifa

al khalifa

10.28: Time for a catch up! After our wonderful day at The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain, Sunday evening saw us return to the Bahrain National Museuem for a tour and dinner. As several of us had already done the tour, we sat chatting, talking about the 2019 trip to Australia for the next WAHO Conference. Sometimes, it is never too early to start planning!

7.00 An early start with our latest video report – this covers the Formula One racetrack in Bahrain, and the Bahrain Fort at sunset. 


 10.00: Startng today with our latest video update –


16.57: I feel I should add a disclaimer here – the photographs of today are just from my phone. We do have proper photographs but I am unable to access them at the moment. I don’t want to do these beautiful horses today an injustice!

16.19: I think there were a few headaches this morning – caused by the massive thunderstoms that rattled around the Kingdom of Bahrain overnight. I myself, happily tucked up in bed by 22.30 (yes, really), had a lovely migraine to start the day, and there were a few suffering from the atmospherics. 

With the rain still coming down, we headed into Bahrain to visit The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain. I think that this was the part of the trip that most of us were looking forward to, and it truly was a treat to be there. I cannot wait to look at the video again, go through the photogaphs, and write up what was a magical presentation.

Turning into the stud, we were greeted – sadly through the rain by Shuwaimaan Sadeq and Hamdaany Mesud, two Bahraini stallions, proudly standing there to welcome us in.

Bahrain welcome

The farm itself is impressive – natural, geologically fascinating, vast, and captivating. Oh, to have had a day or three there to explore! Swiftly seated, it was time for the parade to begin.

Our brilliant announcer, Louise Jewell, said that “we were opening a window into the history of the Arabian war horse,” and she was not wrong. Every group that was presented had you itching to get into a saddle and ride; but more importantly, everygroup triggered something inside you, a memory of the shape of the Arabian world twenty years or more ago. And that was, we all agreed, a very good feeling. 

mares with foals

I really do not want to write too much here, as I want to savour it and allow the words to come together in print. Suffice to say, many of the horses instantly entered my heart. Mares, foals, and stallions – they all moved me, and those around me. It was an honour to see them, this glimpse into the true, pure Bahraini Arabian, the desert-bred horse whose families at this farm go back over 200 years. Living history, with more true Arabian type in them than I sometimes see in the modern show-ring. Eduardo’s comments about the West developing their horses too soon came to mind; I fear that we truly have lost some of the great essence of the desert Arabian horse – the element that made them so truly great and coveted the world over for centuries. 


The horses were shown in family groups, and sometimes the stamp from mare to daughters was quite astounding. We then had mares with foals at foot, and then the stallions. I think it is true to say that Hamdaany Ra’an stole the show for everyone – what a horse! And then we ended with youngstock. 


Lunch at the farm had the amazing backdrop of horses being returned to the racetrack, where they are in training. It was almost like watching a caravan from centuries past, travelling back in time. Louise was right when she said that this was a window into history…

It truly was such an honour to be there at the farm, and my thanks go to all the team at The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain for making this such a memorable event. 

As we left, thunder began to rumble around once more, and the heavens opened again. But as we turned away from the farm and back to our hotels, a faint rainbow appeared in the sky. Auspicioius? I certainly hope so – and that it means I shall return to this incredible place with true Arabian horses once more. 


16.10: Good afternoon everyone! We have just got back from an incredible presentation at The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain, His Majesty the King’s own stables, and our minds are full of the beautiful horses that we have seen. 

But before I even begin to try to include a snapshot of them here – the full piece will be in The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine – a few words on last night,


The Gala dinner was held in a marque at The Ritz-Carlton, and it was lovely to see everyone dressed up for the occasion! The evening began with some traditional Bahraini music, with two bands offering music. My favouite was the fidjeri, the songs of the pearl divers. Very beautiful and soulful music – and with the happiest little boy as part of the group, who kept everyone smiling with his antics!



Again, there was a presentation of horses. To this point, we had seen horses sired by world-famed stallions such as Marajj (Marwan Al Shaqab x RGA Kouress), and those shown last night were in the same vein. 

After some thank yous from WAHO President Peter Pond, anda special presentation by the Chinese delegates, it was on to the feasting and dancing! 

Deb Watson is now up to invite us all to Australia for the 2019 WAHO Conference. It will be held 2-8 February. I cannot wait!

16.14: The rest of today’s agenda covers us receiving the invitation from The Australian Arabian Horse Society to host the 2019 WAHO Conference. Any other business will end the Conference, and then it will be a mad dash to get ready for tonight’s Gala dinner and presentation.

15.55: On to the last part of the Conference. Dr Samantha Brooks is doing her second talk, on Genomics – the Door to the Future: Analysing the Population Structure and Ancestry of the Arabian Horse.

But back to where we were earlier… Jerzy’s talk on Kuhailan Afas was very interesting, showing how influential this stallion has been down through the generations. It was very enjoyable, and it really shows just how one stallion from Bahrain has had such an impact on Polish breeding. Marek opened and closed the Polish talk, and he ended by saying:

“You can see what one horse can create and this shows just how important it is to preserve the horses from the desert. We went from Kuhalian Afas to Comet in three generations. It doesn’t need much time, it just needs patience, and we must preserve these lines.”

Indeed, this has been a recurring theme thoughout the Conference – how once the Arabian horse is gone, it is gone, and that we need to be careful of the changes we are making. 

Following lunch – and a photo of ‘Team GB @ WAHO’ – we had an extra talk by Pauline du Plessis. Shewas talking about Part I: The History of the Tuwaisan Strain in South Africa. This was based around the amazing story of one stallion, imported to South Africa from Bahrain in 1968. I look forward to finding out more about this and sharing with you.

The next talk was Emma Maxwell on Precious Pearls: The importance of Bahraini foundation horses in breeding programmes worldwide. This focused on the mare lines from three Bahraini mares exported – two to Egypt and one to the UK, Jellaby Faisal, Bint El Bahreyn, and Nuhra respectively. 

This was a fascinating talk, going down through the mare line in each generation to the present day. For example, World Champion Fadi Al Shaqab is one of the modern representatives of the Jellaby Faisal line. 

Emma also noted that from just four root stock horses – the three mares listed above, and Kuhailan Afas – there has been a terrific influence from the Bahraini foundations all around the world. 

Another tea break – we got to sit in the sun while the Executive Committee continued their meetings – and now it is on to Samantha’s talk about geonmics. Much research is currently underway, funded by the Qatar National Research Fund. This is definitely a technical talk and one that it may be better that she explain! 

12.12: Anna has just sat down from her introduction to the Kuhalian Afas story. She was very emotional – which made for emotional listening – and it cannot be underestimated just how much the changes in the Poland State Studs still affect Anna, Jerzy and Marek.

Jerzy now has the stage, talking about this legendary stallion, and how his line returned to Poland once more in 2014 thanks to HH Sheikh Isa. 

11.38: Speaking next are Jerzy Bialobok and AnnaStojanowska on The Kuhailan Afas Story: His influence on the Arabian horses of Poland and worldwide. This is sure to be fascinating.

11.32: That was a very interesting talk from Dr Samantha Brooks on How science is helping us to help our horses: New findings on lamintis susceptibility and equine metabolic syndrome in Arabian horses. Laminitis was first recorded as far back as 330BC in the writings of Aristotle, and it remains an incredibly frustrating illness to treat in a horse. Research has identified that genes have a major part to play in laminitis, and they are now working on identifying the gene that causes equine metabolic syndrome – and thus, laminitis. Once they have identified this, then can then work on finding a cure. The wider effect of this could be in helping with similiar conditions in humans, such as diabetes. 

10.14: This morning’s programme began with an update from WAHO President Peter Pond on the Executive Committee’s plans for the next two years. This includes something that we all can get involved in.

This involves the ongoing crisis in endurance, with so many deaths reported in the races but, as Peter stressed, there are no figures on those injured or who die in training or once they have been retired. The Executive Committee hare writing a letter to the FEI to find a solution – and quickly. Peter urged us all to write to the FEI and also our national endurance federation and ask them to act on what is taking place in the Middle East. The letter will be sent to all WAHO members, and I am sure that it will be distributed on a wider scale for people to put pressure on the FEI to act. 

10.07: One bit of fun is that, everywhere we go, there are huge letters spelling out ‘WAHO’. We are all having great fun being photographed with them!

WAHO logos


9.55: Yesterday morning was all about the talks, as reported on tomorrow. We then went to the Kingdom of Bahrain Rashid Equestrian & Horseracing Club for the day’s racemeet. This included two Arabian races – The WAHO Cup, and The Traditional Jay W. Stream Arabian Horse Cup, where the riders wore traditional dress. 

the racecourse

The setting was very impressive – out in the desert, with a Mosque and a burning oil well in the distance. We managed to get seats right on the finish line, and the better photographs are on the other camera; after the events of last night, I hope you forgive me!

the finish line

traditional rider

The WAHO Cup was won by Al Tuwaisah (Obeyan 921 x Al Tuwaisah 859), while the Arabian Horse Cup was won – by quite a distance! – by the aptly-named Zaizoom Al Uraiq, whose pedigree was not noted. 

Zaizoom - the winner!

bringing up the rear

The plan was then for everyone to go to the Memorial Museum, and then out to Riffa Fort for dinner. Unfortunately, my mum tripped and fell and was rushed off to hospital in an ambulance. She is very badly bruised and sore, with a black eye, very swollen hand and knee, but she is okay. There was no way that I could attend the rest of the events that night as I was needed elsewhere, but someone is putting something together for The Arabian Magazine. It does sound like a magical evening was missed – with a full moon shining down while there was a parade of Arabian horses in traditional dress. 

9.45: Good morning everyone, welcome to the news from Bahrain! I have a lot to catch up on, having not been able to properly update since Wednesday evening, the talks aside. 

The last day of the Conference is underway, and Deirdre Hyde from the W’rsan Stables in the United Arab Emirates is giving a fascination talk entitled A Quick Gallop through the History of Arabian Racing. This talk very much focuses on the true history – so much of which is possibly unknown by many – and she will be sharing the text with me later, which gives me a chance to bring everything up to date here.

I left on Wednesday night, saying that the Tour Company had organised a treat for us to make up for missing out on a couple of parts of the tour. We went to Bahrain Fort – for sunset! It was a magical experience, made more so by the fact that there were several riders on Arabian horses making their way between the fort and the beach.

sunset at bahrain fort

sunset at bahrain fort

rider on the beach in bahrain

sunset at bahrain fort

From there, we went further down into Bahrain for the evening presentation. There were some very beauitful horses presented, and they were shown against the backdrop of the sea. Photographs will follow!

22.45: I apologise for not updated tonight; my mum fell badly and had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance. She has just got back to the hotel – huge thanks to all who looked after her – and I will update tomorrow. Thank you for your understanding. 

13.19: The final thought from Edouard before we head to the races:

“Horses are not just and industry, a pet or a friend. For many of us, they are heirlooms that we transmit from father to son. Preserving them for 280, 220 or 100 years. The same farm, or outside… It is ownership of the horse. It is history, heritage, culture, folklore…

“My final message… Find the strains of your horses. Find the ancestral mare. See how many generations there are between them. Try to learn about her and learn about that history. Take pride in what you own. Generation after generation, people have fought for them in wars and battles. The relationships between Arabian horses and humans goes beyond you owning a horse. It is the relationship between animal and man – and that is what preservation is all about.” 

12.35: A great talk by Edouard Al-Dahdah on strains. Much more to follow but I’ll just leave this here…

“There is no one single classic Arabian type – there are 200 or 300. In the West, we have converged too fast to one Arabian type that all looks the same, the show horse. Everything else is considered ‘off type’… Here in Bahrain, there are the purest horses and their heritage is proven. But they would be seen as ‘off type’ by the West…”

9.53: Peter Pond has confirmed that the Executive Committee is working with Palestine and Israel to set up a Stud book for the former, and it is very much hoped that this will be achieved. Again, the Palestine report was met with great applause. 

9.45: It is truly sad just how many of our friends in the Arabian industry are caught up in war. The Arabian Horse Association of Libya just gave their report and they said that since 2011, there is a shortage of information. There are 40 members with 80 horses and they are just happy to be part of the WAHO family. Palestine is now giving their report and again, they have been under seige. Princess Alia helped when they couldn’t feed their horses, and because of occupation, horses have not been registered. They are so desperate to be a member of WAHO rather than through the Israeli Stud Book, and for their horses to be recognised in their own right. He is so passionate and it is truly sad how our Arabian horses are caught up in man’s war. 

8.57: Good morning! We had a wwonderful night last night – a police escort through Bahrain to a private presentation on the beach. I do have photographs to share with you but today is a very busy day and there is no chance to bring my laptop with me. This morning, we have four talks from guest speakers, and then it is off to the racetrack for an afternoon of racing. From there, it is straight off to dinner at the Memorial Museum and then back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep! 

I will endeavour to keep you updated when connection allows.

16.08: That was emotional – the Syria report. They have lost so many horses and so many facilities – as well as all the oother losses that this beautiful country has faced. Around half of their horses remain and with the government’s help, they are starting to rebuild some of the equine facilities. This report was, understandably, met with a round of applause at the end. I think that everyone here prays for Syria, and seeing the smiling face of Basil Jaaden here is such a welcome sight.

15.01: What is very interesting is that in some countries, testing for SCID and CA is compulsory while in others, it is not. For a long time now, I have thought that such testing should be compulsory – what are your thoughts?

14.57: Each delegate ccountry is now giving their annual report. This includes the number of foal registrations in 2015 and 2016, the two full years since the last conference; what shows they have held; winners of the WAHO Trophy; the total number of purebred Arabians registered; what testing, microchipping etc done at birth; and other notable events in their country. All begin and end with thanks to Bahrain and the assembled committee.

12.55: The amended constitution was unanimously passed and the conference breaks for lunch.we reconvene at 2pm for the delegate reports from around the world. I am very interested to hear these.

12.12: That was a very emotional moment as a tribute to Izabella Pawelec-Zawadzka was shown and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. As the list of members passed since the November 2015 meeting was read, it really hit home what a wealth of knowledge we have lost in less than two years.

Paper voting is now taking place on the changes on the constitution. While paper voting is not the norm, President Peter Pond has asked for it to be done this way as there are so many changes to be made and he wants a paper copy. That way, if there are any queries in the future, it is on record rather than through a show of hands.

11.41: China accepted as applying member of WAHO.

10.44: Well, that was very lovely! A beautiful start to the conference, and some very moving words spoken. HRH Prince Salman made his entrance bang on time and the National Anthem was played; it was a lovely anthem – go and find it on youtube! – and was also played perfectly. Quite different to what a lot of us in the Middle East have experienced before!

Jenny Lees has long been an associate of the Bahrain Royal Family and their horses, and has been instrumental in promoting the bloodlines. From her moving speech, the following was particuarly of note:

The Arabian horse is now a creator of lasting friendships and an eternal peacemaker.”

“HRH Prince Hamad said to me once, ‘throughout the centuries, we needed war horses – the Asil horses – for our survival. Now, they need us for their survival. They took casre of us, now we must take care of them’.”

“As HRH Prince Hamad once said to me, ‘enjoy our horses, but don’t steal them with your eyes’.”

WAHO President Peter Pond also extended his gratitude to HRH Prince Salman, reinforcing Jenny’s words by saying that “what is unique about WAHO is that our memebrs form a special international family.” He added that: “One of the reasons we hold the conferences is so that our members can learn more about the horses and the culture of a country.”

With that, HRH Prince Salman officially opened the conference, and was heard saying “I hope you have a great conference everyone” as he left.

A quick coffee break – now – and then we are back in for the beginning of the WAHO Conference matters, starting with a minute’s silence to our friends departed since the last conference in Qatar.

9.57am: Today sees the start of the business end of the conference, and we are currenly sat in a beauitiful hall at the Ritz-Carlton, watching a film about the Arabian Horses of Bahrain. Arriving in just over 15 minutes will be the Deputy King, HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince. 


Rightly, security here is tight, and a brass band have just arrived in readiness to play the Bahrain National Anthem. 

Also on the agneda today is a look at the WAHO Constitution, as well as reports from voting Delegates regarding Arabian horse affairs in their own countries, which should be very interesting. 

WAHO is a small world away from that which most people see, especially the shows, and it has much to offer breeders. I hope that through reading these reports, you will be inspired to find out more and to join this great organisation.

Today saw the last of the pre-confence tours, and was dedicated to horse power of a different kind! We went to the Bahrain International Circuit to experience an off-road 4×4 experience, and then to go inside the track and into the VIP and media centres as well as race control.


The circuit, which is 5.412km, was begun in 2002, with the first race being held on 04/04/04, won by the brilliant Michael Schumacher. The idea of the circuit – the first in the Middle East – was the idea of the Crown Prince of Bahrain, His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Costing around $150 million to build, there is much to admire about the circuit, and Fernando Alonso is a three-time winner here. 



Before we went into the circuit itself – and sadly, we were not allowed on the track – we went on the 4×4 off-road experience. The car was a top of the range Land Rover, and it was brilliantly driven by Ebrahim, whose knowledge of the car was immense; in fact, we were lucky as it was he who trainer the other drivers, so we truly were in the hands of an expert! We covered all kinds of terrain – the photo above of the track was taken from a steep hill! – and it really was great fun. 

All too soon, it was time to get out of the cars and make our way into the circuit but before we did, Ebrahim took myself and my dad to the grandstand for a photograph; I think it is fair to say that dad definitely enjoyed the day!

Samantha and Trevor

It was then off to the magnificent VIP building – the tall standalone one that you see on the TV. While the circuit is very modern, the Arabic heritage is celebrated through the ‘tents’ on top of the grandstand and this building. The view of the track was magnificent, and you especially had a great insight into the first corner.


We then made our way down the pitlane – one could only imagine the roar of the engines when the Formula 1 circus is in town! – and into race control. Bahrain is the only circuit to allow visitors into race control, and it gave a great insight into the work behind the scenes.

Race control

Race control

The Media Centre was also interesting; I did idly wonder if I could get a press pass for this year’s event! The room holds 500 journalists, and one can only imagine what the atmosphere must be like in there on race day.

media centre

Lunch today was at Al Areen Palace Hotel, which was a very tranquil experience, and it was a slightly tired group that made their way back to the hotels. Tonight sees the opening of the WAHO Conference, with a welcome reception and dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, hosted on a small ‘island’. Before that, however, and in a few minutes time, I must dash to meet the tour guide who, after a couple of slight misadventures, has arranged a treat for us tonight that we could not fit in otherwise. Then it will be into our party frocks and over to the Ritz! 

Early tomorrow, the WAHO Opening Ceremony takes place. Having never been to a WAHO Conference before, I am very keen to see the business end of proceedings. So far, however, my impressions are great. Not only are we surrounded by beautiful places and a rich heritage, we are enjoying it all in the company of people who have the true heart of the Arabian horse in common. I can’t wait to see what comes next, and we are still only a third of the way into the joruney that is the 2017 WAHO Conference in Bahrain.

8.00 For the earlybirds, here is a video of some highlights from the pre-conference tours –

Today’s tour was all about the Old Capital of Bahrain, and we began the morning at the old Sheikh Isa Bin Ali Al Khalifa house, built around 1800. Located in Muharraq, the house was the residence of Sheikh Isa and was also used as the centre of government from 1869 to 1932; whoever thinks that the Middle East doesn’t have a history really should come here or to Jordan! 

entrance to sheikh isa bin ali house

Walking through the door, the space immediately opened up to a courtyward, around which the house was built into three distinct areas – for the Sheikh and his family, for guests, and for servants.

sheikh isa bin ali house

While over 200 years old, and naturally having had some renovations, many of the original features and structure were still in place and it certainly made for an impressive house! One aspect of particular interest is the wind tower, known as badqeer. The tower has a rectangular shape and can be opened from all four sides. The openings allow the wind to funnel down into the house to the rooms below, generally the sitting room, and it was used as a traditional method of air conditioning in the country. In winter, the doors would be closed, thus keeping the living space warm.

wind tower

wind tower

The house really was worth a visit, and it was easy to imagine a family living there.

original door

sheikh isa bin ali house

From there, it was a short walk through the streets to the Sheikh Ebrahim Center. Founded in 2002, this cultural centre is home to gatherings of artists and intellectuals for lectures and performances. Then, it was round the corner to Kurar House, where women embroider traditional thobes with gold thread. 

Kurar house

The final stop was the Abdullah Al Zayed House, dedicated to the man behind Bahrain’s first magazine, launched in 1934. Naturally, I found this place to be fascinating, and Ioved the tranquility of the building. 

Abdullah Al Zayed office

Abdullah Al Zayed office

In true Middle Eastern fashion, things went slightly unaccording to plan after this point! Having watched the Arabic bread being made, and enjoyed eating it (see The Arabian Magazine page on Facebook for the video), we were meant to go to Muharraq Souq. We did go to a spice and sweet shop, where I was happy to stock up on my favourite spices as well as hard to find ones, but we later discovered that we were not where we were meant to be! 

Arad Fort was the next stop, built in the Omani style around the 15/16th century. The canon on the battlements was underwraps, but the size and structure was still very complete and it gave a good example of the scale. 

Arad fort

The day’s tour should have finished with an authentic Bahraini lunch with a live cooking demo but again, we ended up somewhere else! So, we will hopefully have a special tour to go there as well as the Bahrain Fort and Fort Museum, which we missed out on yesterday due to closure. 



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