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المنامة al-Manāmah
Manama skyline
Manama skyline
Manama and Bahrain.
Manama and Bahrain.
Country Bahrain
Governorate Capital
 • Governor Hisham Bin Abdulrahman Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa
 • City 30 km2 (10 sq mi)
Population (2010)
 • City 157,474
 • Density /sq mi)}}
 • Metro 329,510
Time zone
Website Official website

Manama (Arabic: المنامةAl Manāma) is the capital and largest city of Bahrain, with an approximate population of 155,000 people. Long an important trading center in the Persian Gulf, Manama is home to a very diverse population. After periods of Portuguese and Persian control and invasions from the ruling dynasties of Saudi Arabia and Oman, Bahrain established itself as an independent nation during the 19th century period of British hegemony.

Although the current twin cities of Manama and Muharraq appear to have been founded simultaneously in the 1800s,[1] Muharraq took prominence due to its defensive location and was thus the capital of Bahrain until 1921. Manama became the mercantile capital and was the gateway to the main Bahrain Island. [2] In the 20th century, Bahrain's oil wealth helped spur fast growth and in the 1990s a concerted diversification effort led to expansion in other industries and helped transform Manama into an important financial hub in the Middle East. Manama was designated as the capital of Arab culture for the year 2012 by the Arab League.[3][4]


The name is derived from the Arabic word المنامة (transliterated:al-manãma) meaning "the place of rest" or "the place of dreams".[5]


Pre-modern history

There is evidence of human settlement on the northern coastline of Bahrain dating back to the Bronze Age. The Dilmun civilisation inhabited the area in 3000 BC, serving as a key regional trading hub between Mesopotamia, Magan and the Indus Valley civilisation.[6][7] Approximately 100,000 Dilmun burial mounds were found across the north and central regions of the country, some originating 5,000 years ago. Despite the discovery of the mounds, there is no significant evidence to suggest heavy urbanisation took place during the Dilmun era. [8] It is believed that the majority of the population lived in rural areas, numbering several thousands. Evidence of an ancient large rural population was confirmed by one of Alexander the Great's ship captains, during voyages in the Persian Gulf. A vast system of aqueducts in northern Bahrain helped facilitate ancient horticulture and agriculture. [9]

" The capital of Awal... is a town well populated whose environs are fertile and produce corn and dates in abundance. "


The commercial network of Dilmun lasted for almost 2,000 years, after which the Assyrians took control of the island in 700 BC for more than a century. This was followed by Babylonian and Achaemenid rule, which later gave way to Greek influence during the time of Alexander the Great's conquests.[10] In the first century AD, the Roman writer Pliny the Elder wrote of Tylos, the Hellenic name of Bahrain in the classical era, and its pearls and cotton fields.[7] The island came under the control of the Parthian and Sassanid empires respectively, by which time Nestorian Christianity started to spread in Bahrain. By 410-420 AD, a Nestorian bishopric and monastery was established in Al Dair, on the neighbouring island of Muharraq.[7][11] Following the conversion of Bahrain to Islam in 628 AD, work on one of the earliest mosques in the region, the Khamis Mosque, began as early as the seventh century AD. During this time, Bahrain was engaged in long distance marine trading, evident from the discovery of Chinese coins dating between 600-1200 AD, in Manama.[7]

In 1330, under the Jarwanid dynasty, the island became a tributary of the Kingdom of Hormuz. The town of Manama was mentioned by name for the first time in a manuscript dating to 1345 AD.[7] Bahrain, particularly Manama and the nearby settlement of Bilad Al Qadeem, became a centre of Shia scholarship and training for the ulema, it would remain so for centuries. The ulema would help fund pearling expeditions and finance grain production in the rural areas surrounding the city. In 1521, Bahrain fell to the expanding Portuguese Empire in the Persian Gulf, having already defeated Hormuz.[12] The Portuguese consolidated their hold on the island by constructing the Bahrain Fort, on the outskirts of Manama.[13] After numerous revolts and an expanding Safavid empire in Persia, the Portuguese were expelled from Bahrain and the Safavids took control in 1602.[13]

Early modern history

The Safavids, sidelining Manama, designated the nearby town of Bilad Al Qadeem as the provincial capital.[14] The town was also the seat of the Persian governor and the Shaikh al-Islam of the islands. The position of Shaikh al-Islam lied under jurisdiction of the central Safavid government and as such, candidates were carefully vetted by the Isfahan courts. During the Safavid era, the islands continued to be a centre for Twelver Shi'ism scholarship, producing clerics for use in mainland Persia.[14] Additionally, the rich agricultural northern region of Bahrain continued to flourish due to an abundance of date palm farms and orchards. The Portuguese traveler Pedro Teixeira commented on the extensive cultivation of crops like barley and wheat. The opening of Persian markets to Bahraini exports, especially pearls, boosted the islands' export economy. The yearly income of exported Bahraini pearls was 600,000 ducats, collected by around 2,000 pearling dhows.[12] Another factor that contributed to Bahrain's agricultural wealth was the migration of Shia cultivators from Ottoman-occupied Qatif and Al-Hasa, fearing religious persecution, in 1537.[14] Some time after 1736, Nader Shah constructed a fort on the southern outskirts of Manama (likely the Diwan Fort).[15]

Persian control over the Persian Gulf waned during the later half of the 18th century and in 1783, the Bani Utbah tribal confederation invaded Bahrain and expelled the resident Persian governor Nasr Al-Madhkur. As a result, the Al Khalifa family became the rulers of the country, with Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Khalifa (later called Ahmed al-Fateh, lit. "Ahmed the conqueror") becoming the dynasty's first Hakim of Bahrain. Political instability in the 19th century had disastrous effects on Manama's economy; Invasions by the Omanis in 1800 and by the Wahhabis in 1810–11, in addition to a civil war in 1842 between Bahrain's co-rulers saw the town being a major battleground. The instability paralysed commercial trade in Manama; the town's port was closed, most merchants fled abroad to Kuwait and the Persian coast until hostilities ceased.[16] The English scholar William Gifford Palgrave, on a visit to Manama in 1862, described the town as having a few ruined stone buildings, with a landscape dominated with the huts of poor fishermen and pearl-divers.[16]

The British political agency, circa 1900.

The Pax Britannica of the 19th century resulted in British consolidation of trade routes, particularly those close to the British Raj. In response to piracy in the Persian Gulf region, the British deployed warships and forced much of the Persian Gulf States at the time (including Bahrain) to sign the General Maritime Treaty of 1820, which prohibited piracy and slavery.[12] In 1861, the Perpetual Truce of Peace and Friendship was signed between Britain and Bahrain, which placed the British in charge of defending Bahrain in exchange for British control over Bahraini foreign affairs. With the ascension of Isa ibn Ali Al Khalifa as the Hakim of Bahrain in 1869, Manama became the centre of British activity in the Persian Gulf, though its interests were initially strictly commercial. [17] Trading recovered fully by 1873 and the country's earnings from pearl exports increased by sevenfold between 1873 and 1900.[18] Representing the British were native agents, usually from minorities such as Persians or Huwala who regularly reported back to British India and the British political residency in Bushehr.[19] The position of native agent was later replaced by a British political agent, following the construction of the British political residency (locally referred to in Arabic: بيت الدولة‎) in 1900, which further solidified Britain's position in Manama.[19]

Modern history

Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the [22]

In 1927, the country's pearling economy collapsed due to the introduction of Japanese cultured pearls in the world market. It is estimated that between 1929 and 1931, pearling entrepreneurs lost more than two-thirds of their income. Further aggravated by the Great Depression, many leading Bahraini businessmen, shopkeepers and pearl-divers fell into debt.[23] With the discovery of oil in 1932 and the subsequent production of oil exports in 1934, the country gained a greater significance in geopolitics. The security of oil supplies in the Middle East was a priority of the British, especially in the run-up to the Second World War.[24] The discovery of oil led to a gradual employment of bankrupt divers from the pearling industry in the 1930s, eventually causing the pearling industry to disappear.[25] During the war, the country served as a strategic airbase between Britain and India as well as hosting RAF Muharraq and a naval base in Juffair.[26] Bahrain was bombed by the Italian Air Force in 1940. In 1947, following the end of the war and subsequent Indian independence, the British residency of the Persian Gulf moved to Manama from Bushire.[24]

Following the rise of National Union Committee. Though the NUC advocated peaceful demonstrations, buildings and enterprises belonging to Europeans (the British in particular) as well as the main Catholic church in the city and petrol stations, were targeted and set ablaze.[27] Demonstrations held in front of the British political residency called for the dismissal of Charles Belgrave, who was later dismissed by direct intervention of the Foreign Office the following year.[28] A subsequent crackdown on the NUC led to the dissolution of the body. Another anti-British uprising erupted in March 1965, though predominately led by students aspiring for independence rather than by Arab nationalists. In 1968, the British announced their withdrawal from Bahrain by 1971. [29] The newly independent State of Bahrain designated Manama as the capital city.[30]

Post-independence Manama was characterised by the rapid urbanisation of the city and the swallowing-up of neighboring villages and hamlets into a single urbanised area, incorporating new neighbourhoods such as Adliya and Salmaniya. The construction boom attracted large numbers of foreigners from the Indian subcontinent and by 1981, foreigners outnumbered Bahrainis two-to-one.[31] The construction of the Diplomatic Area district in the city's northeast helped faciliatate diversification of the country's economy from oil by exploiting the lucrative financial industry. Financial institutions in the district numbered 187 by 1986. Scarcity of land suitable for construction led to land reclamation. [32] Religious activism migrated from Manama to the suburban districts of Bani Jamra, Diraz and Bilad Al Qadeem, hotspots of unrest in the 1990s uprising that called for the reinstatement of an elected parliament. [33] In 2001, the National Action Charter, presented by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa was approved by Bahrainis. The charter led to the first parliamentary and municipal elections in decades.[33] Further elections in 2006 and 2010 led to the election of Islamist parties, Al Wefaq, Al Menbar, and Al Asalah, as well as independent candidates.[33] In 2011, a month-long uprising led to the intervention of GCC forces and the proclamation of a three-month state of emergency. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry published a 500-page report on the events of 2011.[34]


Manama in 1926

Historically, Manama has been restricted to what is now known as the Manama Souq and the Manama Fort (now the Ministry of Interior) to its south. However the city has now grown to include a number of newer suburban developments as well as older neighboring villages that have been engulfed by the growth of the city. The neighborhoods of Manama today include:

Manama is part of the Capital Governorate, one of five Governorates of Bahrain. Until 2002 it was part of the municipality of Al-Manamah. Councils exist within the governorates; eight constituencies are voted upon within Capital Governorate in 2006.[35]


Central Manama

Manama is the focal point of the Bahraini economy. While petroleum has decreased in importance in recent years due to depleting reserves and growth in other industries, it is still the mainstay of the economy. Heavy industry (e.g. aluminium smelting, ship repair), banking and finance, and tourism are among the industries which have experienced recent growth. Several multinationals have facilities and offices in and around Manama.[36] The primary industry in Manama itself is financial services, with over two hundred financial institutions and banks based in the CBD and the Diplomatic Area. Manama is a financial hub for the Persian Gulf region and a center of Islamic banking. There is also a large retail sector in the shopping malls around Seef, while the center of Manama is dominated by small workshops and traders.

Historically, the ports at Manama were of poor reputation. The British described the ports importing systems as being "very bad - goods were exposed to the weather and there were long delays in delivery", in 1911. Indians began maintaining the ports and new resources were built on site, improving the situation. As of 1920, Manama was one of the main exporters of Bahrain pearls, attracting steamships from India. During this time, they also imported goods from India and from other regional countries. They imported rice, textiles, ghee, coffee, dates, tea, tobacco, fuel, and livestock. They exported less of a variety, with focus on pearls, oysters, and sailcloth. For the year of 1911–12, Manama was visited by 52 steamships, the majority being British and the rest Turkish-Arabian.[37]


The role of Manama as a regional port city in the Persian Gulf made it a hub for migrant workers in search of a better living. As a result, Manama has often been described, both in the pre-oil and post-oil era, as a cosmopolitan city.[39] In 1904, it was estimated that Manama's population numbered 25,000, out of which half were believed to have been foreigners from Basra, Najd, Al Hasa and Iran, as well as from India and Europe.[18]

The two main branches of Islam, Shia Islam and Sunni Islam, coexisted in Manama for centuries and are represented by distinct ethnic groups. The Shia community is represented by the native Arab Baharna, the Hasawis and Qatifis of mainland Arabia and the Persian Ajam.[39] The Sunni community is represented by Arab Bedouin tribes who migrated in the eighteenth century along with the Bani Utbah and the Huwala, Arabic-speaking Persians.[39] There is also a sizable native Bahraini Christian population in the country, numbering more than a thousand, in addition to immigrant Hindus and a small native Jewish community numbering 37.[40]


Road network

Manama is the main hub of the country's road network. At the moment the city's road network is undergoing substantial development to ameliorate the situation of traffic in the city. Due to the fact that it is the capital and the main city in the country, where most of the government and the commercial offices and facilities are established, along with the entertainment centers, and the country's fast growth, vehicle population is increasing rapidly.

Manama Harbor

The widening of roads in the old districts of Manama and the development of a national network linking the capital to other settlements commenced as early as the arrival of the first car in 1914.[41] The continuous increase in the number of cars from 395 in 1944,[41] to 3,379 in 1954 and to 18,372 cars in 1970[41] caused urban development to primarily focus on expanding the road network, widening carriageways and the establishment of more parking spaces.[41] Many tracks previously laid in the pre-oil era (prior to the 1930s) were resurfaced and widened, turning them into 'road arteries'. Initial widening of the roads started in the Manama Souq district, widening its main roads by demolishing encroaching houses.[41]

A series of ring roads were constructed (Isa al Kabeer avenue in the 1930s, Exhibition avenue in the 1960s and Al Fateh highway in the 1980s[41]), to push back the coastline and extend the city area in belt-like forms.[41] To the north, the foreshore used to be around Government Avenue in the 1920s but it shifted to a new road, King Faisal Road, in the early 1930s which became the coastal road.[41] To the east, a bridge connected Manama to Muharraq since 1929, a new causeway was built in 1941 which replaced the old wooden bridge.[41] Transits between the two islands peaked after the construction of the Bahrain International Airport in 1932.[41]

To the south of Manama, roads connected groves, lagoons and marshes of Hoora, Adliya, Gudaibiya and Juffair.[41] Villages such as Mahooz, Ghuraifa, Seqaya served as the end of these roads. To the west, a major highway was built that linked Manama to the isolated village port of Budaiya,[41] this highway crossed through the 'green belt' villages of Sanabis, Jidhafs and Duraz.[41] To the south, a road was built that connected Manama to Riffa. The discovery of oil accelerated the growth of the city's road network.[41]

The four main islands and all the towns and villages are linked by well-constructed roads. There were 3,164 km (1,966 mi) of roadways in 2002, of which were paved. A causeway stretching over 2.8 km (2 mi), connect Manama with Muharraq Island, and another bridge joins Sitra to the main island. A four-lane highway atop a 24 km (15 mi) causeway, linking Bahrain with the Saudi Arabian mainland via the island of Umm an-Nasan was completed in December, 1986, and financed by Saudi Arabia. In 2000, there were 172,684 passenger vehicles and 41,820 commercial vehicles.

Bahrain's port of Mina Salman can accommodate 16 oceangoing vessels drawing up to 11 m (36 ft). In 2001, Bahrain had a merchant fleet of eight ships of 1,000 GRT or over, totaling 270,784 GRT. Private vehicles and taxis are the primary means of transportation in the city.


Manama has a comprehensive bus service which is far more economical than other modes of transport with fares around 150 to 200 Fils (BD0.200)(around $0.50(US); £0.30) allows you to travel by bus. Some bus routes link to other towns such as Muharraq and Isa Town.

Manama night view

Air transport

Bahrain International Airport is located on Muharraq Island, approximately 7 km (4 mi) from the CBD. It is a premier hub airport in the Middle East. Strategically located in the Northern Persian Gulf between the major markets of Saudi Arabia and Iran, the airport has one of the widest range and highest frequency of regional services with connections to major international destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America.


Manama has a wide range of universities, colleges and schools.


The city is located in the north-eastern corner of Bahrain on a small peninsula. As in the rest of Bahrain, the land is generally flat (or gently rolling) and arid.

arid climate. In common with the rest of Bahrain, Manama experiences extreme climatic conditions, with summer temperatures up to , and winter as low as 7 °C (45 °F) with even hail at rare occasions. Average temperatures of the summer and winter seasons are generally from 17 °C (63 °F) to about 45 °C (113 °F). The most pleasant time in Bahrain is autumn when sunshine is comparatively low, coupled with warm temperatures tempered by soft breezes.
Climate data for Manama
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 20.0
Average low °C (°F) 14.1

Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 2.0 1.9 1.9 1.4 0.2 0 0 0 0 0.1 0.7 1.7 9.9
Mean monthly sunshine hours 226.3 223.2 238.7 255.0 306.9 339.0 331.7 331.7 312.0 303.8 261.0 226.3 3,355.6
Source #1: Ministry of Transportation (Bahrain) [42]
Source #2: Hong Kong Observatory[43]


Men sitting at a street cafe in the Manama souq

The country attracts a large number of foreigners and foreign influences, with just under one third of the population hailing from abroad.[44] Alcohol is legal in the country, with bars and nightclubs operating in the city. Bahrain gave women the right to vote in elections for the first time in 2002. Football is the most popular sport in Manama (and the rest of the country), with 3 teams from Manama participating in the Bahraini Premier League.

The central areas of Manama are the main location for Muharram processions in the country, attracting hundreds of thousands of people annually.

Twin towns — sister cities

See also


^ These student protests were led by intellectuals and poets such as Qassim Haddad.[30]


  1. ^ Ben Hamouche 2008, p. 185.
  2. ^ Ben Hamouche 2008, p. 186.
  3. ^ Manama Capital of Arab Culture 2012
  4. ^ Ministry of Culture: Manama as the Bahraini Capital of Arab Culture
  5. ^ Room 1997, p. 223.
  6. ^ Al-Nabi 2012, p. 17.
  7. ^ a b c d e Dumper 2007, p. 243.
  8. ^ Ben Hamouche 2008, p. 184.
  9. ^ a b Al-Nabi 2012, p. 19.
  10. ^ Rice 2005, p. 128.
  11. ^ Al A'ali, Mohammed (24 August 2013). "Protecting Bahrain's Christian heritage...".  
  12. ^ a b c Dumper 2007, p. 244.
  13. ^ a b Larsen 1983, p. 68.
  14. ^ a b c Fuccaro 2009, p. 18.
  15. ^ Fuccaro 2005, p. 42.
  16. ^ a b Fuccaro 2005, p. 43.
  17. ^ Ben Hamouche 2008, p. 192.
  18. ^ a b Fuccaro 2005, p. 44.
  19. ^ a b Fuccaro 2009, p. 64.
  20. ^ a b Fuccaro 2009, p. 113.
  21. ^ Fuccaro 2009, p. 114.
  22. ^ Fuccaro 2009, p. 115.
  23. ^ Fuccaro 2009, p. 127-128.
  24. ^ a b Fuccaro 2009, p. 119.
  25. ^ Fuccaro 2009, p. 163.
  26. ^ Ben Hamouche 2008, p. 201.
  27. ^ Fuccaro 2009, p. 185-186.
  28. ^ Fuccaro 2009, p. 116.
  29. ^ Fuccaro 2009, p. 226.
  30. ^ a b Fuccaro 2009, p. 227.
  31. ^ Fuccaro 2009, p. 229.
  32. ^ Ben Hamouche 2008, p. 206.
  33. ^ a b c Fuccaro 2009, p. 230.
  34. ^ "Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry". Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  35. ^ Development Team at BNA. "Bahrain News Agency – ELECTION 2006 (retrieved 2 December 2006)". Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  36. ^ CIA World Factbook – Bahrain (retrieved 2 December 2006)
  37. ^ Prothero, G.W. (1920). Arabia. London: H.M. Stationery Office. p. 73. 
  38. ^ Ben Hamouche 2008, p. 202.
  39. ^ a b c Ben Hamouche 2008, p. 191.
  40. ^ "King of Bahrain Appoints Jewish Woman to Parliament". Israel National News. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Elsheshtawy, Yasser (2011). The evolving Arab city: tradition, modernity and urban development. Routledge. p. 198.  
  42. ^ [h "World Weather Information Service – Bahrain/Manama"]. World Meteorological Organization. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  43. ^ "Climatological Information for Manama, Bahrain". Hong Kong Observatory. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  44. ^ "Manama Culture (retrieved 2 December 2006)". Trip Advisor. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
Primary sources
  • ^ Palgrave, W.G, Personal Narrative of a Year's Journey through Central and Eastern Arabia (1862–1863), vol. II, Macmillan & Co., London, 1866.
Secondary sources

External links

  • Official website
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