Located in Muharraq, which was the former capital of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Bin Matar House was built by Salman bin Hussain, one of the most famous pearling merchants in Bahrain in the 19th and 20th centuries. This admirable man was not only wealthy, but also generous and kind-hearted to those less fortunate than him, and the house, which is now a fascinating museum, represents a significant part of Bahrain’s heritage and culture.
The Ground Floor
The ground floor of the Bin Matar House is where you will find a small café, ideal for enjoying a couple of snacks before or after touring the house. This is also where the gift shop is located, which features a wide variety of local products, from books on Bahrain’s history, as well as the famous Matar family, to accessories created by local designers. With the ground floor of the Bin Matar House being so large, this is also the spot where a number of important temporary exhibitions are held, featuring the work of top artists, from the likes of Zaha Hadid to Waheeda Malullah.
Classic Bahraini Architecture
While the ground floor of the Bin Matar House was used for a variety of purposes over the years, the top floor remained as the main residence of the Matar family until 2002. After vacating the property, the house remained empty and unused for a while, which led to talks about its demolition. However, fortunately, this was never carried out, and the Bin Matar House was fully restored in 2009, now reflecting all of its former glory. The house is a fantastic example of classic Bahraini architecture, with its tall columns and traditional windows, both of which have been around since the house was first built. The ceilings have also been left untouched, enabling visitors to really feel as though they are stepping back in time to when the house was first constructed. Being built in the traditional Bahraini style, the house makes use of a wide range of local materials, from the trunks of palm trees to gypsum to sea-stone, many of which can also be seen in some of Muharraq’s other traditional houses.
The Top Floor
While the Bin Matar House used to overlook the sea, there has been a large amount of land reclaimed since it was first built, meaning that the waterfront is now a couple of kilometres away. However, the sprawling terrace area at the top floor of the house boasts spectacular views of the busy streets of Muharraq, showcasing the hustle and bustle of the city below. There are plenty of educational displays here that teach visitors more about the beginnings of the Matar family, with exhibits that hold the family’s original pearling tools. These also help to explain the pearling process in more detail, from the measuring and weighing to the drilling and stringing.
The Bin Matar House is an exemplary example of Gulf Islamic architecture, and showcases a hugely important part of Bahrain’s heritage. From its displays on pearling to its local art exhibitions, a visit to the Bin Matar House is a great way to learn more about how Bahrain developed into the extraordinary nation that it is today.