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Muharraq is Bahrain’s third largest city and served as its capital until 1932 when it was replaced by Manama.

Muharraq has long been considered as the second town of Bahrain.

History of Muharraq

The city is located on Muharraq Island. Bahrain International Airport is also located on the island. Adjacent to Muharraq are the man-made Amwaj Islands, known for their large buildings, hotels and beaches.The population of Muharraq in 2020 was 263,373.

Muharraq was originally part of Dilmun, a Semitic speaking Bronze Age polity. Later, it became the city of Arwad on the island of Tylos (as Bahrain was referred to in antiquity), believed by some (including Strabo and Herodotus) to be the birthplace of Phoenicia. At the end of Persian rule, Bahrain came under the domination of the Seleucid Greeks, and Muharraq was the centre of a pagan cult dedicated to the shark god, Awal. The city’s inhabitants, who depended upon seafaring and trade for their livelihood, worshipped Awal in the form of a large statue of a shark located in the city.

By the 5th century AD, Muharraq had become a major centre of Nestorian Christianity, which had come to dominate the southern shores of the Persian Gulf. As a sect, the Nestorians were often persecuted as heretics by the Byzantine Empire, but Bahrain was outside the Empire’s control offering safety. The names of several of Muharraq’s villages today reflect this Christian legacy, with Al-Dair meaning ‘the monastery’ and Qalali meaning a ‘monk’s cloisters’.

Taken by the Portuguese (1521) and the Persians (1602), Al-Muḥarraq passed to the control of the Al Khalīfah dynasty in 1783 with the rest of Bahrain.

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