Friday, November 19, 2004

Bahrain Centre for Contemporary Art

A little treasure hidden in an undesirable part of Manama behind Raja School, the Bahrain Centre for Contemporary Art is the sanctum that embraces me in time of need. It took BD 2 million to restore this old traditional house, but this figure doesn’t do justice to the sentimental value attached to the preservation and restoration of our architectural heritage. The one or two which the government has invested in restoring, such as the house of Isa bin Ali in Muharraq, have been turned into museum pieces, and there is only so many that we need of these. The ingenuity lies in trying to make money out of restoration to serve a dual purpose, for which BCCA gets 10 out of 10. Fatima Alireza, has not only managed to restore her father’s house, but also to make it a commercially viable endeavour by combining a restaurant, a spa, a pilates studio of exquisite class. Judging by the time it takes to get an appointment, it seems that Fatima, has succeeded in tapping into a niche market in Bahrain, and its not unusual to bump into the big names in the country here. On top of this, modern minimalist interior design perfectly complements the simple clay structure that is the signature of the classic abode of our ancestors. Many houses such as this one, still exist, but are in ruins and in a state of collapse.

I’ve been to many places around the world, but hardly anywhere compares to the thought of lounging in the sun next to the pool with a good book in the ladies spa, going for a quick Thai massage or facial and then being served an ambrosial meal on the patio in the privacy of beautiful surroundings. Not short of superb, this exclusive place is one of the few gems on the island where you can get away from prying eyes and enjoy a holistic experience .

PS, I didn't intend to sound like something out of a travel magazine :) But hey, if anyone wants to quote me, feel free!!

Posted by BB @ 11/19/2004 08:17:00 PM

Read or Post a Comment

Definitely. The BCCA has done a great great job with the place. There are several other such building in Hoora that are also in need of a similar makeover.

Posted by Blogger Chanad @ 11/19/2004 08:48:00 PM #

It is way the coolest place in Bahrain. I can't understand why everyone wants to hang out in Trader Vic's when they could be at La Fontaine.

Rather than build yet more skyscrapers, what Bahrain should be doing is urban regeneration of its authentic heritage - using the Centre as the model.

Posted by Blogger Scorpio @ 11/19/2004 09:54:00 PM #

For once I agree with you Scorpio, carry on like this and I might even start reading what you write :)

However, you can't really put Trader Vic's and La Fontaine/BCCA in the same boat. BCCA is not a place i'd go to hang out with my buddies.

If the government's coffer can't pay for this urban regeneration, then at least it should implement a program that would encourage private investment to invest in such projects. I know there are loads of old places like this in the ghettos behind Manama Souk. The owners just cannot afford to restore them.

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 11/19/2004 10:04:00 PM #

Lol - thanks.

But I'm afraid I'm going to have to break the truce by disagreeing and saying that La Fontaine should be the ultimate place to hang out with buddies during the winter when you can sit with friends outside in the courtyard under the starry sky. Awesome. It's appropriate that they're showing Fellini's La Dolce Vita there, as there's an echo of that glamour about the place. They've even got the fountain for any aspiring Anita Ekberg.

I've got to agree about developing Hoora - absolutely. And if they had more ventures like this you'd attract people to come and live in the area particularly young professionals reversing the flight to the suburbs. Central Manama's got masses of potential, but there's no vision. Rather than this obsession with competing with Dubai, the government, the local authority and local businesses would be better off using Hoxton or Brick Lane as the model.

Posted by Blogger Scorpio @ 11/19/2004 11:43:00 PM #

Forgive me for my ignorance, but where in Bahrain can you enjoy lounging in the sun with a good book and by a pool? Where is this place? I'm impressed!

Posted by Blogger Girl, Interrupted @ 11/19/2004 11:47:00 PM #

Scorpio, yes, it's great that they're showing Fellini's Vita, but aren't they charging something like 10BD for it? Or am I confusing things?

Posted by Blogger Chanad @ 11/20/2004 12:01:00 AM #

Sadly you're right - the prices are absurd.

Posted by Blogger Scorpio @ 11/20/2004 12:41:00 AM #
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