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An ancient home that will be purchased from its owners.

Pearl Route homes in Bahrain may be revamped

MANAMA, July 3, 2015

Homes in historic neighbourhoods in Muharraq, Bahrain, could finally be redeveloped as part of a multi-million-dinar heritage scheme.

They are located on the Pearl Route, which has been granted World Heritage Site status by the United Nations (UN), said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

Parliament yesterday approved a $48-million loan from the Islamic Bank for Development to fund the initiative, which will involve buying properties from homeowners and turning them into cultural attractions.

It is good news for people living in the properties, many of which are in urgent need of repair, since renovation work on homes included in the scheme was banned in 2011.

The ban was enforced on 1,300 homes to ensure buildings did not lose their historic appeal, but many residents complained their houses were rundown and on the verge of collapsing.

Owners are currently required to ask for an assessment before carrying out renovation work at their own expense, according to specific requirements.

A total of BD10 million ($26.3 million) has now been set aside in the new national budget to fund the Pearl Route project, which highlights Bahrain’s traditional pearling industry.

Meanwhile, the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA) – which replaced the former Culture Ministry – has informed MPs that another BD10 million has been pledged by the private sector.

The $48-million loan will now be voted on by the Shura Council on Sunday, before being approved by His Majesty King Hamad.

BACA hopes to acquire 200 properties for the Pearl Route project, while owners of other properties will be able to continue living there.

However, MP Ali Al Muqla – who is former Muharraq Municipal Council vice-chairman – told parliament during an extraordinary session yesterday that the loan should not be approved based on concerns that BACA would spend it elsewhere.

“I have been a municipal councillor for 12 years and the former Culture Ministry has been promising to preserve old Muharraq, but every time they get a budget for something they tend to spend it somewhere else,” he said.

“The BD20 million ($53 million) is more than enough for the project and I don’t see a need for the loan.

“Hundreds of homeowners were forced to renovate their homes according to BACA criteria, which many can’t afford – especially with old building materials being expensive and the installation of split ACs (air-conditioning) rather than window ACs, among other requirements.”

Al Muqla also said it was unfair to ask families who had lived in old Muharraq for 200 years to vacate their homes without finding them alternative accommodation nearby.

“It is good that Unesco (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) is interested, but it doesn’t know about the conditions of families living there and what will happen to them.”

Current Muharraq Municipal Council chairman Mohammed Al Sinan told the GDN that homeowners could visit the council on the last two Sundays of Ramadan, from 10pm to 11pm, to ask BACA officials to assess their homes.

“Only 200 homes are needed and the rest will be allowed to renovate on the condition they follow BACA requirements.

“The homeowners of the 200 will be compensated from the $48 million fairly, even more than the market value, as we are observers to deals and purchases of other landmarks.

“We are working to get renovations done according to BACA criteria for homes that are not selected at BACA’s expense, since they will be allowed to stay, while finding alternative homes for those who will be asked to leave.”

The council in 2011 threatened to demolish dozens of homes unless proper remodelling was carried out, even as the World Heritage Site application to the Unesco was being considered.

It backed down when the location, spanning a 2 km stretch of Muharraq, received World Heritage Site status.

The Culture Ministry was initially supposed to renovate 200 homes, preserve 17 buildings and create 11 open spaces in the historic neighbourhood where people involved in the pearling industry used to live and trade. - TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Pearl | Home | Heritage | Route | revamp |

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