Saar Archaeological Site, a Testament to Bahrain’s Rich History

Saar Archeological Site

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Since the dawn of its existence, Bahrain has been a nation of traders and seafarers. Over two millennia before the arrival of Islam, the island was home to the Dilmun Civilization which erected some of the region's oldest settlements. Tucked away amid the island's arid wasteland, the ruins of Saar offer a glimpse into a once thriving merchants' community that lived in one of the world's first planned towns.

Well-hidden between Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Highway and the town of Saar, the remains of a 4,000 years old settlement lie silently, only 10 kilometers away from the ultra-modern skyscrapers of the capital. Officially named Saar Archaeological Site, the ruins belong to an ancient townlet built by a group of merchants at a time when the whole area was part of the Dilmun Civilization, a pre-Islamic culture that spanned across the gulf region.

 

The site was discovered in the late 1970’s, and later excavations revealed myriads of artifacts, including copper hooks, shells and tiny pearls, all of which serve as evidence to the settlement’s role as a major trading center. The town, which was inhabited for roughly 200 years, consists of dozens of 2-3 room houses lined along a main street that branches into several smaller alleyways. The highest point of elevation across the old settlement is home to Saar Dilmun Temple, where, according to archeologists, the summer solstice was celebrated.

 

On the southern outskirts of the site lies the town’s burial complex. Otherwise known as the honeycomb cemetery for its series of neatly interconnected graves, the millennia-old necropolis was formerly the last resting place for the merchants and their family members who lived less than 500 meters away.

 

Whether it is the secluded location, sheer anonymity or the modest number of travelers who visit the country, the site is rarely frequented by tourists. Following a short desert walk past a smattering of Shawarma food trucks along Avenue 27, you’ll reach the site’s entrance which is marked by an English-Arabic sign and a sole large tree.

 

As you wander throughout the ruins, you’ll be greeted by a guard as well as a group of stray dogs, who will enthusiastically follow each and every step of yours with friendly barks. Thanks to the area’s high elevation, the ancient ruins also unintentionally serve as a scenic point, from where one can gaze at Manama’s futuristic skyline.