The al-Jalahma family was involved in a wide range of key professions of the pearling economy, from diver and hauler to pearl trader (tajir) and grand pearl merchant (tawwash). Al-Jalahma House, built on the northern tip of Muharraq city at the gateway to al-Halah Island before the age of land reclamations, was the Jalahma family’s home. It offers a prototype of a large, complex residence in which women, as a result of multiple marriages, made up the majority of household members. Consequently, the house provides a unique opportunity to explore the female perspective on the pearling economy.
Protecting the privacy of the female members of a household is a well-established tenet of Islamic architecture and in this extraordinary building. We find it guaranteed through a complicated arrangement of corridors, staircases, balconies and courtyards. Of particular interest, is that the separated gender areas of Al-Jalahma House are designed to be completely flexible: reception areas for men, for example, would revert to female domains once male visitors left. In all the other large family residences among the nominated properties, the guest reception room (majlis) is constructed as a separate building, or at least has a separate entrance. In Al-Jalahma House, however, the most representative reception room (hafiz) is located at the centre of the family home. Located on the residence’s airy, elevated first floor, the hafiz was the women’s favourite place during the summer months when the pearl diving season saw Muharraq transformed into a female city.
1321, 1319, Road 1624, Block 216 / 1251, 1250, Lane 1622, Block 216
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