A Tale of Two Seas: From Dilmun to Bahrain

Photograph by Haya Al Khalifa Courtesy of the artist
Photograph by Haya Al Khalifa
Courtesy of the artist

Meridian International Center and the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA), along with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain, partnered to launch A Tale of Two Seas: From Dilmun to Bahrain, a widely anticipated cultural diplomacy exhibition that brings Bahraini heritage to the United States for the first time. This project debuts the bilateral cultural relations between the United States and Bahrain, with a signed Memorandum of Understanding between Meridian and BACA.

A Tale of Two Seas: From Dilmun to Bahrain brings Bahrain’s longstanding heritage and vibrant culture to American audiences. With over 6,000 years of history, the Kingdom of Bahrain has a distinctive culture within the Gulf region. An archipelago composed of more than 33 islands, Bahrain has been a leading harbor and marketplace since the third millennium BCE. Throughout its history, the country has benefitted from its strategic location that linked the Near East to the Indus Valley, and from its natural wealth in the form of abundant water, lush gardens, and rich pearling grounds. These features and natural resources allowed people to settle and thrive on the island and gave the country its modern name, Bahrain, which means “two seas” in Arabic. From Dilmun to modern Bahrain, through the different historical eras, the island produced an original culture and a unique way of life.

The exhibition includes a selection of four-thousand-year-old steatite stamp seals, which underscore the cultural dominance of Bahrain, the ancient capital of the Dilmun civilization. The exhibition also illustrates the history of Bahrain’s pride, its pearling industry – which, until the discovery of oil in the 1930s, determined every aspect of life on the island. Beyond archaeological artifacts and historical images, A Tale of Two Seas also includes a contemporary art installation. In SEA, artist Hala Al Khalifa explores the legacy of pearl diving. Her work is both a tribute to pearl diving, as well as a memorial for those who lost their lives at sea. A collection of thobs, traditional Bahraini costumes, demonstrates the country’s rooted tradition of weaving and embroidering, and reflects Bahrainis’ aesthetic sensibility and expertise in the use of form, color, fabric, and embroidery. Their beauty, brilliant colors and ingenuity of decoration are captured and showcased through the work of Bahraini documentary photographer, Haya Al Khalifa.

A Tale of Two Seas: From Dilmun to Bahrain was on view October 24 – November 8, 2015, at Meridian’s Cafritz Galleries.

Exhibition Partners

About the Bahrain National Museum

The Bahrain National Museum is a non-profit institution committed to collecting, preserving, and interpreting Bahrain’s history and heritage. The museum works to support and promote a greater understanding of local arts and culture.

The Bahrain National Museum opened in 1988 and houses a rich collection of artefacts covering 6000 years of Bahrain's history.

For more information about the Bahrain National Museum, visit culture.gov.bh/en/, or follow the museum on Twitter (culturebah), Instagram (@culturebah), and Facebook (facebook.com/culturebah).

Project Timeline

Project summary

A Tale of Two Seas: From Dilmun to Bahrain | November 2015
Regions: Near East and North Africa
Countries: Bahrain
Impact Areas: Cultural Diplomacy, Education
Program Areas: Culture
Partners: Diplomatic Corps, Public Sector