Al-Muḥarraq lies on the northernmost island of the Bahrain archipelago at its southwest tip. A 2.5 km-long causeway connects it to the capital city of Manama, on Bahrain island.
Taken by the Portuguese (1521) and the Persians (1602), Al-Muḥarraq passed to the control of the Āl Khalīfah dynasty in 1783 with the rest of Bahrain. It developed as a trade center, its harbor being the chief headquarters for the formerly important Bahraini pearl-diving industry, virtually extinct since the 1930s. At the beginning of the 20th century, Al-Muḥarraq’s population was estimated at 20,000, and almost 300 pearling boats were harbored there. Al-Muḥarraq has retained its character as a Middle Eastern town, with narrow, winding streets and traditional Arab sūqs (marketplaces).