After five decades, historic Bahrain café faces closure

Bahrainis have started a campaign aimed a protecting historic places in the Suq from closure

Manama: When word started to spread seven months ago that Abdul Qadir Café, nestled in the old Suq of the Bahraini capital Manama, was to close down, few people believed it would really happen.

The small alley café, known for its blue and white tables, had become a staple for Suq visitors.

Abdul Qadir Café, officially registered as Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad Ahmad Café, opened more than five decades ago serving fast food at low prices.

Businessmen frequently closed deals there while men would go there to relax and wait for their wives or sisters shopping in the adjacent colourful shops.

Besides serving tea and coffee, a famous staple of the café was its chickpeas served in small bowls alongside salt and vinegar.

Speaking to Bahraini media, café owner Abdul Qadir said the owner of the building had asked the tenants to vacate in order to renovate the building.

“When I argued that I wanted to keep the café as a legacy of the early days of the Suq and a traditional meeting place, he suggested that I rent again from him, but at a much higher price, which I could not afford.”

When Bahrainis found out about the café’s closure, they started a campaign on social media calling on authorities to help preserve it as well as other historic places which faced closure.

Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammad Al Khalifa, the President of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquity (BACA) has sought to assure citizens that Bahrain’s Suq features would be preserved.

“Cafés are a treasure of stories narrated by clients who represented various epochs of the country’s history,” she said as a she received the team tasked with finding solutions to protect heritage areas.

While its unclear if social pressure will spare the cafe from closure, Bahrainis say they will never forget its charm.

“The café has over decades braved various challenges to remain an oasis of delightful times for its customers thanks to the smiles and radiance of its owners,” businessman Mahmoud Al Namliti told Bahraini media.

“Despite their financial problems you could see happiness on the faces of its customers.”

“Abdul Qadir Café and other historic features of the original Suq must be well preserved as a collective social memory,” Bahraini diplomat Khalil Al Thawadi said.

“Whenever I am in Bahrain I make it a point to visit and I brag about it to other diplomats abroad,” he said.

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