Located on a seaside reef in modern day West Riffa, the Riffa Fort is a much of a relic of the past. Today, the fort is a complex of silent walls and silent guns overlooking a coast for an enemy that may never arrive.
Built in the 1600’s, the fort was commissioned by the Persian Safavid Empire ruling from Iran. It was designed to be a stronghold against enemies that may invade Bahrain. Today, the fort is known as Sh. Salman bin Ahmed Fort. It is an architectural marvel and tourist location that showcases the relics of the past that very much shaped the culture and politics of the small island state of today.
The fort complex exhibits the architectural theory and style of a time that has come to pass when enemies would come by ship and the loud thuds of cannon fire were all that were needed to end the fray. The imposing structure was designed as a defensive position and the front line to any invading force. As the spearhead of the defense, it was also the only fortified structure that troops could garrison in when the battle wore too long.
In 1812, the fort was converted into a semi-residential structure that would still act as a stronghold whilst being the seat of power for the sultan. The man who commissioned this was Sh. Salman Bin Ahmed Khalifa, for whom the fort is now named after today. This was a move to centralize power in the region into an area that can be easily defended with good quarters for bureaucratic residents. In fact, until 1869, Riffa was the capital of Bahrain. Until the present day, the same region is where the shakers and the makers of the city take up residence in the island nation. West Riffa is still a residential area that caters to the rich and the affluent upper class of Bahraini including the ruling family, the prime minister, various foreign dignitaries and major investors.
The fort itself consists of three rectangular chambers elaborately designed with each having an independent court. The first court is accessed by a staircase with a building erected during the 1800’s. The second court is connected by a path that leads to the outside of the fort into two identical spaces. The last court then connects many small chambers to the southern façade. Other architectural elements include a circular garrison inside the chambers, a mosque and a well. Having the fortress near the sea makes it perfectly situated for one of the most ingenious architectural elements of Persian and Arabic design, the wind tower. A wind tower is designed to regulate the temperature inside the structure by circulating air via air currents supplied by the wind. The fortress’ interior was regulated with this structure as it kept it comfortable and livable even during the harsh heat of the summer sun. The Riffa fort is truly an architectural marvel that any visitor of Bahrain should consider visiting when vacationing in this culturally-rich island nation.