Places, like people, have relationships to their pasts. "Bahrain's Pearling Path" reports on how one city has been changing the way it relates to its past.
For students: We hope this guide sharpens your reading skills and deepens your understanding.
For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from AramcoWorld, by teachers at any level.
Common Core Standards met in this lesson: RH9-10.1, RI9-10.7, W9-10.1  (see details below).

—The Editors
Do you have comments? I'd be pleased to hear from you at 
[email protected].
—Julie Weiss


Bahrain's Pearling Path: Relating to the Past

Places, like people, have relationships to their pasts. In the northeastern United States, for example, red brick buildings that were once factories still exist, but now they are being used for apartments, offices or shops. Sometimes these old factory buildings stand right next to newer buildings, creating a curious juxtaposition of present, past and past adapted to present. "Bahrain's Pearling Path" reports on how one city has been changing the way it relates to its past. Learn more about Muharraq—the former capital of Bahrain—by reading the article and completing these activities. In this lesson you will:

•Identify what causes some societies to change.
•Describe the relationship between economic change, and social and cultural change.
•Analyze photographs to gather evidence about how a city's inhabitants relate to their city's past.

An Analogy About Change

Let's start with an analogy. Gather some books and stack them on the floor. When you've got a good stack, ask yourself, "What will happen if I pull out the bottom book?" Try it and find out. You don't have to be overly cautious when you pull, like you might be if you were trying to keep the stack intact. Just give a tug and pull out that bottom book. What happened? Most likely (unless you're really skilled or just plain lucky) the stack of books fell down. Maybe ti toppled slowly, with the upper books sliding down to the floor. Or maybe it came crashing  noisily down. Either way, when you finished, you most likely had a pile—not a stack—of books.

What's the analogy here? Think of the stack of books as a society. If you pull out the society's foundation, it might very well collapse, just like the stack of books. Often that foundation is economic. What people produce, distribute and consume—and how they do so—is like those bottom book: everything else is built on them. When the economic basis of a society changes, the society itself changes. Hold this thought.

Muharraq's History of Economic Change

Muharraq's economy changed drastically in the 1930s. Read the first part of "Bahrain's Pearling Path" and underline or highlight what caused the change. The article also says that economic changes led to other kinds of changes. Remember, the bottom book can't be pulled out without other books on top falling down. "Pearling," the article says, "provided prosperity, social cohesion and identity." Remove it, and what happens to the prosperity, cohesion and identity?

As a class, brainstorm all things that can be thought of that probably changed when pearling stopped being the economic foundation (the bottom book) of Muharraq's economy. Here are a few questions to get you started. What kind of jobs did people do when pearling was important to Muharraq? What do you think locals did after the industry collapsed? How else might the people's lives have changed when their way of making a living changed? If you have trouble generating a list of changes, think about a time of great economic change in your country—maybe one that you know more about than you know about Bahrain. How did the Industrial Revolution, for example, change Britain (or Western Europe or the United States) in the 19th century? How did the discovery of oil affect Saudi Arabia? How has the revolution in information technology changed ways of life all over the world in recent decades?  A long list of the aspects of life in Muharraq that changed when the pearling industry fell apart should come up more easily.

The article does not go into depth about what replaced Muharraq's pearling economy, but it hints that oil became a new economic base (a bottom book in a new stack of books). You can get some information about what fuels Bahrain's economy today by looking at the photo of Muharraq and Manama (pages 32–33 in the print edition). How would you describe the skyline of Manama, the current capital? Based on the skyline, and on the photo's caption, hypothesize about what might be the economic basis of modern Bahrain.

Past and Present in Muharraq:

Read the rest of "Bahrain's Pearling Path" to learn about the city's cultural revival over the past 15 years. Make notes on the key points so that you have a brief summary to use going forward in this activity. Muharraq's renewal provides a case study in a society's relationship between its past and present. An idea that guided the revitalization, articulated by Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa in the article, was to "build on—not over—Muharraq's pearling past." What exactly does that mean? Let's explore.

Think about where you live, and/or places you have visited or seen photographs of. Draw on your knowledge to find examples of each of the following. Share them with a small group so that among you, you have several examples of each type of change.

  • Old buildings are torn down and replaced with modern buildings.
  • New buildings are built to resemble old buildings.
  • Old buildings are restored so that they look approximately the way they did in the past.
How does this relate to Muharraq? In addition what you read, you can look at the photos that accompany the article to see how the Pearling Path has managed the relationship of past to present. What do the photos reveal about how Muharraq's people relate to the past and how they make that relationship physical by decisions they make about what to do with old buildings.
Culminating Activity 

Write an essay with the following thesis: The changes in Muharraq in the past 15 years build on—not over—the city's pearling past. Use as evidence to support the thesis at least three examples from the written text of "Bahrain's Pearling Path," and/or the photographs that accompany it.

Common Core Standards met in this lesson: 

RH9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

RI9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person's life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasize in each account.

W9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.