Bahrain Fort, also known as Al Bahrain Fort or Qal'at al-Bahrain, lies on the tell of Qal'at al-Bahrain in the village of Al Qalah in Bahrain. Up until just a couple of decades ago it was known as Portugal Fort or Qal'at al-Portugal.
The site of the tell has been inhabited by man since 2300 BC and was the site of the capital of the ancient Dilmun civilization. Bahrain Fort was preceded by an earlier fortification on the tell; the Tylos Fortress. The building and subsequent expansions and restorations of Bahrain Fort of course destroyed a large part of the tell.
Work on Bahrain Fort started somewhere between the late 13th century and the early 14th century by the Arab-Persian dynasty of the Princes of Hormuz. The fame of the wealth of the Hormuz realm reached as far as Europe and in 1506 the Portuguese fleet conquered Hormuz and made it a tributary state of the Portuguese king, thus placing Bahrain under Portuguese rule.
A short time later an anti-Portuguese revolt on Hormuz expelled the Portuguese and Badr al-Din, a nephew of the vizier of Hormuz, became the governor of Bahrain. Anticipating a new invasion, he restored the fort and made it capable of resisting the Portuguese and Ottoman artillery of the time. He added a second enclosure, filled in spaces between walls with earth to better protect them against the impact of cannonballs, broadened the space on top of the walls for the better movement of artillery and added a triangular lower courtyard with an entrance protected by a drawbridge.
In 1529 these additions and changes proved their worth when Badr al-Din and his 1500 men resisted a siege of the fort by a Portuguese force. Hormuz however fell into Portuguese hands again and some years later the governor of Bahrain was a Portuguese ally; Jalal al-Din Murad Mahmud Shah. He succesfully defended Bahrain Fort against a siege by Ottoman forces in 1559. This however prompted the Portuguese to restore the fort again. The architect Inofre de Carvalho designed the final layout of Bahrain Fort. He reinforced the enclosure of Badr al-Din but most importantly 3 Genoan type bastions were constructed on the north west, south west and south east corners. In 1561 the restoration was completed.
In 1602 the Portuguese were expelled from Bahrain and the fort came under Persian rule.
The town around the fort prospered until the entrance to the harbour started to silt up. This caused the decline of the town and fort and finally around 1800 the site was abandoned. Eventually the town became covered with drift sand from the sea, the fort had become a ruin.
In the late 20th century archeological excavations were carried out and the ruin of Bahrain Fort was consolidated.
Bahrain Fort is freely accessible from morning until around 22:00 hours. This is a great fort with lots of areas to explore, a visit is recommended! The site of Tylos Fortress is a nice bonus when you visit Bahrain Fort. The Bahrain Fort Museum, next to the beach, is also worth your visit.