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Bahraini Royal Family History

The Al Khalifa Royal Family of Bahrain are descendants of the al-Utub tribe, one of the foremost tribes of the Najd region, which is now central Saudi Arabia.

In early 17th century, the plain of Al-Haddar, East of Al-Afflage Ridge and near Wadi Al-Dowaseer, was full of villages and gardens inhabited by the Jumailah-Wail branch of the Anaza tribe. In about the year 1670 A.D., differences took place among the members of the clans, which resulted in the separation and migration of a division thereof. In this division were the ancestors of the Al-Khalifa, Al-Sabah, Al-Fadhel and Al-Jalahma, and their other kinsmen and supporters who migrated with them.

Migration brought them to the East Coast and the Gulf Region. Various other tribesmen joined them and all formed a united confederacy and called themselves by the name of Al-Utub. Consequently they were known as Banu-Utuba. Unions of this kind were common among the different tribes in Arabia and when such greater confederacies were formed, all the tribes, clans or individuals felt as if they were members of one common ancestor. From Al Hasa province the Banu-Utub went to Qatar Peninsula and settled in Freha in the year 1672 and from there they made their first brief occupation of Bahrain in 1700.

Around the year 1708 they settled and founded the city of Kuwait. The founder of the present Al-Khalifa family was known as Shaikh Khalifa bin Mohammed, who left after his death a son, Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa.

In mid 18th century the Al-Khalifa, led by Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa, parted from their cousins the Al-Sabah, the present ruling family of Kuwait. Returning south, they established the fortified settlement of Zubara on the North West coast of Qatar. In 1768 Shaikh Mohammed completed the building of his fort in Zubara and called it Sabha, which means dawn. After his death, his eldest son Khalifa succeeded him as Shaikh of Zubara. In his time Zubara expanded and flourished, especially after the destruction of El-Basra in Southern Iraq, when numerous merchants emigrated from Basra and settled in Zubara. Al-Basra was sacked by Sadiq Khan El-Zandy, brother of Karim Khan, the ruler of Persia.

In 1783 Shaikh Nasser bin Mathcoor, the Governor of Bahrain and Abu-Shohar, attacked Zubara. It is said that most probably the fear of the new state’s growth, and the competition in pearl fishing areas and in commercial activity led him to action. At that time Shaikh Khalifa was away in Mecca on pilgrimage and his brother Shaikh Ahmed was in charge of the cause of Zubara. Nasser bin Mathcoor lost the battle at Zubara and Shaikh Ahmed with his followers pursued the defeated army and seized Awal. Awal is the old name for the island of Bahrain. Shaikh Khalifa died in Mecca on his pilgrimage whereupon Shaikh Ahmed became the first Al-Khalifa ruler of the Bahrain Islands.

Modern history of Bahrain is very much alive today starting with Shaikh Ahmed the Conqueror. For the next half a century many battles were fought on land and sea between the Shaikhs of Bahrain and the Sultans of Muscat. They also fought with their Najdi brethren of the Wahabe sect, and their former ally Rahma Al-Jalahma who had become a notorious sea pirate in the Gulf. Shaikh Ahmed died around 1796 and was succeeded by his sons Sulman and Abdulla, who ruled jointly until 1825 when Sulman died. Abdulla later ruled jointly with his nephew Khalifa bin Sulman, until the latter’s death in 1834. Khalifa’s son Mohammed, born in 1813, was perhaps one of the most colourful personalities in his time. He was associated with his granduncle Shaikh Abdulla in the Shaikship, then made war on Abdulla and was expelled from Bahrain. Shaikh Abdulla established the Kuheila’t Jellaby strain of horse in Bahrain and during his reign they multiplied. Mohammed bin Khalifa then invaded Bahrain 1843 and drove out his granduncle Abdulla who settled in Arabia proper and founded the Al-Abdulla branch of the family. Shaikh Mohammed was a contemporary of Abbas Pasha of Egypt and it was he who sent many mares of the Jellaby and Dahman strain to Abbas Pasha. Perhaps Shaikh Mohammed was not a popular ruler, because he had to flee from Bahrain and his brother Ali became the new Shaikh. Shaikh Ali reigned for only one year, as his brother Mohammed, with his followers, invaded Bahrain again to seize power. A battle on horseback was fought on Rufa hill where Ali was killed. Alas, Shaikh Mohammed was not accepted as the new Shaikh, was expelled again and died in the Hijaz in 1890. He left 26 sons.