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Published by: AMH Archives Team
Published Date: 9/20/2022


Miss Cornelia Dalenberg was a trained nurse, of three years’ experience already, in West Side Hospital, Chicago, when, in 1921, she decided to join the Arabian Mission.

After intensive Arabic language study, she came in 1922 to Bahrain’s Mason Memorial Hospital (now called the AMH). Her desire to serve in healthcare, or her passion for her calling, can be seen in all her letters and reports.

"Of all our new and interesting experiences, since we came to Bahrein (sic), I think the picnic at Moharrek (sic) was one of the happiest", she wrote in March 1922.

In her full report titled My First Arab Meal, she also describes how she went on a boat ride, with two other American women, to meet Ayesha, their hostess and her friends and how she enjoyed ther food and company -- a wonderful vivid story from 100 years ago!

This US registered nurse had served patients with great care, under different doctors, and by even travelling to Oman, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar and Saudi Arabia; and helping the doctors to set-up hospitals and clinics – for over 40 years, that she served in the region.


Needless to say, she had seen many great changes that occurred in Bahrain. In fact, within 10 years of her arriving here, Bahrain discovered oil in Jebel Dukan, in 1932. And she’s written about her feelings.

About the changes in Bahrain, she wrote this in 1940:

I continue to marvel at some of the changes that have taken place in Bahrain during the last decade. This is no longer an isolated island. Land planes and sea planes are heard overhead so often that the Arabs have come to take them for granted and do not even stop to look up when they hear them. 

A European visitor may arrive at the airport, be whisked away in a car and be entertained in an air-conditioned house at the oil camp and leave the island without so much as a glimpse of Arab life. It is to be hoped that no foreigner does miss this opportunity; for he is missing a great deal if he comes to Bahrain and sees only oil, and the riches and comfort it has brought to some.


On her choice of healthcare work (1954):

“This has the joyous side. Perhaps, it is the greatest contribution that Mission Hospitals make to this land. It certainly gives us wonderful opportunities as we go from bedside to bedside, sit and talk with group here and there…. I would rather work here, than in the best and the most modern hospital in the world.”

Before she retired in 1961, the annual report she presented on healthcare in the entire Arabian region – to the Reformed Church of America - shows her in-depth knowledge about the region and the work of the hospitals here.

Her biography is titled ‘Sharifa' was published in 1984. And an Arabic translation of the book was also made.

[Sources: Cornelia Dalenberg, "Into Massa Again", Neglected Arabia, Number 187, October 1939-March 1940, p. 121; and “Bahrain”, Arabia calling, Number 235, 1954, p.14]

Published by

AMH Archives Team

AMH Archives Team.

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