The Mystery of the Tree of Life - Maarten Schafer

Discovering Bahrain — Maarten Schafer

I have arrived in the Bahraini capital Manama and am wondering what to go and see. I know that this small island in the Persian Gulf is famous for its pearls, and that locals traditionally made most of their income from pearl diving.

When I ask our friend Ziyad which sights are worth visiting on the island, he pulls out a map from behind the reception and opens it up in front of us. “There is the Formula 1 circuit south of the city, but there are no races on at the moment,” he says, pointing at a dot in the desert. He pauses as he looks up to see if I’m disappointed by this news. Of course, he doesn’t know I just did a couple of laps on the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.

“Then there is Oil-Well-Number-1 in the middle of the desert — the first oil well in the Persian Gulf, which was spudded in 1931 and where they struck oil one year later.” I look at the map and see that the middle of the desert is only 30 kilometers from town. “Cool,” I say, “that means it’s only a short drive away.”

“And what’s that tree on the map?” I ask. Ziyad inspects the map more closely. “That, my dear friend, is the Tree of Life,” he says as he clears his throat as though he is about to embark on a public speech. “It is one of Bahrain’s natural wonders. It is a mystery where it draws its water from.” He leans over and with a meaningful look whispers: “The tree is estimated to be 400 years old! Much older than any other acacia tree — they only live for 150 years usually.”

“Sounds like something I have to check out!” I say as I pack the map away. “Thanks, Ziyad, see you later!” Armed with my camera and a bottle of water I get into the car. “Driver, Oil-Well-Number-1 and the Tree of Life please.”

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