|Bahrain's must-see attractions|
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Bab Al Bahrain
The throbbing heart of the island. You’ll quickly discover that life in Bahrain somehow revolves around this landmark. “Bab Al Bahrain” quite literally means “gateway to Bahrain.” When it was originally designed by Sir Charles Belgrave in 1945, it housed the government offices of the time and overlooked the sea as the dock was just where the taxi rank is.
Unearthing the past. The earliest recorded references to Bahrain date to the third millennium BC when it was known as Dilmun. An entire 100-by-150-metre village from that era has been excavated, unearthing stunning chapters in the island’s long history.
Death in ancient times. Bahrain has what is believed to be the largest prehistoric cemetery in the world. There were some 170,000 burial mounds dating to between 3000 BC and 600 AD. Road and house construction has probably brought the burial-mound number down to 10,000-20,000.
Tree of Life
A desert mystery. Far into the desert stands a broad, shady, mature mesquite tree in solitary splendour. The lone tree in a sea of sand almost seems like a mirage. To this day, the tree’s source of water remains a mystery. Some believe it gets its nourishment from an underground spring but that doesn’t explain the complete lack of vegetation in the vicinity. Local lore dates the tree in millenniums but botanists say it may be several hundred years old.
45 minutes by boat, but a world away. Hawar Island is just a 45-minute speedboat ride from al Dur pier on the main island to Hawar marina – quite simply, a world away. You’ll be greeted by pristine beaches, cool, blue waters and rarely seen birds. Hawar Resort (tel 1729 0377), the sole but classy hotel on the island, offers excellent sports and recreation facilities. Spending only a day at the resort is guaranteed to recharge your batteries. The hotel offers you a conducted tour of the isle.
A modern gem. The impossible-to-miss Pearl Monument, at the gateway to the Seef district, is one of Bahrain’s most recognisable symbols. Six dhow sails are depicted, representing the six countries of the Gulf. At the summit of the monument is a pearl, an element which unites the countries in their heritage. A fountain has recently been placed at its base.
Al Areen Park
Wild world. Located 20 kilometres south of Manama, this 16-square-kilometre wildlife sanctuary contains rare and endangered species whose natural habitat is the Arabian peninsula. Inhabitants of Al Areen Wildlife Park include the Arabian oryx, which is virtually extinct in the wild; the Persian gazelle, springbok and impala. A bus tour of the reserve and a film show on the park are highly recommended. For more information, call 1783 6116.
Ecotourism packages. No fewer than 300 species of birds have been recorded in Bahrain including the rare sooty falcon as well as the world’s largest socotra cormorant breeding colony. Ecotours specialist Al Reem (1771 0868) has travel packages for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts that you might want to check out.