Off the beaten track
The Tree of Life: a 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.

A’ali Burial Mounds: death in ancient times
Bahrain probably had the largest prehistoric cemetery in the world. There were some 170,000 burial mounds dating to between 3000 BC and AD 600. Road and house construction has probably brought the burial-mound number down to 10,000-20,000. Each mound contained a stone-built chamber which formed a grave for a person buried in the foetal position along with various elements needed in the next world. Few of the mounds are intact today, many having been looted in the past or destroyed over the years. The best preserved of the mounds, including tall mounds referred to as royal burial mounds, can be seen at A’ali village.

Dilmun Digs at Sa'ar: An ancient village unearthed
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. The digs at Sa’ar have proved the existence of a very organised lifestyle with well-ordered roads, houses with courtyards and a central marketplace. For anyone even faintly interested in ancient civilisations, the site of the dig will be a hugely fascinating experience.

Barbar Temple: spiritual centre
Three temples, built one over the other, provide vital clues to religious rites in the Dilmun era. If the site of the Bahrain Fort was the civil capital of ancient Dilmun, Barbar may’ve been the spiritual centre. All three temples, constructed during the third and second millenniums BC, were dedicated to Enki, the god of wisdom and living waters. Legend has it that he lived in a subterranean palace covered in silver and lapis lazuli, near a freshwater lake.

Old Muharraq: Bask in traditional ambience
Bahrain’s current and former capitals, Manama and Muharraq, are joined by causeways but the two cities could hardly be more different. While Manama’s skyline boasts the silhouette of a 21st-century city, Muharraq still retains an old-world feel and charm. The winding lanes, wooden-shuttered homes, sculpted doors, stained-glass windows, ancient windtowers and the aroma of essences and spices all contribute to the feeling of time standing still. Stroll Muharraq’s old souq, visit the stalls and stop for a tea in a tiny shop. Several shops sell traditional sweets including the very popular halwah.

Hawar Island: An isle 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, 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.

Eco-Tours: It’s a bird’s world
No fewer tan 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’ll want to check out.

Dolphin Spotting: A school kids will love
Dolphin spotting is a fun trip for the whole family with Bahrain Yacht Club taking enthusiastic passengers out for a ride three times daily: 10 am, noon and 2 pm. The area of the sea where the boat goes is usually where schools of dolphins play and seem to be quite accustomed to people visiting their territory. The mammals leap into the air with their characteristic smiles greeting their visitors. Of course, seeing dolphins can’t be guaranteed but most times, they do their acrobatic act. During high winds and incliment weather, the boat runs may be cancelled so booking is a must (1770 0677).

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