We have arrived in the Bahraini capital Manama and are wondering what to go and see. We know that this little island in the Persian Gulf is famous for its pearls, and that locals traditionally made most of their income from pearl diving.
When we ask our hotel concierge Ali 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 we are disappointed by this news. Of course he doesn’t know we just did a couple of laps on the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.
“Then there is Oil Well No. 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.” We look at the map and see that the middle of the desert is only 30 kilometres from town. “Cool,” I say, “that means it’s only a short drive away.”
“And what’s that tree on the map?” we ask. Ali adjusts his glasses and inspects he map more closely. “That, my dear friends, is the Tree of Life,” he says as he removes his glasses and 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 we have to check out!” we say as we pack the map away. “Thanks Ali, see you later!” Armed with our cameras and a bottle of water we get into the car. “Driver, Oil Well No. 1 and the Tree of Life please.”