<La Vie Tang>Five ‘Firsts’ on My Bahrain Trip

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There is a saying in Bahrain, ‘your Bahrain trip doesn’t count without seeing the First Tree, the First Oil Well and the first Bridge’, for which these three ‘Firsts’ are considered must-go places of a Bahrain tour. But my tour guide added another two ‘Firsts’, the First Mosque and the First Castle.

We started the journey from Manama all the way to the southeast, and the further we progressed, the less green we could see, rather the boundless yellow sand intruded into sight. There suddenly emerged a mass of green from a height ahead, the Tree of Life miracle to the Bahraini, when we almost got visual fatigue. It shows great resemblance to the Acacia tree, but a Prosopis cineraria in fact. Not a rare species indeed, the tree fascinates the world the most that without any source of water across areas more than dozens of meters around nor any other flowers or plants, however, it simply has grown up to be the tree of approximately 10 meters in height thriving with luxuriant green foliage, standing loftily on the barren expanse of wilderness over four hundred years.

My tour guide told me that instead of exploring the water supplies secretly supporting the life of the tree, the locals are more convinced of a fascinating legend. There once mentioned in the Bible that the place was the seat of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eva inhabited. Some say it is the god of water who keeps an eye on its vitality; and some exaggeratedly claims that the tree is able to absorb groundwater hundreds of meters deep and extending to several miles away, with roots growing into depths and breadths. All indicate that the Tree of Life symbolizes both the legend and the spirit of Bahraini, irrespective of whether one version is prevalent over others. 

When I stood under the tree and looked up to it, it suddenly occurred to me of some lyrics from a song by Ajahn Chah Subhaddo, the eminent monk of Thailand, which sings, 

I am like a tree in a forest,

full of leaves, blossoms and fruit.

Birds come to eat and nest,

and animals seek rest in its shade.

Morning, dusk, wind, rain.

Yet the tree does not know itself.

It follows its own nature 

Though surrounded by desolate barrens, this gnarled tree in leafy profusion must have provided, and will continue to provide, shades for many animals. Indeed, it does not necessarily have to realize its identity, but we are unconsciously influenced by the power of life.

 ‘Tree of Life’ is a must-see in Bahrain that attracts visitors from all over the world to explore its secret. We happened to meet a family of four coming from some other place when hanging around the spot, and two naughty children tried to climb up the tree but were immediately stopped by the tour guide. It obviously shows that the longevity of the tree is closely associated with environmental awareness from local residents. The region is currently planning to develop a park in place, and in addition to future protecting the tree, the multiple benefits include increasing tourism facilities and developing surroundings.

As a Mideast nation in every way, oil is an integral part to Bahrain. Several kilometers to the north of Tree of Life is home to the First Oil Well. When it comes to oil exporters in the Middle East, people, at first thought, tent to associate those nations such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, without being aware that Bahrain was actually the foregoer. In early times, the Bahraini lived on pearl collecting, fishing and trade with foreign countries. In 1931 the first oil well was dug in its territory, and petroleum was extracted in the following year, bringing Bahrain the hope of achieving prosperity, which, as it were, reshaped the country’s destiny. Though having drained up long ago, the First Oil Well in the Middle East once bore the weight of the nation’s hope and has become an integral part of history. Now the Bahraini have even rebuilt the well after its original shape and erected a monument. It’s a relic of the early days to us but taking up an unshakable standing with the Bahraini. Nearby, there established Bahrain Petroleum Museum of a comparatively modest scale, telling about many oil-related stories in Bahrain.

Speaking of the change of its destiny, it could hardly advance without the First Bridge which is my next stop. Not an ordinarily-seen small bridge over the flowing stream but a grand cross-sea rainbow spanning the waters between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, King Fahad Causeway with the construction period from 1981 to 1986 is praised by the Bahraini as a time tunnel from past to future, overall length of 25 kilometers that once was the longest elevated cross-sea bridge in the world. Having its excellent accessibility, the bridge simply becomes a default passageway for the Saudis to the ‘land of pleasure’.

Tang Yu Lap

Hantec Honorary Advisor


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The Tree of Life standing like a giant on the desert over four hundred years

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