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On the top of a sand dune, in the middle of the desert in South Bahrain, a solitary tree stands tall. No flora can be seen for miles around as there’s not a drop of water to be found. And yet, the wide-branched tree has survived for some 4 centuries. The Bahrainis believe that the Tree of Life is a natural wonder, and the 10-metre high tree now attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.
It is said that long ago Adam and Eve once walked these lands. Legend has it that the tree was planted in 1583 to mark the spot where the Garden of Eden was located in Biblical times. The wildest stories are told about the Tree of Life: according to some, the roots extend so far that they can absorb moisture from a fresh water spring reservoir hundreds of metres deep, located many kilometres away. But probably imagination is better than reality.
The Tree of Life is a ‘prosopis cineraria’, a thorny bush that originates in Asia. The yellow resin is commonly used to make candles, aromatics and gum, while the beans are processed into meal, jam and wine. The tree fares well in the driest of climates due to roots that can extend up to 50 metres. In Bahrain they don’t even have to reach that far; the ground water is only around ten metres below the surface. Nevertheless the solitary tree in the desert speaks to the imagination. In the film ‘L.A. Story’, Steve Martin calls it one of the most mystical places on earth.
Tree of Life, Southern Governate, Bahrain
The Bahrainis are certain that their island was once the Garden of Eden, the Biblical paradise where Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit. Looking around when visiting the Tree of Life it is hard to imagine this; not even a blade of grass can be seen growing in the simmering, bone-dry desert. Yet, it isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem. Long ago there was plenty of water here, and the area was a tropical oasis with lush flora and fauna.
“The Bahrainis are certain that this was once the Biblical paradise of Adam and Eve.”