Sand, sand, and more sand is what surrounds Bahrain’s tree of life. Dune after dune of sand is all that the eye can see from horizon to horizon. It is truly a miracle that the approximately 400-year old tree can survive in the harsh arid climate. This is not a feat of magic or any other supernatural force as these kinds of trees are adapted to live in arid conditions. The truly baffling thing about the tree of life is that it stands as a lone sentinel without any other trees around it for miles and miles.
The lone tree stands atop a 25-foot high sandy knoll around 1.2 miles from Jebel Dukhan. The lone tree is a major tourist attraction due to the peculiarity of its solidarity with around 50,000 visitors every year. Unfortunately, some of its beauty has been tainted by human hands. Due the vast amount of tourist traffic, the tree has been subject to vandalism by visitors. Although the markings on the tree can be easily seen, they still do not take away the natural beauty of the tree itself. Many ponder over why such a sight is even possible with such a large tree being in the midst of the desert, finding a way to thrive.
The secret behind the tree of life’s ability to survive in a hostile environment is from its evolution and specialization with arid climates. The tree of life is an example of a Prosopis Cineraria, a species of trees evolved to live in the harsh climate of the desert. Prosopis Cineraria is known in Arabic as a Chef and is found all over the region in the Indian subcontinent. Due to the lack of precipitation in deserts, these trees must find alternate sources of water rather than from rain that may never come. The way it is able to live with water is by having an extensive and deep running root system. It is not uncommon for a fully grown Ghaf tree to have its major root system burrowed down to 100 feet or more below the surface. These trees can make use of extremely deep water tables that other plants cannot access. They can also survive with extremely saline and alkaline water.
Ghaf trees are also very hearty trees that produce edible foliage in the form of peas. Its wood is good for making charcoal. The fact that its root systems take water from way below the surface, Ghaf trees are great companion plants in agrarian settings since it does need not compete with other plants for water. Additionally, its root system is a nitrogen fixer, making it an even more valuable companion plant.
It is truly marvelous to gaze at the solitary tree of life in Bahrain, to think of all the sights and history that has passed before it. Travelers of the past must have really appreciated the solace from the solar downpour of the desert that the tree offers. It is also speculated that cults gather to perform their ancient rites when the site is secluded and empty.
Bahrain’s tree of life is truly a natural wonder and a great sight to behold for anyone travelling to Bahrain. It is simply awe inspiring to witness such a large tree stand alone against the billions upon billions of grains of sand that surround it.