16/03/2004

Officials turning blind eye to vandalism ..?

Vol XXVI NO. 362 Tuesday 16 March 2004

By Amira Al Hussaini

Our legendary Tree of Life is being vandalised and no one is taking any notice. With nothing much to do in Bahrain during the holidays, we decided to visit Sakhir and pay homage to the tree which is celebrated around the world and virtually ignored at home.

True to its legend, the lofty tree - which is now old, fragile, a picnic spot and a refuse disposal point - continues to attract scores of people during the weekends and holidays.

Every tourist who visits Bahrain makes it a point to visit this mysterious tree whose source of water has continued to baffle scores of scholars over decades.

To my dismay, I wasn't at all pleased with what I saw. The tiny fence put up by Tourism Affairs a few years ago has done little to fend off vandals, who still climb the tree, break its branches and pen their names on it. The mighty tree, which can be seen from miles, is now a dying shrub which is being treated in an undignified manner by many of the people who visit it.

The place is like a garbage collection point, with plastic bags flying around it and caught in its broken, dying branches.

Fat people, well past their childhood, are using its branches as a jumping castle. Those people, most of whom were foreigners when I visited the tree, should be ashamed of the way they are re-paying Bahrain for its hospitality. This isn't what we Bahrainis expect from you.

Some of the Bahrainis there weren't faring better either, driving their four-wheel drives up to the tree - like it would hurt them to park their cars a few metres away and walk up to it.

But I am losing the point here and instead of lashing out at the illiterates who are vandalising the tree, I would like to know what the authorities are doing to prevent these atrocities being committed against our Tree of Life.

Bahrain is trying hard to draw clean tourism and I don't see this possible by keeping the Tree of Life area dirty. It is one of the few, if not the only, natural attractions in this country.

Plans to set up a small museum, a souvenir shop and a guards station near the tree must have been forgotten now. This is what we have been promised by officials years ago and it is the least we expect.

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