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From GDN archives, Dec 11, 2010:

Visitor's centre on way at Tree of Life

By SANDEEP SINGH GREWAL , Posted on » Saturday, December 11, 2010


A VISITORS' centre could soon be set up near one of Bahrain's most famous landmarks.

Bapco has already drawn up a blueprint for the development at the Tree of Life, which has been approved by the Culture Ministry.

Plans to develop the area around the 400-year-old tree have been talked about for years, but this is the first concrete project announced.

"We have finalised the plan to set up a visitors' centre near the Tree of Life," confirmed Culture Ministry Under-Secretary Dr Isa Amin.

"This would allow tourists and visitors to see the landmark from a distance."

He said the centre was expected to attract many more tourists and visitors to the historic site, situated in the middle of the desert in Sakhir.

The project is expected to go ahead once Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa and Oil and Gas Affairs Minister and National Oil and Gas Authority chairman Dr Abdulhussain Mirza give it the green light.

Dr Amin said the centre would be set up in a strategic location, which would also give a clear view of the excavation site near the Tree of Life.

The GDN reported in October that extensive excavation work near the landmark unearthed ruins of a fort that had been buried under sand around the tree.

It resulted in artefacts and pottery being found, which has since been preserved.

However, due to the winter weather conditions, the Culture Ministry covered the excavation site with sand last month.

"The weather could affect the site. We will continue our excavation work at a later stage," said Dr Amin.

Culture Ministry Archaeology and Heritage department head Dr Abdulla Al Sulaiti said officials had excavated a Chinese coin, two small cannon balls and some pottery near the Tree of Life.

"All the artefacts and other items are in good condition and preserved," he said.

"According to our observation, this is a settlement near the Tree of Life which is 400 years old.

"We have temporarily covered the area to preserve the excavation."

However, the plan for a visitors centre was earlier criticised by members of the Southern Municipal Council, who fear the development could spoil the area and make it lose its natural appeal.

The tree stands in the middle of the desert and its source of water has been a mystery for experts.

A soil and tree ring analysis conducted more than 20 years ago by historian Dr Ali Akbar Bushiri concluded that the Tree of Life was an Acacia planted in 1582 AD.

It was fenced off in 2007 after being targeted by vandals.

The tree still bears marks of graffiti and small holes at the base of its trunk, as well as cracks in some of its branches.
 
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