$1.3m revamp for key Bahrain landmark
Manama, November 2, 2013
One of Bahrain's most famous landmarks is undergoing a major transformation in an attempt to attract more tourists, said a report.
An amphitheatre is being built around the 400-year-old Tree of Life to help preserve the historic site, which has been neglected for years and plagued by vandalism.
The Bukhowa Contracting is carrying out the work in co-operation with the Culture Ministry and construction is expected to be completed by April, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
"The first phase of the work to construct the amphitheatre, that is circular in shape, is over, and now we plan to start the second phase of the project," said project engineer Praveen Venugopal.
"We are waiting for the lighting work to start for the second phase of the project. The lighting design is the main part as it will be set up in a manner that people can see the Tree of Life as if it is floating in the air," stated Venugopal.
"There are plans to have open-air concerts in the amphitheatre and cultural programmes with the backdrop of an elegant and classy viewing area," he added.
Venugopal said the BD500,000 ($1.3 million) project would not affect ongoing excavation near the Tree of Life.
Archaeologists unearthed the ruins of a 500-year-old fort at the site in October 2010, which is still being examined.
Excavations turned up artefacts and pottery and the tree is located at the centre of the fort, but the ruins have since been covered with sand.
"In fact, after the project is completed, tourists will have full view of the Tree of Life and the excavation site around it," said Venugopal.
His company is also working to have proper signposts erected near the site to allow easier access for visitors, said Mr Venugopal.
The Tree of Life stands in the middle of the desert in Sakhir and its source of water has been a mystery for experts for decades.
Soil and tree ring analysis conducted more than 20 years ago by historian Dr Ali Akbar Bushiri concluded it was an Acacia planted in AD 1582.
It was fenced off in 2007 after being targeted by vandals and set on fire. Many of the tree's branches now have to be supported by wooden logs.
Two guards working round the clock at the landmark gave an insight into the untapped potential of the Tree of Life.
"There are huge crowds sometimes during the weekends as families come all the way here to see this landmark," said one of the men.
"Their vehicles often get stuck in sand or they lose their way and this project will be useful in addressing all these issues."
The redevelopment project was launched in October last year by the Culture Ministry, in association with the Southern Governorate and the Supreme Council for the Environment.
It followed directives by His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who instructed authorities to turn the place into a tourism attraction to better promote Bahrain's cultural, heritage and tourism.-TradeArabia News Service