The Tree of Life or Shajarat-al-Hayat in Bahrain is a remarkable tree, a tree in the desert. Located 10 km from Askar and some 3.5 km west from Jaww, this 32-feet tall Prosopis cineraria has been making a seemingly impossible living out of dry sand for approximately 400 years. There is no apparent source of water and other vegetation for miles around. The mystery of the survival of the tree has made it a legend.
Most members of the Prosopis genus are native to America and they have a common name – mesquites. Prosopis cineraria, however, are native to Asia. These trees are known to adapt extremely well to dry deserts and thrive in arid conditions, with rainfall as low as 150mm annually. But they have deep root systems – sometimes going up to 50 meters down – capable of reaching deep beds of underground water.
The mystery status of the Tree of Life in Bahrain is somewhat exaggerated. The ground, where the tree grows, is just some 9 – 12 m above sea level and the groundwater level in this location is higher than the sea level. Not too far from the tree are seen ponds with water. The air here often is also humid – and mesquite is well adapted to gain moisture from the air as well. A closer inspection of the area shows other trees nearby. One smaller tree grows some 850 meters to the north from the Tree of Life.
Local stories tell that the Tree of Life was planted here in 1583. The tree survived up to this day. It looks very healthy and has fresh, green leaves. It grows on a small sand hill looking majestic in the harsh desert and is visible from far away.
The tree is a local tourist attraction, as it is the only major tree growing in the area. 50,000 tourists visit every year and the tree often is damaged by graffiti carvings.