Theme Week Bahrain – Hawar Islands

Friday, 27 January 2017 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  4 minutes

Hawar Islands Resort © Rudolph Jouber/cc-by-sa-1.0

Hawar Islands Resort © Rudolph Jouber/cc-by-sa-1.0

The Hawar Islands is an archipelago of desert islands owned by Bahrain, situated off the west coast of Qatar in the Gulf of Bahrain of the Persian Gulf. The islands used to be one of the settlements of the Bahraini branch of the Dawasir who settled there in the early 19th century. The islands were first surveyed in 1820, when they were called the Warden’s Islands, and two villages were recorded. They are now uninhabited, other than a police garrison and a hotel on the main island; access to all but Hawar island itself is severely restricted. Local fishermen are allowed to fish in adjacent waters and there is some recreational fishing and tourism on and around the islands. Fresh water has always been scarce; historically it was obtained by surface collection and even today, with the desalinisation plant, additional supplies have to be brought in.

Despite their proximity to Qatar (they are only about 1 nautical mile (1.9 km) from the Qatari mainland whilst being about 10 nautical miles (19 km) from the main islands of Bahrain), most of the islands belong to Bahrain, having been a part of a dispute between Bahrain and Qatar which was resolved in 2001. The islands were formerly coincident with municipality or Minţaqat Juzur Ḩawār and are now administered as part of the Southern Governorate of Bahrain. The land area of the islands is approximately 52 km².

Hawar Islands Resort © Rudolph Jouber/cc-by-sa-1.0 Socotra Cormorant © Nepenthes/cc-by-sa-4.0 Sand gazelle © Charlesjsharp - Sharp Photography - sharpphotography/cc-by-sa-3.0 Arabian oryx © Charlesjsharp - Sharp Photography - sharpphotography/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Sand gazelle © Charlesjsharp - Sharp Photography - sharpphotography/cc-by-sa-3.0
lthough there are 36 islands in the group, many of the smaller islands are little more than sand or shingle accumulations on areas of exposed bedrock molded by the ongoing processes of sedimentation and accretion. The WHS application named 8 major islands (see table hereafter), which conforms to the description of the islands when first surveyed as consisting of 8 or 9 islands. It has often been described as an archipelago of 16 islands. Janan island, to the south of Hawar island, is not legally considered to be a part of the group and is owned by Qatar.

The islands are home to many bird species, notably Socotra cormorants. There are small herds of Arabian oryx and sand gazelle on Hawar island, and the seas around support a large population of dugong. The islands were listed as a Ramsar site in 1997. In 2002, the Bahraini government applied to have the islands recognised as a World Heritage Site due to their unique environment and habitat for endangered species; the application was ultimately unsuccessful.

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