We visited most of Bahrain’s T List sites in 2005 and, with Bahrain hosting the 2011 WHC, are interested to guess which (if any) might be inscribed as that country’s “reward”! Could it be the “Hawar Islands Reserve” site? Well this was the only Bahraini T List site we didn’t visit so I can’t comment first hand but it is perhaps still worth considering their chances for 2011! For a long time these islands were under a “bit of a cloud” which prevented nomination since they were the subject of an ownership dispute between Bahrain and Qatar. However this was resolved (In favour of Bahrain insofar as the Hawar Islands were concerned) by the International court of Juctice in 2001. Bahrain then embarked on a clear strategy to obtain inscription - even producing a "Hawar Islands Master Plan". This envisaged the proposal going forward in 2002. But, there must have been delays, as this very well produced "Management Plan" was still in draft in Jan 2003. The case seems very strong and everyone seems to agree that this type of site is under-represented. But, at Suzhou in 2004 :- disappointment!! There were some integrity issues but, more significantly, UNESCO wanted a Transboundary Proposal covering the Gulf of Salwah and thus involving Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Now that must surely be the equivalent of a kiss of death bearing in mind the Qatari/Bahrain history and the difficulties Saudi Arabia was having in getting its own potential sites up to nomination standard! Now Bahrain’s new role as the World Heritage Regional Cetnre for Arab Countries” might enable it to overcome these difficulties in time (and indeed playing ball might be Qatar's best chance of an inscription!) but I don’t think my money would be on Hawar for 2011!
However ... Qatari/Bahraini relations have been looking up recently and work is about to start (2009) on the world's longest bridge between them. This would appear to go far enough north of the Hawar islands to avoid ecological damage (??). It could be fitting for a joint inscription of the Hawar area to accompany opening of the bridge c2012/13?
Date posted: February 2009
Have you been to Hawar Islands Reserve? Share your experiences!