Revisited the island on the 22nd of Dec 2012. See full post and pictures here
I visited the island on 28 Nov 2012 very briefly for the purpose of preliminary survey for the trip I plan for a larger group later in Dec. The island doesn’t change much. The breaches are still there; mangrove still grows. Disappointingly, rubbish starts visually discomfort the visit. The island has become popular and irresponsible people littered the island. Please if you visit the island, leave no trace behind except your footprints! I beg you
From this last visit I attach some pictures to complement this post. Enjoy the island.
Purple Island, a.k.a. Al Khor Island or Jazirat Al Ghanim is situated in Al Khor, some 40 km from West Bay, Doha. This small fish-shaped island is linked to the mainland by an earthen walkway which had been breached in two places to allow tidal access to the green salt-encrusted mangrove forest which encircle the walkway and island.
Despite small (measuring only 600mx400m), the island features uncommon and interesting vegetation and the mangrove forests are home to fish, crabs, shellfish and a wide variety of birds. The Qatargas-sponsored Qatar Archeology Project in 2000 (source: Qatargas.com) confirms intermittent human settlements on the island during the last 4000 years. The results of the project throw light on Qatar’s role in the network of ancient and more recent maritime trade routes. They have also enabled the archeologists to typify the nature of coastal settlements in the region. These excavations were the first on the island since the early 1980s, when a French Archeological Mission uncovered evidence of a thriving dye-production center there, 1400-1200 BC.
During the Bronze Age (2000 -1000 BC), parts of the Al Khor Island were used as temporary campsites. During these latter excavations, five types of structures were revealed. They consisted of rectangular as well as circular stone-lined fire pits, small un-lined hearths, large circular stone-lined structures and post settings consisting of small pits. All of them were constructed on or dug into the beach surface. They were widely scattered, indicating an extensive, rather than a concentrated occupation of the area. Many of the fire-pits have been in use during various periods from the Bronze Age until present day.
During the Islamic Period (900-1400 AD), the island continued to be involved in trade. In addition, fishing and pearling were major local activities. Unlike earlier and later centuries, artifacts from this period are rare, and this is one reason why the team was excited about what they uncovered.
The various ceramics found during the excavations were dated by comparing them to the reference material in the Qatar National Museum. They included Barbar ware, Kassite, Sasanian and various Late Islamic pottery, among the latter, the well-known “Julfar ware” from the Northern United Emirates from the 14th century and onwards.
My family visited this island on Friday early morning, 12 June 2009. When we were there, one woman with her dog seen morning walked around the island. Access to the island is quite easy – see directions below. No 4WD vehicle required as the road is firm sand, probably because it’s compacted by heavy equipment commuting from/to sand processing plant. We have to park at the edge of causeway. It’s no way that vehicle can enter the island although we saw tire tracks on the causeway.
It’s about 480m of causeway linking the island to mainland. Two broken tidal access with water depth ranging from ankle-deep to about below the knees, and four dry gaps make walking through causeway an enjoyable experience. Crossing the tidal accesses, you might be scared by a colony of small crabs sunbathing on stepping stone or diving in clear slow current flowing water. It’s also quite interesting to see new mangrove trees jutted out of mud, sometimes become a playground for crabs.
Mangrove forest is one of the points of interest on the island; however, you might find yourself surprised by the fact that there are so much shells scattered even in the middle of island where low and high tide seawater seems couldn’t reach. In one spot on the west side, there is a mound of shell bunched at the beach. You might also find a fossil-like object that weather and time has made to the shells.
Purple Island is not a flat sand island; there are several low limestone cliffs throughout the islands, noticed as a dark portion in the pictures above.
Purple Island owed its name from the ancient purple dye producing site that was situated on the island, dated back 3,400 years ago. The purple dye was produced from a species of sea snails. The dye was used only for the clothes of kings and the elite few.
Visiting during winter is recommended as you will see migrated birds transiting on the island before making their way to another more temperature friendly environment.
- Drive to Al Khor
- Go through pass Al Khor town, following the signs to Al Thakhira (nearby town). You will pass second last roundabout (Rasgas/Industrial Area R/A) that branched left to Ras Laffan. Go through to Al Thakhira.
- Pass the first right turn sign-posted to Al Khor Hospital, continue towards Al Thakhira.
- The last roundabout is giving you access to Al Khor Community. Ignore this and continue in the direction of Al Thakhira.
- At about 2.5km from Rasgas R/A, take the right-hand turn, and go about 5.2 kilometers following this asphalt road. You’ll see on your right a big water tank tower, part of Al Khor Community, with Qatargas and RasGas logo.
- At the intersection to the left, ignore this and go further 200m to find out turn-off to off road leading to the island. At the moment there is a small board indicating signage to Flower Each Spring camp.
- Follow firm and obvious track encircle mangrove area. As you’re approaching the island causeway you will find one big building on your left.
- Approximately 2 kilometers from asphalt road turn-off you will arrive at the start of causeway. Park your car here or a further few meters. If you arrive at Flower Each Spring camp, you’ve gone too far. The causeway is on your rear-right.
Al Thakira Road Turn-Off 25 43’ 35” N 51 31’ 47”E
Turn right offroad 25 41’ 36.5” N 51 33’ 54.7”E
Start of causeway 25 41’ 13.3” N 51 33’ 16.4” E