The Colour Purple

Splendours of the Ancient East

Purple Island (also known as Jazirat Bin Ghanim, or Al Khor Island) lies about 40km north of Doha, near the coastal city of Al Khor. Despite its name, the island is a sand surrounded by green mangroves and the aqua blue sea. It’s a rare wilderness area in this country, and a great location for wildlife spotting, and just getting away from it all.

The “purple” name comes from a small marine snail, which in ancient times was used to create the valuable purple dye known as Tyrian Purple. Originally produced in the ancient city of Tyre, in Lebanon, Purple Island is the only known site of production in the Gulf region. There is archaeological evidence of human occupation dating back to the 2nd millennium BCE, in the form of shell middens, as well as the remnants of vats used in dye production.

We enjoyed a walk along the boardwalk that provides access to the island, as well as a way to explore the mangroves with dry feet! The island itself is the typical desert landscape, with some large rocky outcrops you can climb for a panoramic view. We spotted several birds, and managed to get a few pics of some, as well as fish, lots of crabs and some interesting desert plants.

If you are planning a trip to Purple Island, it is easy to find on Google Maps or Waze, and you don’t need a 4WD. There are no facilities, and no shops, so plan accordingly. Wear comfortable shoes, take a hat and a camera, and have fun.

For more detail about the mangroves, here’s an article of interest.

For the history buffs, here is an interesting article about the archaeology of Purple Island.

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