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Hawar Islands
哈瓦群岛

Strung out along the west coast of the Gulf state of Qatar, the Hawar Islands have long been the subject of disputed sovereignty with neighbouring Bahrain, which controls them. But the territorial row created some unexpected beneficiaries, as Jonathan Fryer has been discovering.

The sixteen islets of the Hawar archipelago used to be a favoured base for pearl-fishing. In the days before oil, pearls were the major source of wealth for Bahrain and its near neighbour Qatar. But the natural pearl trade collapsed in the 1930s, in the face of competition from cheaper cultured pearls from Japan. These days, the bitter life of the divers who would plunge into the sea at the height of summer, in search of pearl-bearing oysters, is just a distant memory. But Bahrain's ruler, King Hamad, likes to talk of the Hawar Islands as the "Priceless Pearls of Bahrain". That's not just because Bahrain has consistently rebuffed efforts by Qatar to gain sovereignty of the islands. Since 1996, Hawar has been Bahrain's most important nature reserve. And the archipelago offers both naturalists and eco-tourists a rich diversity of birds, animals and sea-creatures that is most unusual for the region.

Indeed, the flora and fauna of Hawar have been the main beneficiaries of the stand-off between Bahrain and Qatar over the islands' ownership. Oil and gas exploration has been kept at bay, and the wildlife has been allowed to thrive. This includes a spectacular colony of Socotra cormorants, estimated to be 200,000-strong, which cover the sea like a vast rain-cloud when they take off. Herds of dugongs or sea cows -- some of which can reach three metres long -- ply the coastal waters, grazing on sea-grass. There are even Arabian oryx, the twin-horned antelope that had become extinct in the wild, but which have been reintroduced in various sanctuaries in the Gulf region, including Hawar.

Officially, the Hawar Islands are uninhabited, so far as humans are concerned. But that's not strictly true. The Bahrain Defence Force maintains a garrison there, just to make sure that the Qataris don't suddenly get frisky. Or that some individual or group doesn't settle on the islands and declare them independent. That's not as fanciful a notion as it might sound, as one can find a putative Hawar Islands separatist flag posted on internet websites. So the soldiers run around the spectacularly barren landscape, keeping their eyes out for any intruder. And actually, there are several dozen other humans who work and sleep on the main island: the staff of a small but comfortable hotel resort that the Bahrainis have recently developed, catering for locals and foreign visitors alike.

Access to the resort is by speed-boat from the jetty at Dur, on the main island of Bahrain. It's only a 45-minute ride, yet one still gets the feeling of arriving somewhere tremendously remote. The hotel and its large swimming pool, flanked by towering water-chutes, stand out incongruously against the natural backdrop. Beyond the resort's perimeter fence, army jeeps scud by. Bahraini families predominate among the guests, especially at weekends. Some appear totally Westernised, the youngsters in particular dressed in jeans and baseball caps. But there are also more traditional groups. The young wife who sat with her husband and two children at the table next to mine at lunch the other day was completely shrouded in an enveloping black robe. And as she was wearing sunglasses, one couldn't even see her eyes. She had to lift up the long black face-veil that hung from above her nose every time she wanted to transfer a forkful of food into her mouth.

I wondered how this modest Islamic lady would react to the Filipina woman who'd come out to Hawar that morning on the same speedboat as myself. A very glamourous woman, she was accompanied by an unusually plain teenage daughter. As for the mother, age had not withered her, and designer clothes -- including massive white platform shoes -- added to her look. She had enough luggage to sink the boat. Once installed in the hotel, she kept disappearing, only to re-emerge in yet another stunning outfit. After lunch, at the pool, the Bahraini family was again sitting near me, the husband and children in swimming costumes, but the wife still completely covered. Then the Filipina arrived, swathed in a black fishnet robe, an attendant padding behind her with a pile of towels. Her hair was immaculate, and around her neck hung a splendid string of pearls. She peeled off the fishnet robe, to reveal a bathing costume that would have turned heads even in Rio de Janeiro, as it totally exposed her buttocks. I looked over to the family to watch their reaction, expecting some expression of outrage. But instead, from deep within the black shroud of the wife, a gurgle of laughter emerged that turned into a torrent of mirth, echoed by seabirds passing overhead. Undeterred, the Filipina -- still in her pearls -- stepped gracefully into the water, as the Hawar Islands welcomed another exotic species into its midst.


参考译文:

分布在沿海湾国家卡塔尔西部海岸的哈瓦群岛早就成了卡塔尔与邻国巴林(巴林控制着这些岛屿)主权争议的主题。但是,领土争端带来了一些意想不到的好处。这正是乔纳森·弗雷尔正在探讨的。

哈瓦群岛的十六个小岛过去一直是倍受青睐的珍珠捕捞基地。在石油出现之前,珍珠是巴林和其邻国卡塔尔的主要财富来源。但是,在来自日本的较便宜的养殖珍珠的冲击下,自然珍珠贸易在二十世纪三十年代陷入低谷。潜入海中打捞珍珠牡蛎的那些人的苦难生活现在已经成为回忆,他们当时要在盛夏潜入海中寻找珍珠牡蛎。但是,巴林的统治者哈迈德国王在谈到哈瓦群岛时总是喜欢把它称作“巴林无价的珍珠”。这不仅仅是因为巴林始终坚持拒绝卡塔尔对这个群岛的主权要求。自从1996年以来,哈瓦群岛一直是巴林最重要的自然保护区。这个群岛为自然科学工作者和生态旅游人员提供了丰富的鸟类、兽类和海洋生物种群,这些种群在当地是非常罕见的。

事实上,哈瓦群岛上的动植物种群已经成为巴林和卡塔尔两国因群岛所有权问题而造成的紧张关系的受益者。石油和天然气出口受到牵制,而野生动植物得以茁壮成长。这包括一个非常壮观的索克特拉鸬鹚群落,估计有20万只以上,当它们起飞时,就像一大片乌云一样覆盖在海面上空。嚼着海草的儒艮(又叫海牛)群在海边的水里层层叠叠,它们有的可达三米长。甚至还有阿拉伯羚羊,这是一种濒临灭绝的野生双角羚羊,但又被海湾国家的一些保护区(包括哈瓦群岛)重新引入。

按照正式的说法,哈瓦群岛还没有人类居住。但这并不一定真实。巴林国防部队在那里有一支卫戍部队,目的是确保卡塔尔人不会突然入侵。或许应该说,没有个人或组织驻留在这些岛屿上并宣布他们独立。这种稀奇的想法可不是听起来那么有趣,也不像那些在国际互联网上看到的哈瓦岛屿那样好玩,那是分裂分子用小旗标注的假想岛屿。因此,士兵们只是在非常荒凉的地方巡逻,以防有人入侵。实际上,还有几十个人工作并居住在主岛上:一个小而舒适的旅游地宾馆的工作人员,这个宾馆是巴林人最近开发的,目的是满足当地和外国游客的需要。

有快艇从位于巴林主岛上的杜尔码头开出通往这个旅游地。从那里只需要45分钟便可到达这里,但是人们仍然会有到达一个非常遥远的地方的感觉。宾馆和它大大的游泳池,游泳池边还有高高的滑水槽,与自然背景极不协调。旅游地围栅外,军用吉普车穿梭而过。旅游地的游客中巴林人居多,尤其到了周末。他们有些人看起来完全西化了,年轻人还穿着牛仔服,戴着棒球帽。但更多的则是传统人群。一天午餐时,一位年轻妻子和她丈夫及两个孩子一起坐在我旁边的一个桌子,她就完全包裹在一件黑色长袍里,人们甚至都看不到她的眼睛。每次她想要把一勺食物送到嘴里时,都要把从鼻子上方垂下的长长的黑色面纱撩起来。

我不知道这位温和的伊斯兰女士对那天与我同坐一艘快艇来到哈瓦的菲律宾妇女会有什么反应。那是一位非常有魅力的女性,有一个非常单纯的十几岁的女儿陪伴着她。岁月在这位母亲脸上没有留下太多痕迹,身上穿的精心设计的服装以及有着厚厚的底子的白色鞋子——更为她添加了几分风采。她的行李多得要把快艇压沉。在宾馆安顿下她就不见了,而再次出现时又穿着炫目的外衣。吃完午餐,那一家巴林人还靠近我坐在游泳池边,丈夫和孩子穿着游泳衣,而妻子仍包裹得严严实实。后来那个菲律宾妇女来了,穿着鱼网似的黑色礼服,一位侍者在她身后递给她一撂毛巾。她有着完美的头发,颈上挂着一串精美的珍珠。她脱下鱼网似的黑色礼服,露出的泳衣即使在里约热内卢也会让人侧目观看,因为泳衣露出了她整个臀部。我回头去看那一家人的反应,希望能看到一些愤怒的表情。但是相反,从那位妻子黑色的外罩下面发出了咯咯的笑声,这笑声又引发了海潮水般的一片欢笑,引得头顶上空的鸟也跟着在笑。那位菲律宾妇女没有被吓着,她仍然戴着珍珠项链,优雅地迈进了水里,就像哈瓦群岛又迎来了一个物种。 

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