The Hawar Islands are an archipelago of desert islands, of which all but one are held by Bahrain. Qatar administers the small, uninhabited Jinan Island as part of its “Al-Shahaniya” municipality. The archipelago is located off the west coast of Qatar in the Persian Gulf’s Gulf of Bahrain.
The islands were once inhabited by the Bahraini branch of the Dawasir, who settled there in the early nineteenth century.
In 1820, when they were known as the Warden’s Islands, the islands were initially mapped and two communities were noted.
They are currently abandoned, with the exception of a police barracks and a hotel on the main island; access to all islands except Hawar island is strictly limited. Local fisherman are permitted to fish in the waters adjacent to the islands, and there is minor recreational fishing and tourism in the area. Fresh water has always been in short supply; historically, it was collected from the surface, and even now, with the desalinisation plant, new supplies must be brought in.
Numerous bird species inhabit the islands, including Socotra cormorants. On Hawar island, there are tiny herds of Arabian oryx and sand gazelle, and the surrounding waters are teeming with dugong.
In 1997, the islands were designated as a Ramsar site.
The Bahraini government submitted a proposal to have the islands designated as a World Heritage Site in 2002, citing their unique ecosystem and habitat for endangered animals. However, the application was ultimately denied.
The biodiversity of the island attracts various birds, oryx, gazelles, and Socotra cormorants. The island is accessible through a 25-kilometer ferry ride from Manama and has the potential to be developed as a beach tourism destination.
Despite their proximity to Qatar (they are only approximately 1 nautical mile (1.9 km) from the Qatari mainland and about 10 nautical miles (19 km) from the main islands of Bahrain), the majority of the islands belong to Bahrain as a result of a 2001 resolution to a dispute between Bahrain and Qatar. Previously a part of the district of Minaqat Juzur awr, the islands are currently managed as part of the Southern Governorate of Bahrain. The islands’ land area is roughly 52 km2 (20 sq. mi.).
Even though the group consists of 36 islands, many of the smaller islands are little more than sand or shingle accumulations over portions of exposed bedrock shaped by ongoing processes of sedimentation and accretion. The World Heritage Site application listed eight major islands, which corresponds to the original description of the islands as consisting of eight or nine islands. It has frequently been described as a 16-island archipelago. Janan Island, located south of Hawar Island, is owned by Qatar and is not legally recognized to be part of the group.