The GARDENERS at Umm as Sabaan

When Donald G. Schnabel visited Bahrain in February 1957 he visited the island Umm as Sabaan where Max Thornburg and his wife lived. Max was a Middle East specialist and an employee of Standard Oil who had been "given" the island as a gift from the ruler of Bahrain. A nice job perk for sure.

These three fellows were the gardeners on the island. I have no other information. No names are written on the slide other than Thornburg.

Click on image to see it larger.

I'm guessing these fellows were in their twenties when this shot was taken which would put them in their late 70s to 80s now. It would be fascinating to find out who they were and how their lives progressed. When Thornburg gave the island back to the royal family, which I'm assuming he eventually did, did these gardeners stay on or move on?

Just another glimpse into someone else's past.


  1. Looking at the satellite view on Google Maps, the island appears to be mostly sand and probably only a foot or so above sea level. I can see just one or possibly two houses and two modest swimming pools, and there are neat groves of trees laid out in a grid. They look like date palms with maybe other fruit trees, but getting a good fresh water supply must have cost a lot of $$. Maybe that was why he gave it back.

  2. Max's grandson has a post here:


    1. Thanks for that. It was fascinating.

    2. Terrific link! It provides great context to these Schnabel photos. I bet that wooden sail boat was Max's pearl dhow. The water looks quite shallow around the island and diving for pearls must have been a very ancient occupation.