'Holy' date palm makes 20-metre pilgrimage

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 August, 2002, 12:00am
 

A 50-year-old date palm known as the Holy Tree of Hong Kong was uprooted and replanted in Yuen Long yesterday to make way for road work.


Its relocation marked the end of another chapter in the battle of grandmother Ma Yuk-lan, who has been fighting to save the tree that she says is a 'gift from Allah'.


The 15-metre tree, imported as a sapling from Mecca, is believed to be the only surviving date palm in Hong Kong and is regularly visited by Muslim pilgrims.


'I'm so happy it was replanted this morning,' said the 69-year-old Ms Ma, who has spent half a century tending the palm tree outside her home.


Workers from the Highways Department replanted the palm tree in a new position on Tin Ha Road - about 20 metres from Ms Ma's home. It was originally located outside her front door.


Ms Ma said the government had promised to monitor the health of the tree for three years. 'I'm glad that they are willing to do so. I'm afraid the tree may die.'


Ms Ma thanked Allah for protecting the tree, which she treasured as a teenager and says she cannot be separated from. 'I walked out to take a look at it this evening. It seemed to be all right. I will continue to inspect it twice a day,' she said.


The palm was brought as a sapling to Hong Kong by Ms Ma's mother-in-law after a pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city in Saudi Arabia in 1951. Ms Ma said she promised her mother-in-law that she would guard the tree until she died.


The tree survived an earlier roadworks project in 1972 when the government widened the road and claimed Ms Ma's garden as part of the project.


The government informed Ms Ma in 1997 that the tree would have to be removed as part of a development project.


Ms Ma had since lobbied government officials to save the tree.


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