Keeping pearling tradition alive in Gulf

Some Gulf states encourage diving for pearls

  • epa03371177 A member of the Kuwaiti diving team, search for pearls during the 24th Pearl Diving Trip, in KuwaiImage Credit: EPA
  • A Kuwaiti pearl diver shows the pearls he picked from the sea in the port of Khairan, 100 kilometres south of Image Credit: AFP
  • Kuwaiti divers search for shells containing pearls in the port of Khairan, 100 kilometres south of Kuwait CityImage Credit: AFP
  • A Kuwaiti diver takes part in the pearl diving festival in the port of Khairan, 100 kilometres south of KuwaitImage Credit: AFP
  • A Kuwaiti diver opens a shell he picked from the sea in search of pearls in the port of Khairan, 100 kilometreImage Credit: AFP
  • Kuwaiti divers search for shells containing pearls in the port of Khairan, 100 kilometres south of Kuwait CityImage Credit: AFP
  • A Kuwaiti diver opens a shell he picked from the sea to look for pearls in the port of Khairan, 100 kilometresImage Credit: AFP
Gulf News

Dubai The Arabian Gulf overwhelmingly relied on pearl fishing during the early years of the 20th century. It was 7,000 years ago when the first pearl was found in Kuwait.

Ironically, the industry died with the closure of Kuwait’s pearl-oyster market in 2000, thanks to the development of Japan’s cultured pearl industry.

Added to that, after the discovery of oil, diving for pearls as an industry was left behind.

Historically, the best natural pearls come from the Arabian Gulf, particularly Bahrain. The pearls from this region have an exceptional sheen thanks to the mixture of salty and sweet waters in the Gulf.

However, over the past few years, several Gulf countries have been trying to revive the tradition. Bahrain has now prohibited the import of farmed pearls and lodged an appeal at Unesco for pearl diving to be protected.

Qatar celebrates this activity during a special cultural week every year, while Kuwait organises the Pearl Diving Festival, which aims to recreate the traditional pearl divers routes.

Pearl-diving trips are held annually under the patronage of the Kuwaiti Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah in order to keep traditions alive.

In the UAE, pearl diving is no longer a profession, but people still go diving as a hobby. There is still trade in natural pearls, but mostly at international auctions, as they are very rare.