Dubai: The 18th edition of Sharjah Heritage Days (SHD), currently underway at the Heart of Sharjah until April 10, pays tribute to the seafaring traditions of the UAE with a dedicated section that introduces visitors to the ingenious ways the Emirati people once utilised the riches of the sea.
The ‘Coastal Environment’ is one of four major landscapes of the UAE represented at SHD — the others being Bedouin, Agricultural and Mountainous. The smell of salt and the sea pervades the air as you step into the area, where several fishing, trading and pearling boats, and the presence of fishermen mending nets or salting fish attest to the crucial role of the sea in providing sustenance, before the discovery of oil.
Pearling, once the main source of wealth of the region, brought economic prosperity and enabled trade to flourish as Arabian pearls were sought after in Europe and across Asia. Models of pearling boats, large oyster shells, and the paraphernalia associated with pearl diving will offer festival visitors live insights into the UAE’s legendary 7,000-year-old pearling industry.
There is also a wooden pearl chest containing essential tools of a pearl trader, while Emirati boats varying in size and purpose highlight the UAE’s sailing legacy stretching back centuries and its thriving shipbuilding industry.
Emiratis were also expert fishermen, and the fishing gear fashioned using locally available materials bear signs of the expanse of their skills. On display are several examples of the Gargoor, a semiround fishing trap made of palm leaves. The role of the sea as a source of nourishment is also highlighted by a group of women, offering live demonstrations of the technique of salting fish.