Dubai: This Emirati is celebrating his lineage and taking it a notch level up.
Meet Mohammad Abdullah Bin Thani Al Falasi, 35, an avid free (or "freestyle") diver in Dubai with a mission to save the marine environment.
Delving into the uncharted depths of the ocean, his underwater expeditions have unearthed numerous remarkable findings, a testament to his ancestral heritage deeply rooted in a lineage of fishermen and pearl divers. An ardent enthusiast of free-style diving, he finds solace in the exhilarating adrenaline surge that propels him into the profound waters, all in pursuit of a grand and noble purpose.
“My maritime lineage is inbred. My paternal grandfather Ahmad Essa Bin Thani was a seasoned fisherman. He owned a ship, and multiple boats and used them in trading, fishing and transportation. He has a vast knowledge of the marine wildlife on our local waters. He was admired for his knowledge in navigation, diving and fishing.”
Passion for the ocean
Al Falasi’s maternal grandfather Ahmad Saeed Al Basti, for one, led a more hard life of a Bedouin. “Yet that did not stop him from chasing his passion for the oceans. In the early part of his life, he would embark on various trading and fishing trips with his closest friend — my paternal grandfather — and together they explored the Arabian waters,” he said.
My maritime lineage is inbred. My paternal grandfather Ahmad Essa Bin Thani was a seasoned fisherman. He owned a ship, and multiple boats and used them in trading, fishing and transportation.
His great-grand-fathers make for an equally interesting story.
“My paternal great grandfather, Thani Bin Khalaf owned four ships that were used for pearl diving. When the pearling industry collapsed he used his ships for trading. His ships have reached India, Africa, and the waters in between.
"My maternal great grandfather, Humaid bin Khalfan Al Basti was Pearling Ships fleet master of Dubai — the highest bestowed rank at the time. He had in-depth knowledge about the sea, pearl banks, and astronomy. He was able to recognise the origins of a pearl by looking at it. In the 1930’s he was consulted for drawing or sketching the famous pearl banks’ map that was printed in India, way back in 1940.”
Thrown into the sea at 5
It is no surprise that Al Falasi’s under-water adventures are clearly a gift from both his grand-fathers.
A journey into the depths
Al Falasi recalled how his tryst with the world of water began. “I remember I was five years old when I was thrown into the sea by my grand-father. That’s how I learnt to swim on my own.”
“But it was when I met like-minded passionate divers that things started to move. We used to jet-ski a lot. Then I found freestyle diving and my world changed,” he said.
Establishing Naw (barnacles)
Along with like-minded deep sea divers, Al Falasi set up an initiative called “Naw” (Arabic for barnacles) back in 2015.
“The barnacles are something that fishermen usually get annoyed about as it covers their boat. However, they are very critical to the marine ecosystem. They filter water and have other things that benefit the marine ecosystem. So we chose the name based on that.”
From here, Al Falasi’s journey began in the “underwater world”. The deep-sea divers of NAW from UAE have been on a mission to clean the ocean floor and raise awareness about any pollution in the Arabian Sea.
Besides collecting tonnes of trash — plastic, metal, glass, ceramics, rubber, wood, paper and cardboard, Al Falasi and his fellow divers have been documenting the UAE’s marine life in the process.
“We are curious to see life underwater. And so we have invested in some good cameras and diving gear for exploring the sea. Initially we saw the sea floor littered with rubbish. And so we decided to do something about it.”
Al Falasi and his friends — all of whom share a love of extreme sports — have since 2015 been conducting clean-up expeditions on weekends.
“We have the most expeditions under our belt. We have also partnered with critical brands and teams in the marine ecosystem, to raise awareness on our marines.”
Continuing his lineage, Al Falasi has been conducting expeditions in and around Musandam waters, which to him is one of the best dive sites.
“It’s very mysterious because the depths can range from 300 to 500 metres. Unexpected sightings can be made of marine wildlife, apex predators like sharks. It is truly, truly mesmerising. So when we do a dive there, we go with an open mind so not expecting to make the usual sightings. Like once we spotted an Eagle Ray.
The expeditions have also led Al Falasi and his friends to discover some interesting underwater sites.
“Once we were in the far-out area of the Musandam peninsula when we discovered a shipwreck. The vessel must have been a vehicle carrier as we saw many cars and car parts on the seabed. We also found massive piles of trash all around it.
“We cleared what we could and left the heavy machinery for relevant authorities to pick up. We documented our discovery with exact details of the location co-ordinates where we found it,” said Al Falasi.
He said “Nawsters” also record new sightings. “Back in 2018 as we were preparing for a dive in the Strait of Hormuz we saw a rock in the distance. When we reached the spot, it turned out to be an uninhabited island and a sight to behold.”
These expeditions reveal the awe-inspiring wonders of the underwater world and the commitment of individuals like Al Falasi to preserving its beauty and biodiversity.
The “Nawsters” story so far
The group launched unique marine expeditions service:
- Worked with GEMS schools to roll out awareness drive and hosted a beach cleanup with their students on Al Mamzar Beach.
- Most amount of expeditions conducted in the Musandam Peninsula.
- Partnered with the strongest jet ski team world wide, XBJ Racing.
- Launched reusable environmental face masks during COVID.