Treasures and tradition – find out how pearl diving in Dubai still uses traditional methods

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Over 7,000 years ago, there were only a few brave people that decided to settle in this tough but mesmerising landscape, but on the seabed of this Arabian Peninsula, there was a bounty to be found, the elusive Pearl.

The Adventures programme explored Pearl diving in Dubai using age-old techniques still used today.

Major Ali Alsuwaidi, from the Emirates Marine Environmental Group, said, “For me, it’s very important to keep this traditional because I want to pass it, you know, to the new generation. And I want them to know how our grandfather and how our father is suffering to do this very difficult job especially to dive 20 or 30 metres.”

Ali added, “Before in Dubai, we had 400 boats and they would go for three months to do the diving. Most of them would be on the sea for three months. And this is how they get their money and how they take care of their family. And this is the only way in Dubai. And that’s why everybody is going pearl diving.”

Traditional methods

Traditional tools are still used today. “We call it ‘al hessa’ (meaning) rocks, and this is to take you down,” explained Ali. “You put your feet here and you hold it. You see this rope, it’s made from a palm tree. This rope should be collected with the ‘Al mejdaf’ (paddle) we call this wood. When you go down you release it because you have another one, which you call the yada and you will you’ll put around your neck and you will put the oysters in it.”

What makes a pearl more valuable?

“The size and the colour,” said Major Ali. “You see if we have pink and it’s a big one, that’s it (meaning very good). Also, we have what we call al thouas, you put the big one in and the small ones will go down.”

Pearl divers will look for oysters 300 times a day.