The pearl diving profession, which has almost died out in the Gulf region, is being revived as a form of recreation and a heritage sport in Qatar and some other GCC countries.
Speaking to local Arabic daily Arrayah, Sabaan al-Jassim, owner of a pearl diving equipment and tools shop at Doha's Souq Waqif, recalled that his ancestors counted on pearl diving as a major source of income.
"Qatar has a strong maritime heritage. Young people should be introduced to pearl diving so that the tradition is kept alive," he suggested.
Al-Jassim explained that in the past, pearl diving was not a leisure activity, but rather, hard work to earn a living.
It involved diving in the sea using traditional methods to collect natural pearls for sale.
The profession entailed a high level of risk and adventure, and used to be a daily practice for more than four months of a year, from dawn until around 4pm.
"The main economic activities in the region used to revolve around such an activity, as the journeys to collect pearl used to be at times financed by the merchants who were keen to buy them,” al-Jassim said.
“There were a number of other related jobs created through the pearl trade, including those of the sailors, ship makers, ironsmiths and other services, making it a comprehensive industry,” he added. “However, with the introduction of the cultured pearls on an industrial scale, pearl diving started to diminish, giving way to more focus on the oil and gas related fields."
Al-Jassim pointed out that young people, especially school and university students, should learn these traditions, and appreciate them by reviving the memory of the ancestors and their hard work.
"In my shop, I am very keen to keep these memories alive and encourage young people to practice pearl diving as a sport and hobby, with all the accompanying adventure,” he said. “Qatar's waters are home to pearls of good quality, which are sought after by aficionados locally and from abroad."