When it comes to the Arabian Peninsula, people tend to think of deserts, camels and oil. However, that peninsula is actually quite magical. It has produced several kinds of treasures in history, including frankincense, ambergris and pearls.
Many people learned of the name “Gulf” through the “Gulf War”, and the so-called Gulf is located between the Iranian Plateau and the Arabian Peninsula, and its exit is the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranians call it the Persian Gulf, while the Arabs call it the Arabian Gulf. Internationally, for the sake of balance, they simply call it the “Gulf”. The Gulf has unique natural conditions on the side close to the Arabian Peninsula. The seabed in the shallow sea is extremely suitable for the survival of pearl oysters, forming an excellent “clam bed” for the breeding of pearl oysters. Therefore, historically, natural seawater pearls have been produced in that area for a long time. . Pearl fishing and pearl trade flourished along the coast of the peninsula.
According to media reports in the Middle East, archaeological excavations have shown that in the Neolithic Age 7,000 years ago, the residents of the Gulf region were likely to be engaged in pearl collection. By the 6th century AD, there appeared pearl-digging towns—taking pearls as a discipline. The settlement of the industry predates the emergence of Islam.
Today’s Kingdom of Bahrain was once the center of the pearl industry in history. Other places such as Qatar, Kuwait, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates are also concentrated pearl producing areas. In addition, although Saudi Arabia does not produce pearls, its Jizan and Ferasan used to be engaged in the transit trade of pearls. Gulf people proudly believe that the quality of natural seawater pearls collected from the Gulf has been unrivaled over the years. For more than 2,000 years, Gulf pearls have been sold in all directions along the Silk Road and other well-connected trade routes, and exported to the Middle East, Europe, India, East Asia and other places.
The vicissitudes of recent history are also reflected in the ancient bay pearl. Since the middle of the 18th century, the European bourgeoisie has mastered more and more wealth, their consumption power has increased, and they have also joined the pursuit of pearls, resulting in a continuous rise in the price of pearls, with an average price increase of 6 times in more than 100 years. This led to the continuous expansion of the pearl fishing industry in the Gulf. In 1907, there were nearly a thousand pearl fishing boats in Bahrain alone. However, from the middle of the 19th century, the trade of Gulf pearls was incorporated into the “world order under the British Empire”, and Indian lenders controlled the pearl trade. As soon as the pearls landed, they were brought to Mumbai, where they were resold in various countries, that is, , Mumbai became a trading center for Gulf pearls, and the people of the peninsula lost control of the trade instead.
However, Japan developed artificial cultured pearl technology, which caused the price of pearls to plummet. Coupled with the successive impacts of World War I and the Great Depression, the pearl industry in the Gulf quickly declined after its heyday. When oil and natural gas resources were discovered in the area, modern new industries created huge wealth, and the traditional industries would inevitably be eliminated. And produce pearls again.
Fortunately, in recent years, the Gulf countries have gradually realized the preciousness of historical resources, and have begun to restore the memory of the pearl fishing industry, and strive to extend history to reality. Dubai has established a pearl museum, and Bahrain has built a “pearl road” to restore the style of the pearl market in the past. There are many high-quality diving areas in the bay. Therefore, Bahrain has set up a special tourism project of “Pearl Diving” to allow diving enthusiasts to combine the experience of pearl fishing with diving, and even obtain the professional certificate of “Pearl Divers”.
More importantly, all countries are committed to industrial transformation and diversified development. Abu Dhabi created the artificial cultured pearl industry in 2007, and established a related education system to comprehensively train talents from breeding to jewelry design. Bahrain is trying to restore the natural production of natural wild pearls with modern technology. Amazingly, in recent years, in Bahrain, Qatar and other places, the practice of picking natural pearls has also been revived. Professional pearl divers drive boats into the sea to dive and collect mussels on the translucent blue sea, recreating the ancient poetry of the bay.
The long history of pearl fishing on the peninsula is part of human civilization, so people all over the world should not ignore it. Understanding such details of civilization can also help us change our stereotypes about others.