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Friday, November 03, 2006

Pearl diving – a personal perspective

The scar from the shark bite ran right across his back and around to his stomach.”

I was talking to Abdullah about his grandfather, a Qatari pearl fisher in the 1940’s.

When I wrote my recent piece on pearl fishing, I lacked a personal angle. Luckily, through my work, I meet a huge number of people. I just happened to be interviewing Abdullah about something completely different, but this popped into the conversation.

Although the Persian Gulf contains hammerheads, tiger sharks and great whites, far more dangerous than the sharks were the depths. Abdullah’s uncle, still alive today, lost his hearing and is completely deaf. Others died. On every trip, according to Abdullah, 60-odd divers would go out. (A trip would last for months). 50-55 would return. Abdullah’s grandfather was one of the lucky ones, rising to become a captain before the influx of cultured pearls forced him to retire.

To this day, Abdullah keeps the clip that closed his Grandfather’s nose. Now, though, this is an ornament, not a tool. Abdullah, like most Qataris, can be thankful that the lucrative oil and gas industry has replaced pearl fishing.

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