Piles of empty oyster shells lie on the Sitra coast in Bahrain. Oysters are now ‘harvested’ by amateur fishermen who then pry open the shells to look for natural pearls. Though it is extremely rare these are found, sometimes someone does get lucky.
Pearling, known to have occurred since 2000 BC, and once the mainstay of the country’s economy, has now vanished but there are serious government attempts to revive the trade.
Bahrain’s ancient pearling trail, a 3.5 km ‘pathway’ located in the island of Muharraq, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since June last year. Divers used it during much of Bahrain’s history until the early 1930s, as the market crashed when cultured pearls from Japan became popular.
The pathway consists of 17 buildings in Murharraq, three oyster beds in the nearby sea, a part of the seafront and the Bu Mahir (Arad) fortress on the island’s southern tip.
The Culture Ministry is also setting up plans to make the pearling trail a major tourist attraction.