This monument to what Bahrain has always been known for – pearl diving – is a major exhibit at the Bahrain National Museum. Signifying what the nation once stood for and the difficult life pearl divers had to live, the monument attracts a lot of attention for all visitors to the museum, which also hosts several interesting and historical artifacts from as far as the centuries-old Dilmun era.
For many centuries Bahrain has been famous for its pearls and, before the discovery of oil, pearl diving was the main source of income and the foundation for many of the communities on the island. The diving season would last just over four months, from June until early September. Divers would be let down on a weighted rope, stay submerged for about a minute, collecting an average of eight to 12 oysters, and would then be drawn up by the puller (a well-muscled man who would remain on deck). After 10 dives, the men would come aboard and rest, drinking coffee and warming themselves whilst another relay of divers took their place.
Divers were not paid wages, but instead received a share of the profits received from the sale of the pearls. Unfortunately, as the market was flooded in the 1940s with cultured pearls from Japan, the prices dropped, and by the middle of the decade, young men could earn more money in less hazardous occupations on shore. However, the tradition lives on, and about once a year the dhows will set sail to the pearling banks in search of the ‘jewels of the deep’
There is a variety of diving available in Bahrain however, most divers travel to Bahrain to try their famous pearl diving. Bahrain diving was invented in its shallow waters, as history shows that pearl diving was occurring in Bahrain as far back as 5000 years. Over 400 sq miles of oyster beds flourish in the warm, shallow waters of Bahrain, offering a very unusual diving experience. The name Bahrain actually derives from two Arabic words “thnain Bahr” meaning two seas. This refers to the existence of fresh water springs located under the sea bed. This phenomenon is believed to be responsible for the unusual luster of Bahraini pearls, the country’s main economy before the discovery of oil.
Bahraini natural pearls are considered the finest in the world, and incredibly – if you find a pearl whilst diving, its yours to keep as an excellent and valuable souvenir.