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Pearl Diving (Bahrain)


before the 1930s, pearling was the major industry in the island nation of bahrain.

Boats from Manama, Muharraq, al-Hidd, and other towns on the Bahrain coast set out for the main oyster banks in the Persian/Arabian Gulf, to the east of the islands, during a season that lasted from June through September. Representatives of the merchants who financed the operation often accompanied the pearl fishing fleet, purchasing the day's catch on the spot. Profits were distributed among the owners, pilots, divers, and crew at the end of the season according to shares drawn up in advance. Delays in payment and the vagaries of diving usually left divers and crew in perpetual debt to the merchants and captains. Since Bahrain was a British protectorate from 1880 to 1971, British officials attempted to remedy this state of affairs by promulgating a formal code for the industry in 1923, but the risks and hardships of pearling led most divers and crew to take up jobs in the new petroleum and construction sectors that opened in the early 1930s. Respectable fleets continued to set out from Bahrain as late as the mid-1940s, but by the end of World War II, the numbers dwindled so that only a handful of boats took part in the annual pearl harvest.

see also manama; muharraq.


Rumaihi, Mohammed Ghanim al-. Bahrain: A Study on Social and Political Changes since the First World War. Kuwait: University of Kuwait, 1975.

fred h. lawson

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