The history of pearl dive in UAE dates back to over 7,000 years ago. Those pearls hunted by the local Emiratis travelled to Italy, India, Sri Lanka, and many more. Once a vital trade, pearl dive in UAE has taken a back seat today and is practiced on a low scale merely as a fun, underwater activity.
If you’re looking for a unique water-based, cultural experience, a pearl dive in UAE won’t disappoint.
Pearl dive destinations in UAE
Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Ras Al Khaimah are all major pearl dive destinations in UAE. The three coastal emirates have been the main pearl dive destinations in UAE for thousands of years.
Major Ali al Suweidi, President of the Emirates Marine Environmental Group (a non-profit working on protecting UAE’s marine life), also a descendant of pearl divers, manages to keep the tradition alive. He doesn’t only own Al Suweidi Pearls -the only commercial pearl farm in UAE- but promotes the tradition amongst tourists.
All you have to do is get in touch with the Emirates Marine Environment Group to know what pearl dive destinations in UAE are open to the public, and the Group will make all the necessary arrangements for your trip because parts of the once-thriving pearl diving areas are now within underwater oil fields and are difficult to reach.
Pearl dive gear
In the past, pearl divers risked their lives hunting for pearls in UAE waters. During the months from April to September, a diver would sail off on dhows (wooden sailing vessels with triangular sails) with the Al Saib (the sailor) in charge of pulling the diver back up to the surface. At the time, there was no need for sophisticated dive pearl gear.
Thankfully, today, we have all the necessary equipment within reach to pearl dive in UAE at ease. As pearl diving involves scuba diving, scuba diving gear is a part of the pearl dive gear besides a few more traditional pieces of equipment for pearling.
For detailed lists of scuba diving gear, check out Scuba Diving Equipment | a Checklist <link> and Scuba Diving Dubai | Top Destinations & Gear <link>
Much like scuba diving gear, the basic pearl dive gear includes the following:
- Mask & snorkel
- Wetsuit or drysuit
- Buoyancy compensator
- Tank & regulator
- Depth gauge, pressure gauge, and compass
The extra pearl dive gear which you may need if you’re going to pearl dive in UAE old-school style includes:
- Stone or iron weights to act as ballast until you resurface.
- Nose clips to close your nostrils.
- Oyster knives to open shellfish from the hinge or the front of the shell.
- Leather finger protectors to prevent cuts.
- Oyster baskets to hold the oysters.
- Cotton suit to protect your body from injuries and stings.