Rediscovering Saudi heritage: Pearl kings of Farasan Islands

Rediscovering Saudi heritage: Pearl kings of Farasan Islands
For generations, pearling was a booming industry for residents in the Eastern region of the Arabian Peninsula. Traders from as far as India would pay a visit in search for the most pure of pearls. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 January 2021

Rediscovering Saudi heritage: Pearl kings of Farasan Islands

Rediscovering Saudi heritage: Pearl kings of Farasan Islands
  • A glance at divers who would dive more than 30 meters and hold their breath for about 5 minutes to find treasure pieces

MAKKAH: The men of the Farasan Islands, in the Red Sea, used to roam the seas in search of pearls. They would dive down more than 30 meters, holding their breath for more than five minutes to find the pieces of treasure that could fetch up to SR150,000 ($40,000) each.

For generations, pearling was a booming industry for residents in the Eastern region of the Arabian Peninsula — many historians believe it goes back at least four centuries. Traders from as far as India would travel to the Arabian Gulf in search for the most pure of pearls.
While the pearl industry of the Eastern Province is well known, the Kingdom’s newfound approach to rediscovering its heritage and reviving its traditions is shedding new light on the Farasan pearl divers.
For generations, the families of the islands off the southwest Saudi coast would bid farewell to their menfolk as they set sail for months on end in search of pearls.
The pearl industry shaped their identity, but today their trade is dying out. The once community-wide endeavor, from pearling merchants and divers to dhow captains, boat builders timber merchants, is becoming a thing of the past.
Specialist Suleiman Balaous said that the Qur’an mentions that dwellers of paradise will be adorned with pearls. He explained that Farasan was once a major source of pearls in the region.
“The only one way to polish natural pearls or restore their shine is to collect rainwater in a large dish and wash them in it,” he said. “The pearls will then regain their original luster and shine in a very beautiful way.”
Pearls form when a mollusk reacts to the presence of an irritant or invader inside the shell. It forms a sac around the foreign substance to cover it, which, over time, becomes a pearl.

FASTFACTS

• Pearls form when a mollusk reacts to the presence of an irritant or invader inside the shell.

• It forms a sac around the foreign substance to cover it, which, later, becomes a pearl.

• The only one way to polish natural pearls or restore their shine is to collect rainwater in a large dish and wash them in it.

The pearls all have different names, according to their size. The smallest, which are a little bigger than a grain of sand, are called “Dakkah,” the slightly larger ones are called “Ansar,” followed by “Al-Mazouri” and “Al-Tala.” The largest pearls are called “Danas.” Danas can fetch from SR1,000 up to SR150,000.
Mohammed Hadi, one of Farasan’s pearl merchants, told Arab News that in ancient times pearl hunting began when divers were looking for oysters — “bulbul,” as they are known locally.
In keeping with traditional way of determining the pearl quality, Hadi uses copper sieves to separate out the large, medium and small pearls, and has weights made of a gemstone, Yemeni agate, to determine the pearl’s weight.
Ibrahim Moftah, a writer specializing in pearls, said that the importance of pearl hunting in the Farasan community came from the fact that a diver’s manhood was measured by his proficiency.
Lacking oxygen tanks and the modern diving tools and facing sea predators, it was a far more arduous profession. Diving down to oysters beds, only the strongest and most proficient divers would dive without the use of nose clips, a perilous endeavor.
He said: “The merchants did not sell their gems in neighboring countries. Their markets were in the East, such as India. In addition to the material profits they gained, they brought home the influences of the eastern civilizations. That was reflected in the architectural styles they adopted at home, the effects of which can still be seen today in Al-Rifai House and the Najdi Mosque, as well as in the materials used in the women’s clothing, which were embroidered with silk and reed.”
He added that these merchants brought materials that were new to the region at that time, such as precious woods, Japanese tiles, paintings inlaid with ivory.
Over time, the trade of cultivated, cheaper and flawless pearls manufactured by countries such as Japan caused the pearl industry to die out in both the Eastern Province, where the oil industry became the Kingdom’s booming industry, and in the west, as younger generations turned to more traditional jobs and left the family business behind.
Pearl diving is still considered one of the Kingdom’s most treasured traditions, one that contributed to the Gulf’s transregional connections that brought wealth over the generations.
Though the perfect pearl may never be found the wonder of its creation remains one of the most intriguing of traditions in today’s modern age.


Saudi Arabia pledges $430m to UN's Yemen response

Saudi Arabia pledges $430m to UN's Yemen response
Updated 39 min 26 sec ago

Saudi Arabia pledges $430m to UN's Yemen response

Saudi Arabia pledges $430m to UN's Yemen response

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia on Monday pledged $430 million towards the UN’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), made the announcement during a virtual pledging conference co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland.

“Because of its keenness to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, I am pleased to announce that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has pledged $430 million to support the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2021 to be implemented through UN agencies, international organizations, and local and regional NGOs,” Al-Rabeeah told the conference.

More to follow … 


US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services

US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services
Updated 01 March 2021

US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services

US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services

DUBAI: The US mission to Saudi Arabia announced on Monday the reopening of routine nonimmigrant visa services in limited numbers at its embassy in Riyadh and consulates general in Jeddah and Dhahran.

“We continue to implement safeguards to keep staff and customers safe. Due to these measures, visa appointments are extremely limited and subject to change,” a statement from the embassy said.

The consular sections advised applicants to schedule appointments “only when they have made tentative travel plans but prior to final purchase of travel.”

Mission consular sections said they will continue to prioritize US citizen services, immigrant visas, students, and emergency non-immigrant visas.


Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience
Photographers now use drones to reach places that once were too dangerous or remote, and the resulting images shed new light on the power of photography and the beauty of landscapes. (Photos: Instgram/ @mysloppyadventures)
Updated 01 March 2021

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience
  • Online platforms have become a melting pot of images taken by photographers who travel the country

JEDDAH: A new generation of Saudi photographers is relying on the power of social media to showcase the Kingdom’s vast beauty.

Online platforms have become a melting pot of images taken by photographers who travel the country — from the sandy beaches of the east and west, to the mountains of the north and south, and the green oases of the deserts — discovering the beauty of each region one picture at a time.

Fahad Al-Mutairi, 22, started @thesaudigate on Twitter to promote Saudi Arabia’s “hidden wonders” to a growing tourist market.

“I wanted to be part of the future somehow — that’s why I started Saudi Gate and this is what has motivated me to go on,” he told Arab News.

Many other photographers who travel the country share the same outlook.

Faisal Fahad Binzarah, 41, said: “I had to work on a few projects and went to places I had never been before. I remember thinking, where has this been all my life? I never thought I would find such gems in Saudi Arabia.”

Binzarah said that he looks for dramatic landscapes and tries to “capture the overall feeling of the place.”

He said: “The pictures I take are not unique, the uniqueness comes from the places. I am just the conveyer of the beauty and nothing else.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Fahad Al-Mutairi, 22, started @thesaudigate on Twitter to promote Saudi Arabia’s ‘hidden wonders’ to a growing tourist market.

• Al-Mutairi said that about a third of @thesaudigate’s followers are international, and they are usually surprised by what they see.

“As a photographer, I try to capture the right objects at the right time, but often I feel like the beauty is not represented,” he said.

Al-Mutairi said that about a third of @thesaudigate’s followers are international, and they are usually surprised by what they see.

“Often they are amazed but also very happy because after going through the pictures they know that there is a part of the world that they must explore.”

Hadi Farah, 28, a Lebanese photographer who now lives in the Kingdom, said that he had traveled widely in Saudi Arabia and “always felt a sense of welcome and ease.”

“I think tourism is directly influenced by photographers. Whenever I upload something, I receive questions with people asking if this is really in Saudi Arabia or have I accidentally put the wrong name.

“Unfortunately, people think that it is just a desert and nothing else. So by posting pictures of these places we are educating them about possibilities and attractions they thought never existed,” he said.

Binzarah agreed, saying: “Undiscovered places are of interest for professional photographers, because they are always looking for challenges, and I think this ignites their interests to go to these places and explore.”

he added that “while the desert might be nothing new to a Saudi resident, it will be of interest to people who live in greener countries.”

Saudi Arabia, as a land of ancient civilizations, is extremely appealing for archaeologists and tourists interested in history, Binzara said.

Farah described the beauty of nature in different places, saying: “We associate beauty with life, and in our minds where there is green there is life, but we forget that there is also life in rocks and sand, and they are rich in history. So, we need to keep in mind that the beauty of AlUla is different from other areas.”

Technology is also having a major influence. Photographers now use drones to reach places that once were too dangerous or remote, and the resulting images shed new light on the power of photography and the beauty of landscapes.

“Being on social media gives us the drive to do better,” Binzarah said. “If there is no community or people to engage with, it gets dull.”

He added: “It is a personal journey and one for everyone to discover Saudi Arabia one picture at a time.”

 


Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah. (SPA)
Updated 01 March 2021

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts
  • Simonnet praised KSrelief’s professional mechanisms, its preparation and coordination of humanitarian and relief programs, and its support for the needy around the world

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian efforts have been hailed as “professional” in a meeting between the head of KSrelief and the EU’s ambassador to the Kingdom.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), met Patrick Simonnet, head of the EU delegation to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.
During the talks in Riyadh, the two discussed issues of mutual interest related to relief and humanitarian affairs.
Simonnet praised KSrelief’s professional mechanisms, its preparation and coordination of humanitarian and relief programs, and its support for the needy around the world.
KSrelief has implemented 1,536 projects worth almost $5 billion across 59 countries.
According to a recent report, the countries and territories that have benefited the most from the projects include Yemen ($3.47 billion), Palestine ($363 million), Syria ($304 million) and Somalia ($202 million).


Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy
Having seen their father work while growing up, the three eldest children, Osama, Jawaher and Haya, are all now practicing lawyers. (Supplied)
Updated 01 March 2021

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy
  • Veteran lawyer Musaad Al-Saleh feels ‘sense of pride’ over children’s path

MAKKAH: Law firms in Saudi Arabia are very much a dime a dozen, but one law firm in Tabuk is showing their power through family unity.

Following one career path, three young lawyers are following their father’s footsteps in the legal profession.

Musaad Al-Saleh, 50, told Arab News that his children chose the profession without any pressure because they saw a career that meets their abilities, adding that they will be “a family that will be difficult to approach.”

Having seen their father work while growing up, the three eldest children, 29-year-old Osama, 25-year-old Jawaher and 23-year-old Haya, are all now practicing lawyers.

“It’s common to find families that inherit the medical, business, trade, carpentry and other professions. Women did not enter the legal profession until recently, and the first license for a woman to practice law was offered about five years ago,” said Al-Saleh.

“My children have followed my line of work. Some of them have specialized in commercial law and the others in criminal law, allowing for diversity in dealing with legal issues in the law firm.”

He said that many families follow older generations into a profession, and that now, through women’s empowerment in the Kingdom, women in the family have been able to play the societal roles assigned to them, adding that he worked in the legal field for more than 25 years until retirement.

HIGHLIGHT

Musaad Al-Saleh, 50, told Arab News that his children chose the profession without any pressure because they saw a career that meets their abilities, adding that they will be ‘a family that will be difficult to approach.’

Al-Saleh said that his two daughters graduated from the University of Tabuk’s law department, while his son graduated from Al-Jouf University. Years ago, Al-Saleh had graduated from Al-Madinah University. He stressed that he did not force any of his children to enter the field of law. Rather, it was a choice for each of them. “I only introduced them to the new opportunities awaiting Saudi female lawyers in the sector.”

Family or not, Al-Saleh said that it is business as usual, and that every member of their legal team takes their duties seriously by upholding a professional manner inside the workplace, discussing and analyzing cases, and expressing professional opinions regarding each case they receive.

Complacency, laxity or delay is unacceptable, Al-Saleh added, noting that family bonds should not interfere in the work process to ensure a healthy system.

He said that a common sentiment in the legal community is that a law firm will die with its owner. “But I wanted to change the accepted model, and I tried my best to have my children lead this law firm after me, and maintain its momentum and ensure longevity.

“Being from one family will give them the chance to learn from each other and deal with the issues more professionally.”

As a veteran lawyer, Al-Saleh said he is mostly interested in personal interviews when young men and women apply for work or training at his law firm, adding that a personal touch is important to the formation of a lawyer’s approach.

He said that female lawyers must be attentive, able to present a clear case and communicate information without ambiguity. They will face judges and members of the trial committee and disciplinary bodies — some of whom will be tough. “She must be strong, firm, voice loud and clear and make her case without hesitation.”

Al-Saleh said that he retired after 22 years of service following several positions in the Public Prosecution, and after his young children began to show interest in the legal profession.

First-generation lawyers carry a lot of weight on their shoulders, he said, adding that he “feels a sense of pride” as his children follow his path and pave their own way into the world of law.