The Pearl Thief
For centuries, Bahrain has been known as the Centrum of the pearling industry in the Gulf region. Merchants would travel the world to purchase the rarest of natural pearls, found in Bahraini waters, to take back home. From Paris to India, and even Iran, royal families and pearl enthusiasts alike praised the high quality gem originating from the Kingdom.
Pearl divers, often from poor families, were hired by the pearl merchants between the months of June and September. The captain would hire the divers and set sail with a crew of about 60 men that included divers, pullers, ship boys, a cook, and the captain’s mate. The captain would sail out to sea, without a compass, towards the location of the oyster beds – it is said the purest and whitest pearls came from the oyster beds located North and East of Bahrain. The divers would dive into the sea and harvest the pearls and were pulled up by the pullers once they were done. This would continue throughout the day, and after 10 dives the divers would rest as new divers took their place. Valued by its shape, size, lustre, and colour, harvesting the pearl is an art in itself that often resulted in the diver putting his life on the line to acquire the luxurious stone. Author Noor Al Noaimi’s fictional short story, The Pearl Thief, tells the tale of Hassan, a poor man who made the decision to join the ranks of the divers to help support his family.
Inspired by the divers and the commitment they made to their task, Noor explains that she is drawn to the underdogs that had risked their lives for the sake of their families. Thus she pays homage to these hardworking men who endure long hours at sea and even risk getting lost. Finding influences from her own heritage, Noor says she was also inspired by the bravery of her late grandfather, who ventured into his own pearling voyage, without receiving any swimming training, and adds, “…despite him being a landlubber, he tried something so out of his element due to the scarcity of those times.” This was the case of many in Bahrain’s history and thus resulted in a compelling tale that resonates deeply with Bahrain’s pearling history.
The Pearl Thief, Noor explains, is a book that allowed her to venture into the past, opening a small window into ‘old Bahrain’. The book, she says, was triggered by her compassion for the men who braved harsh conditions whilst diving to provide for their families.
“The book is a nod to those men that rose to provide, men that are long gone from the metropolis we live in now. I wanted to write about Bahrain, set in a different era. I am passionate about the old world and putting Bahrain in one of its most glorious times through the eyes of a poor man”, she says.
“The world has obviously changed but ‘The Pearl Thief’ is a message that one doesn’t have to follow the rest to achieve something, the thing that made Hassan what he became was that he chose to be different”, Noor explains. She successfully creates a character that conveys the lives of Bahraini divers through Hassan – a relatable figure that is flawed like everyone else and is an ode to the ‘regular’ people.
Currently working on two more novels and a children’s book, Noor says writing the book did not take much of her time, rather it was the extensive research that was carried out to produce a historically accurate tale that consumed her hours. “I think this is why I am so passionate about historical fictions. The world in general – though not included within the short space of The Pearl Thief – has a unified understanding that we, during the ages, were the same”, Noor explains, and concludes, that although The Pearl Thief is a story based on the shores of Bahrain, it’s essence is understood by all in the region.
For more information:
Retailed at: Jashnmal, Words Bookstore Café, online retailers such as Amazon.
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