Pearl diving is a rich and significant part of UAE’s history and culture. It has shaped a lot of the wealth and traditions we still see in the country today.
Although pearl diving is not done commercially anymore, it is a huge part of tourism and has continued to fascinate visitors! If you aren’t sure about pearl diving or want to know a little bit more, our guide will break it down for you.
If you are more drawn to the heritage of pearl diving, you should check out the Dubai Pearl Museum in Deira!
Why is Pearl Diving Popular in the UAE?
Pearl diving used to thrive in the UAE, serving as a successful profession for many. It often set out the wealthy foundation of many prosperous Arab families. Whats more, pearl diving in the UAE is not a recent tradition and there is evidence to suggest that it could have dated back as far as 7,000 years!
UAE pearls were well sought over, with evidence of trade happening with Italy, India, and even Viking Scandinavia.
The success of the industry helped cement the foundations of Dubai and Abu Dhabi as they are situated right next to the coast. This meant many divers moved here to help the trade grow further.
However, by the early 20th century when Japan created artificial pearls, the UAE pearl diving trade naturally started to crash. As we now know, UAE went on to have a booming oil industry.
Today, pearl diving is still seen as a treasured tradition in the UAE and a big part of local culture. Although people do not dive for pearls for monetary reasons, many still do it as a hobby or for the tourism industry.
Where to Go Pearl Diving in Dubai
There are various pearl diving tours offered in Dubai. Most of these tours you can find around Jebel Ali, where you will be taken out to sea on a dhow boat to begin your dive. To be fully immersed in the nature of UAE pearl diving, you will often be kitted up in traditional diving clothes.
Dubai Travel & Culture offer a Pearl Diving Excursion for just over $300. The excursion lasts for around 5-6 hours including hotel pick up & drop off and dive time.
Do note that you can never be guaranteed to find a pearl. So don’t feel disheartened or frustrated if you don’t manage to get one.
Dubai’s pearl diving tours are great if you want to take a bite out of history as most of the tour guides offer education and information on UAE pearl diving.
What Seasons are the Best for Pearl Diving?
Traditional pearl diving took place between June and September as the summer months presented the most ideal diving conditions. The weather meant it was generally calm, and the warm water offered a safer and easier trip for the divers.
How Deep Do I Need to Go to Dive for Pearls?
The depth of the dive varies, as sometimes lucky divers can find a few oysters in shallow waters of 5-7 feet. Typically, divers will need to go 33-40 feet underwater to find plenty of pearls.
In the days of the pearl industry, divers had been known to go up to 125 feet deep to find enough pearl oysters. This was extremely dangerous as divers were only equipped with a nose peg and a rope tied to a stone for balance on the seabed. Sadly, it was not uncommon for divers to face animal attacks or even drown during these expeditions.
Today, traditional UAE diving tours come with far better health and safety precautions, so you are in safe and experienced hands!
Despite the pearl industry having more or less died out, the history and methods of pearl diving in the UAE continue to captivate tourists and stick with those whose ancestors built their success in this profession.