Pearl Divers' Diet - Dates, Fish, Rice 'Al-Machla'

KUWAIT: After leaving their loved ones behind, Kuwaiti pearl divers and sailors set on a brave voyage into the vast wide ocean, sustaining themselves mentally and physically with a courageous attitude and an essential ration of dates, fish, and rice or “Al- Machla” as it was usually referred to.

Spending months in overseas, these brave sailors learned to ration their Machla to enable them to carry out their tough tasks “day in and day out” to sell those precious pearls for a living. Speaking to KUNA, researcher Nawaf Al- Asfour said that each type of Al-Machla was used for a specific purpose, noting that dates and Arabic coffee were considered as breakfast for those tasked with diving duties, due to the meal being easy on the stomach.

As for lunch, Al-Asfour said that this meal, usually consisting of grilled fish and rice, might be postponed till sunset which is basically the time the pearl divers, referred to as “Al- Ghasah”, come out of the water. While in the dead of night, the ones steering the ship usually keep awake by drinking coffee and have some sweets, said Al-Asfour.

The researcher noted that the type of food material might slightly change with the season, adding that the ship’s water resources were usually replenished when the sailors docked on land in various ports in the Gulf region and India. Al-Asfour also noted that sometimes the sailors make a celebratory meal called “Al- Shinyali”, a dish mainly made out of dates, flour, and sugar, to signify that they have made it through the toughest part of their journey.

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