Pearl Diving Classes

Diver's baskets filled with oysters

Diver's baskets filled with oysters

Dubai: Retired Emirati naval officer and experienced diver has made passing on tradition to young Emiratis his life’s mission. Ali was eight years old when he went on his maiden pearl diving trip in the centuries-old tradition of his forefathers.

Like most boys of his age in those days, Ali boarded the dhow with dreams in his eyes and excitement in his heart, beginning his tryst with the sea that became his life-long fascination.

That was way back in 1960s, when the pearling culture in the region had almost ebbed, but going against the tide, Ali got hooked on to it.

Ali Al Suwaidi is the founder of Emirates Marine Environmental Group (EMEG).

“My father and grandfather were both pearl divers and dhow captains and it was but natural for me to carry on with the tradition,” he said.

“I was 17 when I made my first dive. It was 1971, when the UAE as a nation was being born. I set sail along with a few experienced elders.

“I made several dives, but for three days we couldn’t find any oyster that had a pearl in it. I was frustrated and we came back to the shore. When I went back home the sailors called me, they had found big pearls in the oysters that were yet to be opened. One of it was very beautiful, called Jeevan, which means life in Hindi. Since then I have been diving regularly,” said Ali, recalling his tough initiation.

“My only mission is that our next generation is not only aware of this beautiful practice but they also learn the skills,” said Ali.

The classes, which are free, are held at Sir Bani Yas Island in summer, and anyone between the age of 10 and 25 can participate. “We train around 2,000 children and young men every year, with 50 people sailing with us at a time. The trainees are taken through the entire process with different roles divided between people according to their inclinations and skills,” said Ali.

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