Sea of Pearls: Arabia, Persia, and the Industry that Shaped the Gulf

Kuwait Fishing Dhows

Kuwait Fishing Dhows

When it is published early next year the book, Sea of Pearls: Arabia, Persia, and the Industry that Shaped the Gulf, will be the first definitive telling of the history of the 8,000-year industry throughout the entire Gulf, from neolithic times until its final collapse in the middle of the 20th century - a story which, says Arabian Publishing, "surprisingly, has never before been attempted".

At 165,000 words and 380-plus pages, packed with more than 350 photographs, the book is in more than one sense a heavyweight contribution to the history of the region - and much more, says Carter, than a mere coffee-table book.

"It is a large book, lavishly illustrated in colour," he concedes, speaking by telephone from London and taking a brief break from packing in readiness for a move to Qatar; next month he takes up a new post on UCL's new campus in Doha, where he is setting up a centre for teaching and research in the archaeology and heritage of the Arab and Islamic world.

"But despite the glossiness of the illustrations, it's actually quite academic. We are hoping it will interest not only researchers but educated readers who have an interest in the region as well.

"So it's not a coffee-table book, but some of the kind of people who read coffee-table books will, I think, find it interesting."

While evidence of human fascination with these iridescent objects dates back to antiquity, for Carter "when it gets particularly interesting from my point of view is when you hit the 18th century". This, he says, is "when the pearl fishery starts changing the fabric of the region".

More about Sea of Pearls: Arabia, Persia, and the Industry that Shaped the Gulf

More about Persian Gulf pearling here.

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