Bahrain’s rich history is steeped in the pearl banks that once lined the outer edges of this Arabian Island, drawing traders to its shores. The incredibly hardened pearl divers of years gone by are now inked images in local museums and pearling, once Bahrain’s main source of income, is not much more than a tourist attraction as Bahrain trades well beyond this natural resource.
Trade seems to pump through Bahraini blood, generating the commercial and cosmopolitan hub that modern Bahrain is today…
This ecumenical feel is not new to the area…Grifford Palgrave, an English explorer and Arabic scholar drew attention to to it a few centuries back describing a local scene as: a a mix of strangers, settlers and locals blended together at the Market Places and Coffee Shops, the colours of India blending in with the Saffron stained vests of the Oman, the white robed Nejed and stripes of the Baghdad gowns. The atmosphere open, with an urbane outlook, unlike the zealots and fanatics, camel drivers and Bedouins of the more closely knit and bigoted universe of Central Arabia… A Year’s Journey through Central and Eastern Arabia (1862-3)
Along side pearling, fishing was and still is an integral part of the economy, and today the fishermen go out, dawn and dusk, on various crafts,…most striking of which are the fishing dhows, once magnificent – pearl laden and in full sail, but still dramatic even though engines have now replaced sails, puffing smoke into the air as they charge off into the distance.
From the Bahrain Yacht Club where our little sailing boat sleeps, we have watched these dhows head out just before sunset for a night of fishing.
And recently, in search of an ‘up-close’ view, we took Singapore Sling out around this time – our sightseeing interrupted briefly when distracted by the passing scene, we momentarily lost our focus and landed up pivoting on a sand bank. An appropriate amount of yelling as we pondered the 200m swim in through the passing stream of boats seemed to wright the problem along with a few fancy moves and sail yanking from our Skipper.
A visit to the local souk for Bahrain pearls or the Manama Central Fish Market completes the trade circle where on any given day a vast selection of fresh fish, prawns, and at times oysters- sans pearls, can be purchased and cleaned, sliced or diced, “as you please Madame” – along with the usual smiles and service that we have come to appreciate on this busy, buzzy, trade friendly Arabian Island.
Celebrating Middle Eastern Living and Rich Trade History- December 2016