Learn all about the UAE’s rich pearling history, see how pearls are farmed today and even dive for your own precious pearl…
Before the booming oil industry, the heartbeat of the UAE economy revolved around pearl diving, an industry that firmly put this tiny region on the international map. And while that may be a tradition of yesteryear, in the sleepy fishing village of Al Rams, the Suwaidi Pearls Farm is keeping this part of the history of the UAE alive.
Found around 10 minutes offshore, you’ll need to take a traditional pearling boat to reach the cultured pearl farm, which occupies four thousand square feet at the foot of the expansive Hajar mountains.
Suwaidi Pearls Farm is the region’s first cultured pearl farm. Founded by Abdulla Al Suwaidi in 2005, Suwaidi Pearls Farm is the region’s first cultured pearl farm, and the only one in the UAE to provide locally sourced pearls to jewellers around the world.
Abdulla’s grandfather was one of the last remaining pearl divers in the UAE before the discovery of oil in the 1920s, and frequently visits the pearl farm to lead tours and guide visitors through the farm. He’s animated, charismatic, and passionate about reviving the country’s proud pearling legacy – proving a brilliant tour guide that keeps visitors entertained for hours.
While the action takes place in neatly lined drills under water, a two-storey boat serves as the base for visitors who come to learn about the deep rooted pearling history of Ras Al Khaimah.
After going through a timeline of the history of pearling, from where it was done to the life-risking process of pearl diving, the tour brings you into the present day, and to the extensive work that goes into pearl farming today.
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As only 1 per cent of wild oysters fished produce pearls, oysters need to be farmed and cultivated for a quicker, higher success rate. Tours will take you through the 5-step processes used, which have allowed Suwaidi Pearls Farm to cut down the cultivation process from 18 to 12 months.
The expert team will take you through the process of seeding, where experts insert a round bead made from mother-of-pearl shell, along with oyster tissue, to allow a layer of nacre to grow around the bead, and forming a pearl in the course of time.
The oysters then spend up to a year in vertical baskets, where they’ll be cleaned regularly so as to maintain their health. The farm produces around 40,000 oysters each year, with a 60 per cent pearl production rate.
After a downstairs tour, guests head upstairs to learn about the different sizes, colours and grades of pearl produced not just at the farm, but around the world. You’ll get to marvel at the difference between pearls worth a couple of hundreds of Dirhams, up to those you can’t even put a price on.
At the end of the tour, guests will get to take part in an oyster opening experience. A handful of matured oysters are kept in an aquarium, and guests can choose which one they’d like to have opened in front of them, in the hope that they’ll find a precious pearl inside.
Guests seeking a little more adventure can also book to go pearl diving at the farm, and experience it all first hand.
Once you’ve got your culture fix at the pearl farm, head out to the nearby mangroves for a mangrove tour in the pearling boat, where you’ll see camels playing in the water, flamingoes bathing or may catch a turtle or two swimming by.
Feeling adventurous? Grab a kayak and go exploring for yourself – it’s the perfect way to switch off and end your day.
Suwaidi Pearls Farm, Al Rams, Ras Al Khaimah, two to four hours tours, from Dhs300. Tel: (07) 221 1124. suwaidi-pearls.com