Clutching Pearls in the UAE
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Arts & Culture
As the last operating pearl farm in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Suwaidi Pearls represents the culture and history of the country. Their engaging tour really highlights the "before oil' and "after oil" life of the country in a unique and fun way! Plus - you are out in nature, with jewelry! What a combo!
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In the UAE history is defined simply as " before oil" or "after oil”.
Before oil, fishing, farming and pearl diving were the primary occupations, each performed at certain times of the year. Approximately a two-hour drive north of Dubai, in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, the small fishing town of Al Rams sits on the Oman border.
Al Rams is everything Dubai is not. It's small, quaint and somewhat dusty, lined with small local shops and a much-relaxed pace. It sits at the base of the highest peaks of the rugged Hajar Mountains, providing a backdrop for the waterfront filled with fishing boats and mangroves.
Sitting at the end of the Corniche is Suwaidi Pearls, home of the only currently operating Arabic pearl farm. Their website is excellent and has all the pictures and info you should require. A year ago, we were looking for birthday ideas and thought we should check it out. We live in Ras Al Khaimah, so our drive was short. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and returned with a set of earrings. We recently made a second visit to enjoy the nice weather and see if we could find a pearl necklace to match the earrings.
What a difference a year makes! The experience is even better! The main office has been transformed from a shipping container into a reception area and jewelry center — where you can select items on display or pick out specific pearls and have jewelry custom-made. (We had a pearl necklace made that matched the earrings purchased the prior year. (We waited about 20 minutes for it.)
Their tour all starts with a cruise in a traditional pearl boat to a floating platform adjacent to the pearl farm. The pearl boats fit up to 50 people and there is room to move about and take pictures. The 20-minute trip travels through mangroves and adjacent coasts, allowing time for viewing birds and wildlife, including the requisite camels. Once at the platform, you are welcomed with a traditional Emirati greeting. The platform is comprised of two levels and is divided into sections depicting the history, farming and processing of pearls. Our guide was exceptional; there were five small children in the group, and he kept them engaged the entire time. The guide allowed the children to be part of the experience and help select and open the oyster and yes, even find the pearl! I was particularly impressed that you were not pressured to buy anything. This experience is about culture and history. Try that on a visit to the Gold Souq in Dubai!
Refreshments are provided: coffee, tea and fruit. To reduce single-use plastic, water is served from traditional clay pots. This family-friendly tour lasts two and a half hours and is $68 per person or can be purchased as a family or group. There are also ways to incorporate stand-up paddling through the mangroves, which would be a wonderful addition.
Pro tip? Suwaidi Pearls provides pearls to all the best jewelers worldwide, e.g. Cartier! While they don’t route you through the jewelry shop as you exit, you may want to make a stop to utilize all your newfound pearl knowledge! If you want to make this a multi-day trip to Oman, the Hajar mountains or any of the exciting opportunities in the "Adventure Emirate" of Ras Al Khaimah, I will point you to Al Marjan Island, which has accommodation for any pocketbook....and superb beaches! The newly imagined Waldorf Astoria would be an excellent choice for a home base while visiting the area.
Need to Know
This is a fantastic, family-friendly tour to take in the nice winter months. I would not advise this excursion anytime between May and November - way too hot! You could still visit their reception area and look at their gorgeous jewelry, however!
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