When Jasim Abdullah opens his pearl box, it takes visitors to an exciting time in his life that offers unending stories.
The 61-year-old Emirati, who had worked as a pearl diver at his young age, is nostalgic about his adventurous deep-sea pearl-diving trips.
“When we were diving into the deep sea, it was more challenging and enjoyable. Diving in shallow waters did not offer me that much thrill,” recalls Abdullah.
He knows that thrilling time will never come back but he is keen that the present and future generations should know the legacy of pearl diving that offered livelihood to many among the previous generation in the United Arab Emirates.
“That’s why I keep this pearl box like a treasure. I will hand over this to my children and I sincerely wish that they pass it on to the generations to come,” he tells Emirates News Agency (WAM) at his stall displaying traditional tools used in pearl diving and trade at Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival in Abu Dhabi.
Abdullah is also inspired by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the UAE, who always called upon Emiratis to preserve their culture.
“He used to tell us that ‘we should remember our past – where and what we started with.’ The present rulers are also keen to preserve this cultural legacy of the Emirates. They are doing all efforts to teach our culture to young children and people from other countries through these souvenirs,” explains Abdullah who lives in Al Rahba in Abu Dhabi.
He started as a fisherman at the age of 15 and later switched over to diving. “My father was my teacher and guide in fishing and diving.”
As a pearl diver, sometimes there was no catch at all for a week. “But one day you may get a valuable pearl. That’s enough for a few days. It was an interesting time in my life.”
His children – four men and five women – are also happy that he keeps his old pearl box.
“I sincerely hope they will continue to share this story of the past. It is our culture!” says Abdulla while interacting with hundreds of visitors at the Festival, being held in Al Watbha, around 30 minutes’ drive away from Abu Dhabi city.
The Festival began on 20th October 2020 and will continue to receive visitors until 20th February 2021.
Named in honour of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Festival celebrates the country’s cultural heritage and showcases the rich diversity of its traditions.
The 90-day event welcomes more than a million visitors of various nationalities every year.