x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Time Frame: Weighing pearls at sea

This photograph shows pearls being sorted and graded on a pearling boat somewhere off the coast between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 1952.

This image can be seen, along with 66 other examples, at Roots of the Union, an exhibition at the UAE Pavilion on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi.
This image can be seen, along with 66 other examples, at Roots of the Union, an exhibition at the UAE Pavilion on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi.

A combination of the Great Depression in the 1930s and Japanese cultured pearls sealed the doom of pearling in the Gulf, but ships and divers still put to sea until the early 1960s.

This photograph captures a dying way of life. It was taken by Ronald Codrai, dispatched to the then Trucial States in 1948 as the search for oil resumed after the Second World War.

Codrai was working for Petroleum Development (Trucial Coast) Ltd, part of the Iraq Petroleum Group of companies that included what is now known as BP.

Based in Dubai, he travelled widely across the emirates. The exact location of this photo, taken in 1952, is unclear, since the description is simply of a pearling boat "off the coast between Dubai and Abu Dhabi". At the time the important pearling trading centres included Delma and Ghagha islands, in the Western Region and Sir Bu Nair, off the coast of Sharjah.

The image shows pearls being sorted and graded. It can be seen, along with 66 other examples of his work, at Roots of the Union, an exhibition at the UAE Pavilion on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi.

According to the description: "a pearl merchant and a nakhuda (captain) of a jelbut (type of commonly used boat frequently used for pearling) weigh pearls aboard the vessel. Sorting and grading the pearls was a skilled operation as weight, size and colour were the main variable factors that determined the value of a pearl." Codrai was a keen photographer, chronicling many aspects of life here for the first time. The display on Saadiyat was arranged by Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) and includes a free booklet of Codrai's work.

Roots of the Union is part of The Union Exhibition, which also includes vehicles used by Sheikh Zayed and The First Day, an account of the formation of the UAE in 1971. It continues until December 20.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae.