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Pearling in the Arabian Gulf: A Kuwaiti Memoir

Biography / Memoir

By: Saif Marzooq al-Shamlan and Peter Clark

206 pages, 16 b/w plates with photos and illustrations

The London Centre of Arab Studies

Hardback | Jan 2001 | #195749 | ISBN: 1900404192
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £24.99 $33/€28 approx

About this book

Language: English

Saif Marzooq al-Shamlan was born in Kuwait in 1926 and comes from a distinguished Kuwaiti family of pearl-merchants and seafarers. This is an edited translation of the two-volume work by him that was published in Arabic in the 1970s. It gathers together a vast amount of detailed information about the history of pearling in the Gulf that is nowhere else available in English. Based on documentary and oral evidence and on the author's memories and private archives, it describes the last generation of the pearling industry from 1900 to the slump of the 1930s, when the development of the Japanese cultured pearl led to economic disaster for the people of the Gulf. It records the grim conditions of the divers, their food, their work and the tools of their trade, their illnesses and the hazards of life at sea. There are stories of individual divers, ship-masters and pearl-merchants, stories of hardship, courage and adventure. The book puts pearling into the broader context, recounting how Kuwaiti fishermen operated in the Gulf at large and in Sri Lanka, and how merchants travelled as far afield as Bombay and Paris.

'Pearling in the Arabian Gulf' is a fascinating and involving autobiography...
- The Midwest Book Review, January 2002

"This book is a personal journey ... a fascinating discussion. Al-Shamlan reveals the depth of his uncompromising commitment to Kuwaiti pearling as a noble tradition, and it is this that drives the book."
- Steve Mullins, International Journal of Maritime History, Vol. 14 No. 1, June 2002

"The felicitous combination of the author's breezy, rather gossipy style and the fidelity of a translation that allows the pattern of the underlying Arabic to show through, makes this an eminently readable book that will appeal not only to those with special interests, but also to the reader seeking no more than a rattling good yarn."
- James Taylor, Asian Affairs, November 2003

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Saif Marzooq al-Shamlan comes from a distinguished Kuwaiti family of pearl merchants and seafarers. He worked for the Ministry of Information and has presented television programmes on the history of Kuwait.

Peter Clark has translated several books from Arabic. He worked for the British Council for thirty-one years, mostly in the Arab world, and is now a freelance translator and consultant on Middle East cultural affairs.

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