Bahrain Pearling Trail

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Pearling, testimony of an island economy
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Isa Bin Ali House.jpg
The Isa Bin Ali house, part of the trail

Type Cultural
Criteria (iii)
Reference 1364
UNESCO region Arab States
Inscription history
Inscription 2012 (36th Session)

The Bahrain pearling trail is a 3.5 km trail located in the island of Muharraq, in Bahrain, that was used by pearl divers during much of Bahrain's history until the early 1930s, when the pearl market in Bahrain crashed as a result of the introduction of cultured pearls from Japan.[1][2] Pearling in Bahrain has occurred since 2000 BC.[3] The pathway consists of 17 buildings in Murharraq, 3 oyster beds located in the nearby sea, a segment of the coast and the seafront Bu Mahir fortress in the southern tip of Muharraq.[2][4] The trail was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on June 30, 2012 and is Bahrain's second World Heritage Site after the Bahrain Fort.[5]


Though UNESCO has labelled the site as "Pearling, testimony of an island economy", the international media has consistently referred to the site as the "Bahrain pearling trail".[6][7]

Background history[edit]

Pearl diving in Bahrain was first mentioned in Assyrian texts dating to 2000 BC, referring to "fish eyes" from Dilmun (the ancient name of Bahrain).[8] Bahrain (as Tylos, Bahrain's Greek name) was mentioned by Pliny to have been, "famous for the vast number of its pearls".[8] The golden age of pearling is stated to have been between the 1850s to 1930, when pearls were more precious than diamonds and had attracted jewelers like Jacques Cartier to the country.[8] There were around 30,000 pearl divers by the end of 1930, as pearling was the principal industry in Bahrain prior to the discovery of oil in 1932. After the collapse of the pearling industry, most divers switched to the newly founded oil sector.[8]

Currently, the trading of cultured pearls in Bahrain is prohibited.[8] Few pearl divers remain today.[8]

The Siyadi family mosque and majlis in the background


UNESCO has stated that:

The site is the last remaining complete example of the cultural tradition of pearling and the wealth it generated at a time when the trade dominated the Gulf economy (2nd century to the 1930s when Japan developed cultured pearls). It also constitutes an outstanding example of traditional utilization of the sea’s resources and human interaction with the environment, which shaped both the economy and cultural identity of the island’s society.

The buildings listed were the residences and majlises of rich pearl merchants and includes the home of Bahrain's ruler between 1869 to 1932, Shaikh Isa ibn Ali Al Khalifa,[9] along with shopping establishments, storage houses and the Siyadi family mosque.[2][10]


  1. ^ "UN heritage listing to spur Bahrain tourism". Trade Arabia. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d "UNESCO World Heritage Site Profile". UNESCO. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Pearl Diving in Bahrain". USAToday. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Bu Maher Fort, Bahrain". Oxford Brookes University. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "Bahraini pearling site and the Mosque of Isfahan inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List". UNESCO. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "Pearling Trail on UN World Heritage list". Trade Arabia. 1 July 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Bahrain Pearling Trail on UN World Heritage list". Gulf Daily News. 1 July 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Stuart, Julia (16 January 2010). "The pearl fishers: The waters surrounding the island of Bahrain Harbour untold hidden wealth". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "Pearling and its cultural landscapes in Bahrain". World Heritage Site. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "Discovering Muharraq's hidden charms". Bahrain Guide. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 26°15′N 50°37′E / 26.25°N 50.61°E / 26.25; 50.61