Ch. 4: Pearl mythology and lore

Ch. 4: Pearl diving Page of 375 Ch. 4: Pearl mythology and lore Text size:minus plus Restore normal size   Mail page  Print this page
By the diver the poet means the trader and by the brown-moustached
one, the labourer, since these labourers are Iranians. By tasliriq he
means the prying open of the shell.
Qays bin al-Khatim describes the isolation of the pearl from the shell and
the removal of flesh from it:
As if he is a pearl brought forth by a diver and whose countenance
has been purified by the removal of the shell.
A man from Baghdad has said that the divers have devised a new method
in our age, eliminating the need to hold back one's breath. The divers
can roam about in the sea from morn till noon; in fact, they can remain
in the sea as long as they like. It is up to their employer and how much
he pays them for their labours. This new device is made from skins
which the diver puts on up to the portion of the body below the breast
and tightens it round the ribs. He then makes the dive and benefits from
the air inside the skin.
But this device should have as much gravity or ponderousness as to
be in the depth of the sea despite the presence of air in it. It makes one
think that a pipe made of leather is attached to the skull from the upper
portion of the device. It would be as broad as the sleeve portion of the
device, its pleats filled with pitch and wax. Its length would be proportional to the depth to which the diver would like to go. The extremity of this pipe would be joined to a large broad-mouthed basin having a
hole at the bottom with a bottle or two filled with air attached to it sideways. The diver would hold or release his breath in them and stay for
long — in fact for days - in the sea. These pipes must be having such
gravitational force that they would remain submerged and not come up,
but their gravity must be less than that of the air to ensure that the
necessary quantity of air reaches the diver. God alone knows best.
Stories About Pearls
The Razi brothers have said that they saw a compact pearl in the
treasury of Amir Yamin al-Dawlah. Equivalent to the arecanutin size,
it was symmetrical and weighed two and two-third mithqais. Its price
was computed to be thirty thousand dinars. It was named yatimah in an
idiomatic manner, since every pearl that is unique deserves to be called
yatiin. It is also, therefore, called jarid. The word, yatim, applies to a
pearl that is celebrated.
Mutanabbi says:
'And as if his words are jarid, durr, ruby and sam al-rikaz (pieces of
The central pearl strung in a rope of pearls is the jaridah, whereas by
durr are implied the pearls which surround it. Sam al-rikaz is the vein
of gold found in gold mines. Here the poet has implied the gold pieces
Ch. 4: Pearl diving Page of 375 Ch. 4: Pearl mythology and lore
Suggested Illustrations
Other Chapters you may find useful
Other Books on this topic
bullet Tag
This Page