The diver was the focus of activity on the boat, with an entire support team to assist him. The main pearling season in the United Arab Emirates was called Ghous Al-Kabir (‘the big dive’) and took place between 1 June and 30 September. The weather, although hot, was generally clear and calm, providing ideal diving conditions. Smaller one-month seasons took place in October and November.
On the first day, crews would be sent off with a ceremony called hiraat (‘oyster bed’), that took place on the beach. The crews would depart with their families and community bidding them farewell from the edge of the beach. The most senior sardal – captain of the fleet – would then officially announce the start of the season.
On the last day of Ghous Al Kabir, a cannon would be fired from the shore as a sign of the imminent return of the divers, and this was a signal for families to prepare for their arrival. People would festoon their houses with cloth flags called bayraq or bandira, and prepare special food, including sweets, juices and nuts.
As the pearling vessels beached on the sand, the crews would then receive songs of welcome and would reply with their own songs.