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Diving equipment in the past

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Diving equipment in the past

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Preparing for a pearl diving trip requires many preparations which are usually done by groups of people because the pearl diving profession is, by its nature, a group profession that requires a large number of people to work together. All participants are expected to know how to swim and dive and carry out other tasks required on a pearl diving trip. Preparations begin by equipping a seaworthy ship and securing all the diving equipment required for the sailors and the divers. Some diving trips can have up to 40 sailors and divers.

The equipment used for diving includes:
Al karba: This is a floating device that holds the al leekh up. It is attached to the al masmo, which is a weight placed at the bottom of the al leekh to keep it fixed to the sea bed. The al karba was previously made of palm wicker, while the al masmo was made of stone with a hole in it and was attached by a rope the length of the al leekh. Today the al karba has been replaced by the al bouwwa, and the al masmo has been replaced by cement. 

Tools for prying open oysters:
Al maflaqa: After the oysters have been extracted or purchased from ship captains, the seamen crack them open to get the pearls that are inside. They use a basic tool for this job called al maflaqa, and which is a small, curved knife with a wooden handle used to pry open the oyster. 

Al deyeen: This is a bag or a netted basket made of rope or thread which the diver uses to carry the oysters he finds during dives on the sea bed. Divers would hang the al deyeen around their necks with a rope called al yada. 

Al fattam: This is a nose plug made of bone used to block the diver’s nose during diving to keep water out and to regulate pressure underwater.

Al khabt: This is a piece of leather that the diver wraps around his fingers to protect them from sharp rocks and other sharp objects while he is collecting oysters from the sea bed.

Al thuql or al hijara (al balad): This is a lump of stone or lead that the diver ties to one of his legs to help him sink to the bottom of the sea.

Al shamshool: This is the clothes worn by divers while they are diving and this is usually made of thick fabric and usually coloured black.

Al yada: This is the rope connecting the diver and the al seeb, who pulls the diver back up to the boat at the end of the dive. It is usually quite long, to give the diver freedom to move away from the ship in search of oysters. 

Diving clothes
There are no specific clothes for diving but the diver would wear a pair of shorts called al sirwal. There are also some specialised clothes made of a light, black fabric, such as a shirt and long pants, resembling trousers that reach down to the feet. They may also wear a head cover called al taqiya which is used to protect the diver from jellyfish (known locally as doll). Divers may also wrap their hands in a piece of cow leather to protect them and may also insert melted wax or fat into their nostrils to block them securely. 

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