Pearls were major income source for many Kuwaitis

The Kuwaiti people have long been talented in fishing and pearl diving, with the latter being a main source of income for many families. Wooden ships spent months in sea with skilled divers searching for pearls, which would then be traded by what Kuwaitis called ‘Tawwash’, or pearl trader.

“The Tawwash will start his job almost a month after end of the pearl diving season,” Hussain Al-Qattan, a Kuwaiti historian, said. He noted that ships would hoist a flag upon their return as an indication that they have pearls that were ready for sale.

The Tawwash, said Al-Qattan, would be the person who bought and sold pearls. He said the Tawwash would first weigh the whole quantity of pearls, then separate them according to their sizes which would then determine the price. Al-Qattan explained the Tawwash used small dish-like instruments which have multi-size holes that would determine the size of pearls. Pearl traders, said Al-Qattan, gave special names to the pearls according to their sizes, shape and color like Qamasha, Shirin, Badlah, Yaka, Fas, Batn, Tanbul, Sahtit and Baidhi. Pearl traders were very skilled although some of them may be illiterate. It was the tough and risky journeys of divers who got the Tawwash the pearls.