Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum, opened in 2010, tells the history of Kuwait’s seafaring from different ages. In her work Mubarak Al Sabah: Foundation of Kuwait, Souad M. Al Sabah writes that, “pearl diving and the trade in pearls constituted one of the most important sources of income not just for Kuwait but for the Gulf in general. In the 17th and 18th centuries, pearls from the cities of the Gulf found their way to markets in Basra and Baghdad, some were exported to Damascus and Istanbul. After the introduction of commercial steamships, the markets for pearls moved from Iraq to India. During Sheikh Mubarak’s reign, the pearl trade expanded until the number of Kuwaiti boats diving for pearls exceeded 800, each with an average crew of some 70 men. Baghla sailing boats were the variety mainly used by Kuwaitis to travel to India and the eastern coast of Africa before the advent of steam. Those engaged in the diving business were known as the tawwashin. Sadly, with the cultivation of artificial pearls in Japan and elsewhere, the curtailment of the resources of wealthy Indian princes, who had been among the main buyers of pearls, and the discovery of oil in Kuwait, which offered an alternative and more lucrative way of life, pearl diving gradually diminished until it came to a complete halt. Diving as an activity declined until, by 1955, the number of pearl-diving boats that remained was probably less than 20.”

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