Mohamed Al Suwaidi
Mohamed Al Suwaidi helps to run the family business RAK Pearls and is extremely passionate about the jewel of the sea. He also helps us to remember the UAE's rich history
According to Mohamed Al Suwaidi, he is the only person in the UAE, and possibly the entire Middle East, who can talk about pearls for a week without getting bored. Al Suwaidi, the Excursion Operation Manager for RAK Pearls, is only 27 but he is something of an expert on pearls and the pearling industry. For him it is far more than a business, it is a way of life that has been in his culture for thousands of years and he considers it his social responsibility to keep the tradition alive.
‘Pearls are in our literature, our art and our heritage but what is missing in the new generation is the knowledge of the life and the struggle our ancestors went through. My grandfather was a pearl diver and he has stories that are simply impossible to believe. It is our responsibility to revive the industry and bring it back to the region.’
RAK Pearls is the first and only cultured pearl project in the Gulf region and produces 40,000 pearls every year. They collect the pearls from 200,000 oysters in a protected area in Khor Al Rams, in Ras Al Khaimah. In the idyllic and calm waters of the Khor (creek), Al Suwaidi says they often see sea turtles, flamingos and other wildlife in the unspoilt mangroves.
‘It is truly beautiful,’ he says. ‘It helps me to remember why Ras Al Khaimah is so special and how our natural environment is the best in the UAE. We have sea, desert and mountains all within 50 kilometres of each other – that is pretty unique.’
It is our responsibility to revive the industry and bring it back to the region
RAK Pearls is a family business that was set up in 2004; they were only allowed access to the protected creek after a strict monitoring period from the Ras Al Khaimah authorities to ensure they would not cause any negative impact to the environment. Al Suwaidi proudly states that the business is completely sustainable. ‘We have zero waste. We sell the oyster meat in our Japanese restaurant, we use the other waste organs for organic fertiliser and any pearls that are not of high enough quality to sell go into furniture products and other art projects.’
Other than the pearls themselves, the shells (mother-ofpearl) are used in jewellery and in furniture design. Al Suwaidi says their rare ‘Orient’ colour makes them desirable items.
He is also busy collating the story of the pearl and the industry for the RAK Pearls Museum, another offshoot of the larger holding company. Although it opened last year, it has since closed for maintenance but is set to reopen later this year and will reveal the history of pearling from some 4,000 years ago, the techniques and equipment used as well as the trading background.
‘We will tell the story of the pearl from the seas of the Gulf to the crowns of Queens in Europe and the Maharajas in India,’ says Al Suwaidi. But again he comes back to the question of heritage. The museum is part of his larger goal, to educate and remind his peers of the efforts of their forefathers.
‘What I am doing is adding value to the UAE,’ he says. ‘I am keeping tradition alive. I don’t want stories like my grandfather’s to be forgotten and I want people to remember their history. Also, I hope that one day we will make the UAE once again the centre of pearling in the region.’