Preparations for the upcoming 30th annual pearl diving expedition from July 19 to 26 are in full swing. On Wednesday afternoon, the head of the organizing committee Ali Al-Qabandi took part in applying oil to the dhows, known as “habab and shouna”. Habab and shouna is a process of cleaning and preparing dhows for sailing, under the supervision of Captain Hamed Al-Sayyar. The ritual is held to prepare for challenges at sea, and is the most important phase in pearl diving preparations. The event is held annually under the patronage of HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah.
The process of cleaning the dhows – habab – is necessary, with sailors applying and covering gaps with cotton to avoid the penetration by water. The shouna follows, using bare hands to make sure that the entire body of the boat is waterproofed. The ceremony was witnessed by parents and officials, including parents whose children are part of this year’s expedition – about 150 participants aged 10 to 18. Participants can only be Kuwaitis, to remind them of their forefathers’ jobs before the oil era.

“This ceremony is necessary so that all boys participating in this expedition will understand the real meaning of life before oil was discovered. So they are undergoing trainings and workshops to learn the practical and theoretical sides of diving. They are being prepared physically and mentally to help them adapt to the difficulties during their long journey,” said assistant heritage chairman Muhammad Al-Farsi.

A special performance called “Sharbuka” was also enjoyed by parents and the audience at the venue. Sharbuka is a song and dance presentation alongside musical instruments, coupled with a natural proficiency for rhythmic clapping to match the songs.

The Kuwait Sea Sports Club organized the first traditional pearl diving trip in 1986, starting with five vessels provided by the information ministry. In 1987, the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who strongly supported the event and encouraged more Kuwaiti youths to participate in it, donated seven new vessels to the club that were made in Kuwait for the second journey.

By Ben Garcia