A string bag (al jaf’a) used by pearl divers
18th century
Object Name: Diver's bag, al jaf’a
Period: 18th century
Date: 1700-1799
Provenance: Qatar
Dimensions: 10cm x 19.3cm x 6cm; weight: 80g
Medium: palm
Registration Number: QNM.2011.64.1
Place Of Discovery/Findspot:  Qatar
This small type of bag known as al jaf‘a was used to hold the personal possessions of pearl divers, such as oyster-shucking knives and finger protectors. It is made from woven palm fibre cord.
The Qatar Peninsula is surrounded by sea except in the south where it connects with its neighbours from the Arabian Peninsula. For hundreds of years people have shared the land, resources and knowledge inherited from their environment. With no fixed lifestyle in terms of time and place, people moved easily and freely between land and sea for trade, livestock, pearl diving, fishing, and hunting at various times throughout the year. This symbiotic relationship between the people and their environment was represented in the unity of their societies, including the exchange of knowledge, stories and the trading of available goods.

A distinctive characteristic of life on the Qatar Peninsula has long been the close association between the coast and the desert – al barr. Some desert tribes spent several months of the year in coastal cities, setting up semi-permanent residences to participate in pearl diving or fishing. Similarly, coastal residents occasionally moved to al barr during the winter to graze their livestock. This exchange of natural resources and the influence of different environments has contributed to the creation of a unique community.
The presence of British, French and Dutch trading companies in the Gulf from the early 1600s brought uncertainty to the region, with unstable alliances and intense competition over trade routes. As trade flourished, however, the strength of the Arab tribes increased. Many Arab tribes moved from the interior of the Arabian Peninsula to Qatar, and by the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the major towns of the Gulf were founded. Several towns flourished on the Qatari coast, including Huwailah, Khor Hassan, Fuwairat, Ruwaida, Freiha, Al Bidda and Doha. The most notable was Al Zubara which became a hub for the Gulf pearl trade.
AL-MUHANNADI, SAQR BIN LAHDAN AL-HASSAN, 2021, Qatar Marine Life Encyclopaedia, Chapter One, Ministry of Culture and Sports, Doha, Qatar, p.58.