|Life before and after the discovery of oil|
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There were only a few immigrant workers, some from the east coast of Saudi Arabia who did some of the more menial work and Omanis who came to work in agriculture.
The abundant date plantations allowed for excess to be exported to the western coast of Africa, Tanzania and Kenya where these goods were exchanged for the wood needed for building, mangrove and bamboo for roofing and various chests for storage.
In 1905 the ruler of Bahrain was Sheikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa, he abdicated in 1923, making his son Hamad deputy ruler. In 1932 Isa died and then Sheikh Hamad then ruled for the next 10 years until he died in 1942.
It was the pearl trade that had brought wealth to the merchants of these islands. A National Geographic article of 1946 writes that Bahrain once sent out 20,000 pearl fishers in 1,000 boats. Not only were pearls abundant in the clear, shallow, calm waters of the gulf but they were prized for their quality. Says Ahmad Al Fardan whose father was a “doctor” of pearls who could taste the origin of the pearl by placing it in his mouth, “Bahraini pearls have seven layers, as against those of the Red Sea that have five, and those from Sri Lanka that have only two”. It is this layering that gives Bahraini pearls their much sought after lustre.
The Maharajahs of India had an unending appetite for these very high quality pearls, making Bombay a world market place for trading. Demand for pearls was also high in Paris where Cartier used them in many exquisite pieces and in China where they were adorned the finest ladies garments.
With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, demand for pearls escalated as they were seen as an easy, safe and transportable way to invest money. The political upheaval at that time creating the modern nation of Saudi Arabia, and the division of the Levant between the Turks, French and English did not affect Bahrain directly, although developments in neighbouring countries were watched with interest. There had long been a close relationship between Britian and Bahrain with the Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship, and 1902 the first resident political agent had arrived. British rule of the Eastern region was run from Bombay and it was for this reason that the currency of Bahrain at the time was the rupee. It was not until 1965 that the dinar was established as the national currency (Following the formation of the Bahrain currency board in 1964).