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Since antiquity the natural pearls of the Gulf have been famed as the finest, most lustrous and most plentiful in the world. From the beginnings of trade till the 1930s, they were a major product of the Gulf ’s coastal peoples. From the 17th to the early 20th centuries, rising demand turned pearling into their economic mainstay. By this time pearls were fished in their millions, and the industry dominated the lives, health and expectations of entire shaikhdoms. The influx of people and wealth to the coast permanently transformed the Gulf, providing the manpower and capital to nurture the city-states – Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah – which endure there today.