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For some in Bahrain, diving for pearls beats drilling for oil

If Bahrain's oil income drops off too much, would that mean a comeback for pearl divers, the men who gave this Arab island the name ``Pearl of the Gulf?'' Saeed Alloush, a Bahrain researcher, has said the government is considering pearls as a new source of income, mainly because of falling oil revenues and reserves. Bahrain's pearl-diving industry came to a standstill about 30 years ago with the exploitation of oil and competition from Japanese cultured pearls.

The possibility of reviving pearl diving excited a group of old divers sipping tea in a small shack here. They all agreed pearl diving would be different today.

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In place of tortoise-shell clamps to put on their noses for a five-minute dive, divers today would have oxygen tanks. Scuba-diving flippers would replace the stones they used to attach to their feet to keep them down.

``Diving is in my blood, and if they give me the chance, I yearn to go back,'' said 65-year-old Ghanem Hamed.

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