Exploring the world of precious prayer beads

DOHA: As visitors walk through the alleys of Souq Waqif, they find shops selling prayer beads, offering vast variety from synthetic stuff to real and precious gemstones which may cost several thousand riyals.

The beads that carry high value are those made from amber, coral, pearl, etc. The best amber — a fossilised tree resin — comes from several European countries and there are also ivory beads, which are less expensive and usually imported from Africa.

Other stones used for prayer beads include pearls both derived from sea and cultured ones and coral. Businesses at these shops see upward trend during Eid Al Adha as well as in the winter, according to vendors at Souq Waqif.

“The most special thing that we have here is Amber. It can cost between QR50 and QR60 per gram. And another item that I have is ivory. It is one gram for QR25 which is a little cheaper than the amber,” said Mahmood Rahim Al Vazehan, the owner of Majic Antique, which is arguably one of the oldest and largest shops selling prayer beads at the Souq Waqif.

“Amber comes from European countries and Russia. The most of the amber beads we have are from Poland, also some stuff is from Mexico. Ivory we import from Africa. Some corals come from Morocco. We have many stones like Zamurud (emerald) and Yaqut (ruby) as well also the synthetic ones that we get from several countries,” he added.

Prices of prayer beads is decided by their source, size and their age. For example, a 35-year old prayer bead made of amber can cost around QR8,000 to QR10,000. Some can be even more expensive. There is another quality power amber prayer beads which may cost between QR500 and QR1,500.

“One can tell about the good quality amber by touching and by the noise if you drop it on the floor. When you touch amber it will be cold and smooth unlike the plastic. Good amber prayer beads are also a status symbol,” said Al Vazehan.

Vendors have much cheaper prayer beads made of plastic and synthetic gemstones which might even cost less as QR10. People buy prayer beads throughout the year, however sales increase during some seasons.

“We have prayer beads made up of plastic and stones. It includes stones of different kinds and quality ranging from cheap to expensive. Ones made of plastic are the cheapest and most expensive one is Amber,” said a salesman identified him as Mahmood at a shop selling prayer beads at the Souq Waqif.

“Business is good during Eid, Ramadan and winter season. We have customers from all countries. Qataris and Arabs mostly purchase amber and the powder amber. Europeans prefer the ones made of ivory and customers from South Asian countries mostly buy prayer beads made of black coral and others,” he added.

Prayer beads are used in different religions around the world. In Arabic they are called misbaha which means ‘praise’. It is used by Muslims to help count recitation of dhikr — praise and glorification of Allah.

Source: The Peninsula Qatar