Palestinian opens gallery with rare stones collected in Gaza

Salah al-Kahlout displays a rare stone at his center in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on October 13, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)


Salah al-Kahlout displays a rare stone at his center in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on October 13, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

Salah al-Kahlout displays a rare stone at his center in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on October 13, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

Salah al-Kahlout displays a rare stone at his center in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on October 13, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

Salah al-Kahlout displays a rare stone at his center in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on October 13, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

Salah al-Kahlout displays rare stones at his center in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on October 18, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

Salah al-Kahlout displays rare stones at his center in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on October 18, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

It is hard to miss the thousands of rare and precious stones scattered around the house of Salah al-Kahlout, a Palestinian from the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.

The 54-year-old opened a gallery at his home earlier this month called the “Palestine Gemstone Exhibition”, in which he exhibits the riches of land and sea in the coastal enclave.

Some tones are seen on the ground. Others are placed on glass shelves with their names next to them. Rubies, emeralds, coral, antiques and diamonds are among the hundreds of exhibits.

“Currently, I own more than 5,000 rare rocks and gemstones, which I have been collecting for five years,” al-Kahlout, a father of 13, told Xinhua.

“My hobby may seem strange or crazy to others, but to me these rare rocks and stones are what draw people here to enjoy the beauty of history.”

Holding a small tree-shaped rock, the man says he got the idea in 2000 when he returned from Saudi Arabia, where he brought back a device used for examining gemstones.

At first it was just a hobby and it took him a long time before he decided to open a gallery. Determined to fulfill his dream, he woke up early in the morning and went to the seaside or the eastern borders to dig rocks and stones.

“I collected dozens of them. Initially, some of them were used to make jewelry for my wife and my sisters, but later I decided to keep them so that one day they would be a memory for me,” he said.

“My hobby didn’t stop there. My passion grew stronger as I became more interested in the history of the Gaza Strip and realized that the rocks could tell these stories” , he said, adding that he could not carry out his mission alone.

He formed a small team with his friends, who took turns going out to sea to collect stones and gems. Once the stones were found, they were handed over to al-Kahlout for examination.

The team has also hired a large group of local specialists studying gems and rocks.

“I was able to collect and buy thousands of gems and rocks inside the Strip. Some were left over from the empires that controlled this area,” he said.

Al-Kahlout graded and placed the stones in plastic bags, each bearing its own name.

Recently, Al-Kahlout obtained accreditation from the relevant government agencies in the strip to collect and display these pieces.

According to him, as antiquities document historical periods, rocks and stones also document ages, but from a purely geological point of view.

The man plans to participate in Arab and international exhibitions in the coming period to strengthen the Palestinian presence on the ground and acquire more skills and knowledge in this field.

Soon, Kahlout will begin the necessary procedures to try to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the person with the rarest collection of rocks and gems.

Nawaf Al-Najjar, 64, from Jabaliya refugee camp, is also adept at collecting gemstones. He started his hobby 40 years ago while working with an Israeli gold dealer.

“At that time, I learned from the Israeli how to make rings with precious stones and diamonds,” Al-Najjar, a father of eight, told Xinhua.

He said: “After making sure that the piece I found was a gemstone, I made jewelry, rings and bracelets for women, while sometimes I sold them to my friend Salah.”

Al-Najjar pointed out as he held a small rock he found on the shore of the Gaza Sea. “This sea throws treasures and jewels at us, but we suffer from a lack of capacity to convert these rocks into jewels and sell them.”

Moataz Abed, 28, a resident of Al-Shatea refugee camp in Gaza, also benefits from this initiative. He looks for rocks and gems, even if there are days when he can’t find any.

“Although this job is difficult, I can earn around US$1,000 at a time, which is a lot of money for an unemployed person,” Abed said looking out to sea.

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