Wed, 01 Dec 2021

© Provided by Xinhua

Salah al-Kahlout, from a refugee camp in Gaza, opened a home gallery to showcase beautiful stones he had collected over the years.

GAZA, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- It is hard to miss the thousands of rare and precious stones scattered around the house of Salah al-Kahlout, a Palestinian man from Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.

The 54-year-old man opened a gallery at home earlier this month under the name "Palestine Gemstone Exhibition," in which he displays the bounties of land and sea in the coastal enclave.

Some tones are seen on the floor. 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 precious stones, which I have been collecting over five years," al-Kahlout, a father of 13, told Xinhua.

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

© Provided by Xinhua

Holding a small rock in a shape of a tree, the man said he came up with the idea in 2000 when he came back from Saudi Arabia, from which he brought a device used for precious stones examination.

Initially, it was only a hobby and it took him a long time until he decided to open a gallery. Determined to fulfill his dream, he would wake up early in the morning and take to the seashore or to the eastern borders to dig for rocks and stones.

"I collected dozens of them. Initially, some of them were used to produce jewelry for my wife and sisters, but later I decided to keep them so that they would be a souvenir for me someday," he said.

"My hobby did not stop there. My passion grew stronger as I became more interested in the history of the Gaza Strip and when I understood that the rocks could tell those stories," he said, adding that he could not complete his mission alone.

He formed a small team with his friends, who would take turns to go to the sea in order to scavenge for rocks and gems. Once stones were found, they would be given to al-Kahlout for examination.

The team also hired a large group of local specialists studying precious stones and rocks.

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

Al-Kahlout classified and placed the stones inside plastic bags, each carrying its own name.

© Provided by Xinhua

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

According to him, as antiquities documents 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 during the coming period to enhance the Palestinian presence in the field and acquire more skill and knowledge in this field.

Shortly, Kahlout will start the necessary procedures to try to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the person with the rarest rocks and precious stones collection.

Nawaf Al-Najjar, 64, from Jabaliya refugee camp, is also a fan of collecting precious stones. He started his hobby 40 years ago when he was working with an Israeli gold dealer.

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

He said, "After I make sure that the piece I found was a precious stone, I made jewelry, rings and bracelets for women, while sometimes I sold them to my friend Salah."

© Provided by Xinhua

Al-Najjar pointed out while he was holding a small rock that he found on the shore of the Gaza Sea. "This sea throws to us treasures and jewels, but we suffer from a lack of capabilities to convert these rocks into jewelry and sell them."

Moataz Abed, 28, a resident of Al-Shatea refugee camp in Gaza, is also benefitting from this initiative. He searches for rocks and precious stones, even though there are days on which he fails to find any.

"Although this profession is difficult, I can make about 1,000 U.S. dollars at one time, which is a lot of money for an unemployed person," Abed said as he looked at the sea.

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