DOWN BY THE WATER, island diaries
Iran sits on one side of the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf to the Arabian sea. It’s considered the world’s most important throughway for oil – 30% of the world’s seaborne traded oil goes through the strait but despite of its natural riches, the inhabitants along the Persian Gulf are amongst the poorest in the country.
5 kilometres off the mainland, southeast of the port city Bandar Abbas, lies Hormuz, once upon a time the main port in the strait, visited by Marco Polo who praised the island where tens of thousands had settled. For centuries, the countries on both sides of the Gulf were in good relations and people travelled the region without passports. Today the population is below 10000 and unemployment is high ever since relations with Oman soured during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency. Before, locals would go to Oman in the morning and return at night with smuggled goods to sell in the mainland city of Bandar Abbas.
The island Qeshm, 60 kilometres away, is a free trade zone where paperless Pakistani ship builders keep up the tradition of wooden ship construction, side by side with traditional islanders and where youngsters from the mainland travel to feel a bit freer, away from the watching eye of the Islamic republic on the mainland.
The Persian Gulf separates Shia Iran from its Sunni neighbours in the west. The majority of its inhabitants are not Shia like in the rest of the country, but Sunni muslims of Arab origin who simply call themselves Jazeera, islanders.
Down by the water is an exploration of life on three islands in the Persian Gulf.