Overview

The history of Beruwela goes back to at least 1000 years, when the first Moorish tradesmen from the Arab world settled in Sri Lanka. However, the first traders from the Arabian Peninsula already came here to trade as early as the 7th Century.  Still Muslims make the majority of the population in Beruwala. They are mainly concentrated in the neighbourhood called China Fort. Here you will also find a huge collection of posh villas, because many Muslims in Beruwala are well-to-do; most of the Muslims are involved in business, many of them in gem business. Their connection with gem business goes back many generations, but the boom came in the 1970s when suddenly gems became a booming business worldwide. The Muslims in Beruwela traveled in large numbers to Rathnapura, the ‘number one gem town’ in Sri Lanka with many gem pits, bringing back a great number of precious and semi-precious stones. It was the start of a blossoming gem market, which is still taking place in China Fort every Wednesday and Saturday; a great place to wander around or to buy your desired dream gem to be set into a nice piece of jewelry. There is a big crowd of buyers and sellers in the streets showing their gems to those interested to buy. The gems are packed in small rectangular folded gem papers, only being unfolded for inspection by potential buyers. When, after bargaining, the price is set, the precious trade-deal is done. However, before you made the final deal, have your favourite gem checked by the independent gemologists on authenticity and carat; there is an office in one of the side streets of the street market. The gem dealer can take you there. There are many gem shops all around the place with facilities for calibrating, cutting and polishing of gems (see also the header: Gems). After you have roamed around a bit and made a nice deal you can enjoy a cool drink or a cup of tea in one of the small cafes that are scattered around.

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