Oyster lunch yields 26 pearls for Lebanese couple

Updated: 9/10/2008

BEIRUT, Lebanon

Lebanese restaurant owner Raymond Salha and his wife were having oysters for lunch when she made a stunning discovery — a cluster of 26 pearls inside an oyster on her plate.

The find 10 days ago at his Al-Fanar Restaurant in the southern port city of Tyre was a ''total surprise,'' Salha told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

It was one of about 200 oysters they had cooked that day at the restaurant. As his wife opened the shell, she let out a gasp and said, ''Look at this oyster, there are lots of pearls in it,'' Salha recounted.

The couple immediately believed the pearls were valuable, so Salha called the city's maritime museum which sent a team that took the oyster — and the pearls still inside it — away for testing.

At the museum, Salha said officials later told him they counted ''only'' 25 pearls. He insisted however, that he and his wife Amal counted a total of 26 pearls of varying sizes inside the oyster, some very small.

A few days later, the oyster was preserved and returned by the museum, along with the pearls. Salha, who insists the oyster still contains 26 pearls, plans to keep it on display at his restaurant.

Oysters fished off the Lebanese coast are regularly on the restaurant's menu in the summer, but Salha and his wife had never seen anything like this find. Once, long ago, they found a single pearl while opening an oyster.

Although the pearls are not believed to be worth a lot of money, Salha says their importance is in the sheer number found inside a single shell.

Oysters from the Lebanese waters of the Mediterranean are of a different variety than those usually served in European restaurants, which are larger in size.

Salha said he buys a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of oysters for about US$10 from the fishermen during oyster season between August and October.

He showed the oyster on Wednesday to reporters and visitors, and later placed it on a shelf on the restaurant wall, covering it with a cloth for protection.

Asked whether he plans to get in touch with The Guinness Book of Records about the discovery, Salha said not for now.

''If they read about it and find that it is a record, then they can come and record it themselves,'' he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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