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Dhow sailing transport vessels laden with cargo in the Indian Ocean under sunny blue skies in Stone Town Port, Zanzibar, the Spice Island, Tanzania, East Africa.
Dhow sailing vessels in Stone Town Port Zanzibar Tanzania
Dhow sailing boat in the Indian Ocean under sunny blue skies in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania, East Africa. Jipe Moyo Utashinda. - Stone Town Editions Africa Snapshots
Dhow (Arabic داو dāw) is the generic name of a number of traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts with lateen sails used in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region. Some historians claim the dhow was invented by Arabs or Indians, but the majority give the credit to the Chinese. Typically sporting long thin hulls, dhows are trading vessels primarily used to carry heavy items, like fruit, fresh water or merchandise, along the coasts of the Eastern Arabia (Arab states of the Persian Gulf), Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and East Africa. Larger dhows have crews of approximately thirty, smaller ones typically around twelve.
The exact origins of the dhow are lost to history. Most scholars believe that it originated in China between 600 B.C. to 600 A.D. Some claim that the sambuk, a type of dhow, may be derived from the Portuguese caravel.
The Yemeni Hadhrami people, as well as Omanis, for centuries came to Beypore, in Kerala, India for their dhows. This was because of the good timber in the Kerala forests, the availability of good coir rope, and the skilled carpenters who specialized in ship building. In former times, the sheathing planks of a dhow's hull were held together by coconut rope. Beypore dhows are known as 'Uru' in Malayalam, the local language of Kerala. Settlers from Yemen, known as 'Baramis', are still active in making urus in Kerala.
In the 1920s, British writers identified Al Hudaydah as the center for dhow building. Those built in Al Hudaydah were smaller in size, and used for travel along the coasts. They were constructed of acacia found in Yemen.
Captain Alan Villiers (1903-82) documented the days of sailing trade in the Indian Ocean by sailing on dhows between 1938 and 1939 taking numerous photographs and publishing books on the subject of dhow navigation.
Even to the present day, dhows make commercial journeys between the Persian Gulf and East Africa using sails as their only means of propulsion. Their cargo is mostly dates and fish to East Africa and mangrove timber to the lands in the Persian Gulf. They often sail south with the monsoon in winter or early spring, and back again to Arabia in late spring or early summer.