Dubai Dhow – Like Gala as a Swaying Swan!
A term, probably of Swahili origin, referring to several types of sailing vessels (many now outfitted with motors) common to the Gulf Arab states.
The sambuk (or sambook), perhaps the most widely represented, is a graceful craft with a tapered bow and a high, squared stern; it was often used for pearling, and today is used for fishing and commerce. A larger vessel, the boom, is still common in the Gulf. It ranges from 50 to 120 feet (15 – 35 m) in length, 15 to 30 (5 – 9 m) feet in width, and up to 400 tons (363 metric tons) displacement. Like early Arab ships it is double-ended (pointed at both ends) with a straight stem post. It is important in Gulf commerce. Now rare is another large ship, thebaggala, formerly an important deep-sea vessel. Sometimes over 300 tons (272 metric tons) and with a crew of 150, it was built with a high, squared poop, reflecting the influence of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Portuguese vessels. Like the sambuk and baggala, it has two masts. The jalboot, a single-masted vessel and much smaller (20 – 50 tons [18 – 45 metric tons]), formerly was widely used on the pearling banks of the Gulf. Its name and its features, notably an upright bow stem and transom stern, indicate its probable derivation from the British jolly boat. Other smaller craft, all single masted, occasionally found in Gulf or adjacent waters include the bedan, shuʿi, and zarook.
By the eighth century Arab fleets of such ships were part of a commercial maritime network not matched or superseded until the European circumnavigation of the globe.
Until the 1930s hundreds of dhows made up the fleets that sailed over the pearling banks from June to September. Today a considerable number of commercial cargoes are carried in motorized dhows between Dubai, especially as a transshipment point, and Iran.
Some dhows are used for recreational purposes. Traditionally the Gulf’s most important manufacturing industry was the construction and outfitting of dhows. In the early twentieth century there were some 2,000 dhows in Bahrain alone, and 130 were built there yearly.
Small numbers continue to be built in Bahrain and elsewhere in the Gulf, still with the planks of the hull formed into a shell and the ribs then fitted to them.