Since time immemorial, the art of building dhows has been the privilege of the Sultanate of Oman and a tradition that has been continuing for ages transcending from generation to generation and to this day, the Sultanate remains to be home to the finest dhow builders in the world. In Sur in Al Sharqiyah Governorate, Sidab in Muscat Governorate and elsewhere where the seafaring tradition was the lifestyle once, these crafts are still alive and craftsmen are thriving on their skill being a part of the most modern dhows made to order.
Oman had its pride and glory stitched to the excellence of its skillfully built boats known for their finesse and perfection added with the brilliance of its sailors, whose maritime expertise at times of adverse weather conditions and in deep seas built up the country’s commercial networking those days. The ‘Jewel of Oman’ is the flag-bearer of the Omani tradition of the art of dhow making.
Although these dhows were at along the coastal areas of the Sultanate, a few places like Sur are today following the art of dhow making as a tradition which is, in reality, a vast window opened to a rich past and more than that, it reminds of a dying tradition of dhow making.
The word dhow means all traditional wooden-hulled Arabian boats. However, the local residents distinguish between all types of wide, small and medium-sized boats, powered by engines or otherwise. While the dhows called sambuq and ghanjah which are boasted a high, square stern, seemingly inspired by the design of Portuguese galleons, the traditional Arabian dhow as we see around is the large, ocean-going boom which is curved at both ends.
Yet another distinction is that the traditional dhows were driven by huge triangular designs which allow them to sail through the high seas very close to the wind than its counterparts. However, these hand-rowed vessels have now been replaced by high horse-powered engines.
What made these traditional dhows different is that the planks which are usually made of teak wood are sewn together using coconut rope while nails supported the woods to stay together.
Highlighting the cultural heritage of Oman vis a vis their country, the French Embassy, in collaboration with The Omani-French Centre, is on a mission to display some of the finest dhow models in the country from. It also aims at displaying the similarities that both countries and developing the links between the two countries by taking part in socio-cultural activities. The project consists of the exhibition of models of Omani dhows, made by the Oman Maritime Workshop, where the Jewel of Muscat was also manufactured.
Through this exhibition, the embassy aims at making known to a wider public one of the rich heritage of Oman’s tangible societal life, recalling the long and fulfilling relationship of the Sultanate with the sea, through models of Omani traditional dhows, manufactured in a traditional way, by enthusiastic and talented craftsmen, and to celebrate the mutual relations by showing their craft work. It will be held at the Omani-French Centre from February 13 or 20 for one month.
“Photos of exhibits comprise the model of Jewel of Muscat along with the Shasha, Dhows’ models and other objects associated with the eventful past”, Narjes Krichen, Chargée de mission culturelle at the French Embassy noted.
“It is said that the specially commissioned dhow called ‘Sohar’ as narrated in the ‘The Sindbad Voyage’ was actually built in Sur and is now placed at the Dhow roundabout in the capital city. This is sufficient to invoke a sense of curiosity in the visitors’ minds and take them to the Omani-French Centre at the Madinat Sultan Qaboos today.”