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Dhow

DHOW

A term, probably of Swahili origin, referring to several types of sailing vessels (many now outfitted with motors) common to the Gulf Arab states.

Arabs refer to dhows by names specific to each type, determined principally by size and hull design. Four kinds of dhows account for most of these vessels. 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 (1535 m) in length, 15 to 30 (59 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, the baggala, 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 (2050 tons [1845 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.

Dhows were well adapted to Gulf waters because of their shallow draft and maneuverability. Their la-teen sails, long stems, and sharp bows equipped them well for running before the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean, toward India in summer and toward Africa in winter. Wood for planking and masts was imported from the Malabar Coast of India or from East Africa. Traditionally no nails were used; cord made from coconut husks was used to lash together the planks of the decks and gunwales. By the eighth century Arab fleets of such ships were part of a commercial maritime network not matched or superseded until the European circumnavigation of the globe. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, the Qawasim Emirate of the lower Gulf created a maritime empire that displaced earlier Omani dominance. Their power rested on the large fleets of dhows and the skill and ferocity of their crews. The attacks of these "pirates" on AngloIndian shipping brought Britain's naval intervention in the early nineteenth century and the eventual establishment of a trucial system under Britain's oversight. 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.


Bibliography

Kay, Shirley. Bahrain: Island Heritage. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Motivate, 1989.

Vine, Peter. Pearls in Arabian Waters: The Heritage of Bahrain. London: Immel, 1986.

malcolm c. peck

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dhow

dhow native vessel used on the Arabian Sea. XIX. ult. orig. unkn.; in Marathi as ḍāw, in Arabic as dāw.

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dhow

dhowallow, avow, Bilbao, Bissau, bough, bow, bow-wow, brow, cacao, chow, ciao, cow, dhow, Dow, endow, Foochow, Frau, Hangzhou, Hough, how, Howe, kowtow, Lao, Liao, Macao, Macau, miaow, Mindanao, mow, now, ow, Palau, plough (US plow), pow, prow, row, scow, Slough, sough, sow, Tao, thou, vow, wow, Yangshao

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