A dhow in the Indian Ocean near the East African islands of Zanzibar

Dhow (Arabic,داو) is the generic name of a number of traditional Arab sailing vessels with one or more masts with lateen sails. Dhows typically weigh 300 to 500 tons, and have a long, thin hull design. They are trading vessels primarily used to carry heavy items, like fruit, fresh water or merchandises, along the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and East Africa. Larger dhows have crews of approximately thirty people, while smaller dhows typically have crews of around twelve.



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.

Some scholars claim that the sambuk, a type of Dhow, may be derived from the Portuguese caravel.[1] ,

Traditionally Yemeni Hadhrami people, as well as Omanis, came to Beypore, Kerala, India along the centuries in order to build Dhows. The reasons were the availability of good timber in the forests of Kerala, the availability of good coir rope and also the presence of skilled carpenters specialized in ship building. Formerly the sheathing planks of a dhow's hull were held together by coconut rope instead of nails. Beypore Dhows are known as 'Uru' in Malayalam, the local language of Kerala. Settlers from Yemen, later known as 'Baramis', are still active in Uru business in Kerala.[2]

Captain Alan Villiers (1903 – 1982) 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.[3][4]


For celestial navigation, dhow sailors have traditionally used the kamal. This observation device determines latitude by finding the angle of the Pole Star above the horizon.[5]

Types of dhow

  • Baghlah (بغلة) - From the Arabic language word for "mule". A heavy ship, the traditional deep-sea dhow
  • Baqarah or baggarah (بقارة) - From the Arabic word for "cow". Old type of small dhow similar to the Battil.[6]
  • Barijah - Small dhow[7]
  • Battil (بتيل) - featured long stems topped by large, club-shaped stem heads
  • Badan - a smaller vessel requiring a shallow draft[8]
  • Boum (بوم) or dhangi - a large-sized dhow with a stern that is tapering in shape and a more symmetrical overall structure. The Arab boom has a very high prow, which is trimmed in the Indian version.[9]
  • Ghanjah (غنجه) or kotiya - a large vessel, similar to the Baghlah, with a curved stem and a sloping, ornately carved transom.[10]
  • Jahazi or jihazi. A fishing or trading dhow with a broad hull similar to the Jalibut, common in Lamu Island and the coast of Oman. It is also used in Bahrain for the pearl industry.[11]
  • Jalibut or jelbut (جالبوت)- A small to medium-sized dhow. It is the modern version of the shu'ai with a shorter prow stem piece. Most jalibuts are fitted with engines.
  • Pattamar, a type of Indian dhow
  • Sambuk or sambuq (سنبوك‎) - The largest type of Dhow seen in the Persian Gulf today. It has a characteristic keel design, with a sharp curve right below the top of the prow. It has been one of the most successful dhows in history.[12]
  • Shu'ai (شوعي)- Medium-sized dhow. Formerly the most common dhow in the Persian Gulf used for fishing as well as for coastal trade.
  • Zaruq - Small dhow, slightly larger than a barijah[13]

The term "dhow" is sometimes also applied to certain smaller lateen-sail rigged boats traditionally used in the Red Sea, the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf area, as well as in the Indian Ocean from Madagascar to the Bay of Bengal. These include the feluccas used in Egypt, Sudan and Iraq, and the Dhoni used in the Maldives, as well as the tranki, ghrab and ghalafah.[14] All these vessels have common elements with the dhow.


See also


  1. ^ Traditional Arab sailing ships
  2. ^ In the Wake of the Dhow: The Arabian Gulf and Oman
  3. ^ Alan Villiers, An Account of Sailing with the Arabs in their Dhows, in the Red Sea, round the Coasts of Arabia, and to Zanzibar and Tanganyika; Pearling in the Persian Gulf; and the Life of the Shipmasters and the Mariners of Kuwait
  4. ^ Monsoon Seas: The Story of the Indian Ocean
  5. ^ Ancient Sailing and Navigation
  6. ^ The Traditional Dhow
  7. ^ George Fadlo Hourani & John Carswell, Arab Seafaring in the Indian Ocean in Ancient and Early Medieval Times, Princeton University Press, 1995
  8. ^ Dhows
  9. ^ Dhow Ship - Types
  10. ^ Cog and Galley - Ghanjah
  11. ^ Dhow sailing in Kenya
  12. ^ Oman, a Seafaring Nation, Ministry of Information, Oman 1979
  13. ^ Zaruq
  14. ^ Thabit A. J. Abdullah, The Political Economy of Trade in Eighteenth-Century Basra, SUNY series in the Social and Economic History of the Middle East , 2000, ISBN 13 978-0-7914-4808-3

Further reading

  • Clifford W. Hawkins, The dhow: an illustrated history of the dhow and its world.
  • Marion Kaplan, Twilight of the Arab dhow.
  • Esmond Bradley Martin and Chryssee Perry Martin; foreword by Elspeth Huxley, Cargoes of the east : the ports, trade, and culture of the Arabian Seas and western Indian Ocean.
  • Esmond Bradley Martin, The decline of Kenya's dhow trade.
  • Anthony Jack, Arab dhows.
  • Henri Perrier, Djibouti's dhows.
  • Tessa Rihards, Dhow building : survival of an ancient craft.
  • Richard LeBaron Bowen, Essay on the tradition of painting eyes, known as oculi, on the bows of boats among mariners and fishermen from ancient times to the present. Found particularly in the Indian Ocean region.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dhow — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Dhow navegando cerca de Dar es Salaam El dhow (en árabe, داو dau) es una embarcación a vela de origen árabe caracterizada por su velamen triangular y bajo calado, siendo lo más común que cuenten con un sólo má …   Wikipedia Español

  • Dhow — Dhow, n. [Ar. d[=a]o?] A coasting vessel of Arabia, East Africa, and the Indian Ocean. It has generally but one mast and a lateen sail. [Also written {dow}.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • dhow — 1799, original language unknown, single masted native vessel used on Arabian Sea, later widely applied to all Arab vessels. Klein suggests a relation to Pers. dav running …   Etymology dictionary

  • dhow — (izg. dȃu) m DEFINICIJA pom. skupni naziv za arapske jedrenjake na Indijskom oceanu, Crvenom moru i Nilu ETIMOLOGIJA engl. ← arap. dāwa …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • dhow — [dou] n. [< Ar dāwa] a ship with a lateen sail or sails and a raised deck at the stern, used along the coasts of the Indian Ocean …   English World dictionary

  • Dhow — Boutre Boutre indien dans la baie de Bombay Le boutre ou dhow (arabe : داو) est un type de voilier traditionnel originaire de la mer Rouge. C est aussi un petit caboteur croisant en mer Rouge et dans l océan Indien …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dhow — El dhow es una embarcación a vela de origen árabe caracterizada por su velamen triangular y bajo calado, siendo lo más común que cuenten con un sólo mástil. El aspecto más revolucionario del dhow en la historia naval fue su velamen triangular, el …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • dhow — UK [daʊ] / US noun [countable] Word forms dhow : singular dhow plural dhows an Arab ship with low sides and sails shaped like triangles …   English dictionary

  • Dhow — Daus um 1906 vor Daressalam Dau um 1936 im Golf von Aden …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • dhow — noun Etymology: Arabic dāwa Date: 1785 an Arab lateen rigged boat usually having a long overhang forward, a high poop, and a low waist …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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