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File:Contruction and repair of Dhows, near Mtoni, Zanzibar.JPG
Construction and repair of dhows, near Mtoni, Zanzibar
Dhow ferrying passengers near Inhambane, Mozambique.
File:Stamp Aden 1937 0.5a.jpg
1937 stamp of Aden depicting a dhow.
A dhow with three masts

A dhow (Arabic,داو) is a traditional Arab sailing vessel with one or more lateen sails. It is primarily used to carry heavy items,like fruit, along the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, India and East Africa. Larger dhows have crews of approximately thirty people, while smaller dhows typically have crews of around twelve. Dhows are much larger than feluccas, another type of Arab boat usually used in fresh water in Egypt, Sudan and Iraq.


A boum sailing

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.

The term "dhow" is also applied to small, traditionally-constructed vessels used for trade in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf area and the Indian Ocean from Madagascar to the Bay of Bengal. Such vessels typically weigh 300 to 500 tons, and have a long, thin hull design.

Dhow also refers to a family of early Arab ships that used the lateen sail, the latter of which the Portuguese likely based their designs for the caravel (known to Arabs as sambuk, booms, baggalas, ghanjas and zaruqs).


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.

Types of dhow

  • Baghlah (بغلة) - the traditional deep-sea dhow
  • Battil - featured long stems topped by large, club-shaped stem heads
  • Badan - a smaller vessel requiring a shallow draught
  • Boum (بوم)- 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.[1]
  • Ghanjah - a large vessel, similar to the Baghlah, with a curved stem and a sloping, ornately carved transom.
  • Jalibut or Jelbut - 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.
  • Sambuq or Sambuk- The largest type of Dhow seen in the Gulf today. It has a characteristic keel design, with a shar curve right below the top of the prow. It has been one of the most successful dhows in history. [2]
  • Shu'ai - Medium-sized dhow. Formerly the most common dhow in the Gulf used for fishing as well as for coastal trade.

See also


  1. Dhow Ship - Types
  2. Oman, a Seafaring Nation, Ministry of Information, Oman 1979

Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
[[Commons: Category:Dhows

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