Dhow (Arabic: داو‎, ) is the generic name for a number of traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts, used in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region. In the past dhows operated as trading vessels, mainly to carry heavy items. Larger dhows have crews of approximately thirty, smaller ones typically around twelve.

Origin of Dhows

The exact origins of the dhow are lost to history. Most historians are divided as to whether the dhow was invented by Arabs or Indians before 600 AD. 

Ships that are similar to the Dhow are mentioned or described in the 1001 Nights including various ports where they harboured. The dhow is also associated with the pearl trade.

The Yemeni and Omanis for centuries came to Kerala, India, for their dhows. This was because of the good timber in the Kerala forests and the skilled ship builders. In former times, the planks of a dhow’s hull were held together by coconut rope. 

The art of Dhow making in Oman

The art of building dhows has been continuing in the Sultanate of Oman. The Sultanate remains the home to the finest dhow builders in the world. In the town of Sur this craft is still alive and craftsmen are building modern dhows made to order. (See video below) However, these hand-rowed vessels have now been replaced by high horse-powered engines.

Dhow Cruises for tourists

A number of Gulf countries offer dhow cruises to tourists, which are advertised as sunset cruises or dinner cruises.

Cruising down Dubai creek is said to be an experience you cannot miss when in Dubai. One advert gives the following description of the Dhow Cruise:

Romance is never so easy to find … Cruising down Dubai creek is a novel experience, dinner on a Dhow Cruise with the fascinating lights of Dubai creek with music and belly dancing with a sip of your favourite drink and BBQ buffet dinner.”





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