Head to any beach in Tanzania, and most likely, the visitor will encounter a dhow. These are the iconic vessel ploughing the jagged coastline, their long, thin hulls and inverse scimitar-shaped sails synonymous with Arabian seafaring.
This one, its crew rendered laconic by the pervasive heat, patrols Jambiani beach on Zanzibar. The premise is simple: cruise along the sands and give tourists a taste of life on the open water. It’s an impressive sight, the way these sleek wooden crafts pierce the waves. The ease with which they navigate the water, seemingly with no effort, makes for an enduring image. (Pedant Editor: This is tautologous).
In the grand scheme of things, the bigger ships partake in grander expeditions. Classically, dhows are trading vessels. In Tanzania’s case, anecdotal evidence has them crossing the ocean nightly from the islands of Zanzibar or Pemba to Bagamoyo, with cargo ranging from cigarettes to livestock. Boats go much further than this, but there’s one salient fact to consider: dhows only use their sails. With no concessions to modernisation or the use of technology, here is a craft that harkens back to an altogether more traditional time.