Snapshot in Time: Dhow-sabout That For a Smooth Ride

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Head to any beach in Tanzania and most likely you’ll encounter a dhow. They’re an iconic vessel: the long, thin hulls and inverse scimitar-shaped sails are synonymous with Arabian seafaring.

This one – and let’s just for a second applaud the laconic cool of its crew – patrols Jambiani beach on Zanzibar. The premise is simple: cruise along the beach, pick up some tourists and give them 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 waters, 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 important point to consider: dhows only use their sails. With no concessions to modernisation, or indeed, the use of motors, here is a vessel which harkens back to an altogether more traditional time.

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