The Dhow Trade

The Dhow Trade

Throughout al-Hami’s history-until the latter half of the 1900s-local dhows sailed the trade routes of the Indian Ocean.

(The term” dhow” is a general, Western wo rd fo r the wooden sailing vessels of the Indian Ocean.

Local sailors, however, know these vessels by their parti cular names, such as sanbuq, baggala andganja.)

The Dhow Trade Hadhrami merchants ventured thousands of miles in their lateen-rigged craft.

They trusted their lives and livelihoods to the ships’ hulls, which shipwrights laboriously sewed together, plank by plank, with coir thread manufactu red from the husks of coco nu ts.

In the era of sail , the monsoon winds were the lifeblood of porrs such as al-Shih r and al-H ami. Ibn Majid’swork reveals that Arab mariners had developed monsoonal sailing into a refined science.

Fun damental to the practice of this science was the concept of sa iling departure windows, or mawsim, which were shaped by the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean.

During the summer months, a strong, southwest wind prevailed; however, voyaging by sail was only practicable during certain segments of this monsoon.

Arab mariners referred to the first summer sailing season as the kaws monsoon; the second, as the daman monsoon.

The damani season began in mid-August-when the rains abated but the winds blew steadily-and was a favorabl e rime for eastward sailing.

During the middle of the summer (mid-May to mid-August),

The Dhow Trade the porrs of lndia were closed to shipping due to the swell generated by the monsoon winds.

Accordin g to Ibn Majid: “For these ninety days the sea is closed and he who wo uld cross rhem deserves to be unhappy.

From rhe ago ny of loneliness and remo rse, so much anxiety and suffering.”

Dhows in India, the Bay of Bengal, and Straits of Malacca returned to their home ports in Arabia during the long, northeast (azyab) monsoo n (October-April).

Those who had sailed to Afri ca often spent the winter trading along the coast, returning to Arabia only with the first breezes of the southwest monsoon.

Ibn Majid wrote that a captain sea tioned at al-Shihr and bound for G ujarat, India, should leave al-Shihr around the seventh of April.

He would arrive off India approximately three weeks later,

ahead of the peak of the southwest monsoon and the closure of that region’s ports.

The captain would sell his cargo and buy return commodities as he waited out the monsoon.

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