Making dhows for 50 years

Seventy-sevenyear- old Mohammed Abdullah Bahaji owns of one of the oldest dhow workshops in Ras Al Khaimah. The Emirati has been in the field of dhow making for more than 50 years and he specialises in making big dhows called booms.

By Sebugwaawo Ismail

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Published: Sat 30 Aug 2008, 12:55 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 5:11 PM

Mohammed Abdullah in his boat workshop`. — Photo by Sebugwaawo IsmailBahaji was inspired to join the profession at a young age by his father who owned a dhow workshop in old Ras Al Khaimah. “I learnt the job from my father who was a prominent dhow maker in Ras Al Khaimah. I love dhows,” he said.

When his father died years ago, Bahaji took charge of the workshop, which had three employees then.

The workshop was later shifted to the beach in Al Maarid area in Ras Al Khaimah from where he has been operating for more than 40 years. It now has seven employees.

As specialisation is the key these days, Bahaji is into construction of boom dhows. About 15 big dhows have been rolled out from his workshop in the past 40 years, apart from several small dhows.

”It takes about two years to construct a big dhow, which is about 100-foot-long, at a cost of around Dh3 million, depending on the types of timber used. We mostly use logs of timber imported from African countries and Malaysia since they are very strong and water-resistant. They can last up to 100 years,” said Bahaji.

Bahaji gets many visitors who are impressed by the craft of building huge dhows that resemble the ark of Biblical fame.

After a dhow is completed, it is left on the beach for 10 days to become firm before launching it into the water.

According to Bahaji, with the advent of the modern technology, which led to the manufacturing of several small boats and vessels with big engines, most of the traditional dhow makers are now engaged in the construction of big dhows.

”Since the construction of a dhow is costly, we make most of the dhows on order. Most of the orders are for big dhows that are used in the transport business in the UAE, other Gulf countries, Ethiopia, Somalia and India,” said Bahaji.

Bahaji, who has three wives, eight daughters and four sons, has earned his livelihood through this profession all through these years. He has managed to construct three residential houses and owns three dhows of his own which help him earn extra incomes.

With the money earned from dhow making, he managed to educate his sons and they are working in different government offices in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah.

Asked why none of his sons was inspired to join dhow making, Bahaji said with education, the trend has changed and most of the young generation are attracted to white-collar jobs.

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