x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A vessel of history

Nothing lasts forever. But some things, like the UAE's tradition of seafaring dhows, deserve to be preserved for future generations.

Nothing lasts forever. But some things, like the UAE's tradition of seafaring dhows, deserve to be preserved for future generations.

As The National reported yesterday, a significant chapter of Northern Emirates' history will end when Mohammed Bu Haji, the last remaining dhow builder in Ras Al Khaimah, completes what he promises will be his last creation. Upholding a heritage that goes back 2,000 years, Mr Bu Haji spent his life building traditional dhows, but ill health is forcing him to abandon the vocation.

"A lot of people came and asked me not to stop," said Mr Bu Haji. "People from my profession, from Dubai, from Kuwait. If I can make one more, then it will be even more of a blessing."

For centuries, dhows were the lifeblood of trade for this land, transporting spices, pearls and cloth back and forth to countries like India and Iran. Dubai's long tradition of trading owes a massive debt to the loyal dhow. Today, traditional dhows continue to be appreciated by tourists as a lasting symbol of Emirati culture, while fibre-glass facsimiles continue to ply the trade routes.

"He who does not know his past cannot make the best of his present and future," Sheikh Zayed once said. The seafaring tradition is more than just a historical fact; these dhows have borne the country into the present day.