x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Time Frame: The monsoon winds turn toward Arabia

Mangrove poles destined for the Arabian Gulf are loaded onto a dhow at the port of Lamu, a small island just off the coast of Kenya, in 1947.

Images of Empire / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Images of Empire / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This is one of the oldest photos ever to appear in Time Frame, with the scene shown here unchanged for hundreds, possibly thousands of years.

It was taken in 1947 at the port of Lamu, a small island just off the coast of Kenya, where Mangrove poles were being loaded onto dhows ready to be shipped to the Arabian Gulf.

Although the original caption does not say when the photograph was taken, it would have to have been sometime between June and September.

This is when the winds in the Indian Ocean began to blow from the south, allowing ships to return home.

These monsoon winds - the word seems to be a corruption of the Arabic word mawsim (season) - were known locally as kaskazi and in the West as trade winds.

In the winter months they would blow south, allowing goods to leave India and the Gulf and forming part of a vast global trade network.

The monsoon winds also played their part in the spread of Islam, with Lamu being founded by Arab traders in the 14th century. Mangrove trees grow in great numbers on the island and would have been used for home construction, as well as building and repairing dhows.

Sailing dhows continue to trade down the east coast of Africa but these days the diesel engine can tame even the strongest monsoon wind.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae