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What is a Mozambican Dhow?

When the Monsoon winds carried trade across the Indian Ocean, the vessel of choice was the Dhow, with its characteristic lateen sail made with traditional Merikani cloth.

A Dhow is a one or two-masted Arab sailing vessel, usually with lateen rigging (slanting, triangular sails), common still today in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. On the larger types, called baggalas and booms, the mainsail is considerably bigger. Bows are sharp with a forward and upward thrust and the sterns of the larger dhows may be decorated.

For more than two millennia the small, lateen-rigged sailing vessels called dhows were predominant. The dhow trade was particularly important in the western Indian Ocean, where these vessels could take advantage of the monsoon winds. A great variety of products was transported between ports on the coast of East Africa and ports on the Arabian Peninsula, and even as far as Bombay and Mangalore on the west coast of India.

The Dhow has been through a valiant struggle to survive in its history, against all odds in a world of rapid changes and growing competition from other motorized vessels. The Dhow has fought for its very survival!

The ancient art of traditional dhow travel has been practiced in this region for centuries,  fathers passing on the craft of skippering dhows to their sons through the generations. It is important for guests and agents to understand the culture surrounding dhow travel. It is a relaxed, simple and unhurried affair and you will be in the company of many other traditional dhows out on the sea, usually always within distant sight of an island or mainland coast, in case you need to retreat during sudden bad Mozambique weather.

Do not expect luxury on board! Dhows are basic wooden structures, allowing you to experience the beauty and art of traditional dhow travel under sail. We do make use of an outboard motor on occasions, but for the most part, it is adventure dhow sailing at its best.

All Dhows are handcrafted and corked using ‘alleged’ – the traditional practice of hammering cotton into the tiny gaps between the hand-hewn planks. The cotton expands to soak up water and dries out at low tide. Maintenance is an ongoing traditional affair and all dhows leak! Do not be alarmed, it is entirely normal for the crew to bail out their dhow as you travel. Contact us to book your Quirimbas holiday.

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