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Posted On: 25 November 2018 01:30 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:02 pm

10 fascinating facts about Dhows in Qatar

Khadiza Begum
Khadiza Begum
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Can anything beat the fantastic feeling of freedom when sailing a Dhow alongside the Corniche on a fine day? The Dhow is an integral part of Qatari culture and before the oil era,they were mainly used for pearl diving, fishing and transporting goods. Today, to keep those traditions alive, the ancient craft still serves the people of Qatar, elegantly evoking the essence of our centuries-old maritime heritage.

You’ll spot dhows tied up all along the Corniche in Doha – there are more than 500 of them. And here are some interesting facts about Dhows in Qatar that you may not know.

1. Most of those dhows are built in Kerala

Most of the dhows parked at the Corniche were built in Kerala. Some of them were made from the wood brought from Myanmar (Burma) to India.

2. Dhow building costs vary from QR1m to QR4m

The cost of building a Dhow varies widely - from QR1m to QR4m, depending upon the size and different amenities available on and in the actual craft.

3. Traditional boats are given different names

Traditional boats are given different names such as Sanabeck, Tieeh, Jalbout and Al Baggara.

4. Dhows come in many different sizes

The size of dhows can vary widely, from 20 feet, to over 130 feet long but, in theory, every customer has the freedom to order any size. For example, in 2010 a customised Dhow was built in Keralafor Qatar’s Royal family. It was 150 feet long, 32 feet wide and 12 feet tall. Made from seasoned Indian teak wood, it is widely considered as one of the biggest Dhows in the entire Gulf region.

5. A traditional boat can take more than 2 years to build

There is a luxurious quality about a superbly crafted dhow that is difficult to describe in mere words. They glide through the water unlike any other craft afloat, evoking memories of a bygone era of seafaring. The very shape itself draws the eye like no other nautical vessel, a result of the long months of care taken to create the perfect form.

Even a small dhow can be three months in the making, with larger ones taking up to 9 months. This is often because of the need to serve the diverse requests and exacting standards of the often wealthy, high status clients who commission them. One such craft, Al Rahi, famously took over two years to complete. Commissioned in 2015, 40 Kerala craftsmen took 2 years to complete this 275 tonne work of ocean going opulence. With multiple levels, over 20 sleeping berths, a large luxurious kitchen, several bathrooms and huge storage areas and fully furnished leisure zones with high quality interiors, this 40 person dhow is 140 ft long and 30 ft wide.

6. Traditional boat can last up to 120 years!

Even with the advanced engineering skills evident in modern shipbuilding, traditional dhow making still matches modern engineering in many ways. The lifespan of modern boats can range from 40 to 100 years, but dhows are famed for their longevity as a traditional dhow can last up to 120 years.

7. Dhow ride costs QR20 - QR50 per person

The coastal trips in traditional wooden boats are popular time spending in Doha, so the vessels are especially crowded from the early evening
The coastal trips in traditional are popular time spending in Doha, so the vessels are especially crowded from the early evening

You can get on board of a Dhow in Qatar just by paying QR20 to QR50. And if you want to reserve the entire dhow for your whole family and friends for a long island tour, you have to pay around QR1500 to QR2,500.

8. Every three months wooden dhows need to go out of the water for maintenance

Since the dhows are made with wood or timber, they need to be take out of the water every three months to get a makeover. To prevent the boat from leaking, cotton mixed with coconut oil is stuffed between the timbers.

9. The origins of the dhow are a historical mystery

The exact origins of the dhow are a mystery. Most scholars believe it originated in India as early as 600 AD. Some claim that the sambuk, a type of dhow, was derived from the Portuguese caravel.

10. The dhow gets space on the 3rd issue banknote of the Qatari One Riyal

Photo credit:

The third issue Qatari One Riyal bank note features a Dhow in a harbor. The note was issued in 1996 and withdrawn from circulation in 2003.

Red Bull Curates: Dhow Art

Wait…the interesting facts are not over yet, Red Bull Qatar is bringing an art initiative aimed at local artist to create designs for the hulls of traditional dhow. The top 10 designs will be painted on dhows to be exhibited.

Here’s what you should know about the event

  • 21 artists were invited to submit their concept design.
  • Six final artists have been selected by the curator on the project Khalifa Al Obaidly and two other JURE members.
  • The six final artists have been announced at a dinner on Friday November 23 at City Center Rotana. They got a real size Dhow each to execute their concept design on.
  • The final exhibition of revealing the final painted shows will take place at Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassem Museum on December 14th from 5 pm till 9 pm.