Baghlah – the traditional deep-sea dhow – Extra Info

Baghlah - the traditional deep-sea dhow Baghlah dhow- Baghlah a traditional deep-sea dhow was an ocean going vessel sister to the Ghanjah and Boom with a long and sometimes romantic history, still in use well into the 20C

This particular picture was painted for His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the Sultan of Oman’s private yacht.

The image was also licenced for a book cover in Arabic and in English, “The Corsair“, which became a best seller.

The Corsair, book cover

The Corsair, book cover

The Corsair, book cover (rear)

The Corsair, book cover (rear)

The Corsair, book cover (ISBN detail)

The Corsair, book cover (ISBN detail)

Baghala dhows were well adapted to Gulf waters because of their shallow draft and manoeuvrability.
Their lateen sails, long stems, and sharp bows equipped them equally well for running before the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean, and up beaches and creeks to handle cargo.

Many Baglaha were built in Sur Oman although more were built in the Persian Gulf.
The Baglah’s usual dimensions were: Length 70 – 130 feet Weight 150 – 400 tons.

Dhow, by the way, is a term, thought by some to be of Swahili origin, it is a general terms and refers to several types of sailing vessels (now outfitted with motors) common to the Gulf Arab states.
Arabs refer to dhows by names specific for each type, these are determined principally by size and hull design.
Four kinds of dhows account for most of these vessels of which the Baglah despite its many variations of name, is but one.

The Baglah was a lateen-rigged sailing vessel with the mainsail considerably bigger than the mizzen and occasionally carrying a third mast, typically having a raised poop, transom stern with notably 5 stern windows on an arched carved transom reminiscent of European caravels and galleons, a raked stem, and one or two masts, used along the coasts of the Indian Ocean.


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Now bordering on extinct the Baglah was formerly an important deep-sea vessel.
Sometimes over 300 tons (272 metric tons) and with a crew of 15, it was built with a high, squared stern and poop deck influenced by the first European ships into the area, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Portuguese vessels and carried 2 masts both Lateen rigged as shown in our painting.

Some western scholars have dismissed the people of Arabia as reluctant mariners.
This ignores the significant role played by the fleets of Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen and Basrah which carried the trade and often the faith of Islam to Africa, India, the Far East, even to China for over a 1000 years.

Indigenous to the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, India, and East Africa, the earliest dhows were almost certainly simple dugouts with teak planks sewn to their sides to form a hull.
Gradually larger vessels would have evolved.
A keel was introduced, to which planking was sewn, later tree nailed.
Shell-built construction differed from the European frame-first method, in which planking was attached to ribbing however large ships were built by this method in Europe (see Zeven Provinciën“, Royal Netherlands Navy).
Shell-building allows shipwrights to create a vessel one plank at a time.

Almost since time immemorial, for sure as far back as King Solomon of Israel, large wooden ships have sailed the Indian Ocean and Arab seas.
Without archaeological evidence, so far Gordon Frickers doesn’t know of any ancient wreck of a vessel indigenous to the Persian Gulf or Indian Ocean that has ever been found.
Oman has been a seafaring nation at least as far back as the 8th century when an Omani vessel was reported to have reached Canton in China.
The traditional large dhow, also popularly known as Al Boum, Al Ghanjah, Shu’i, Al Badan, etc. were used in trading and warfare, being strong enough to  weather storms and reach ports in Iran, India, South-East Asia and way down the African coast
By the eighth century Arab fleets of such ships were part of a commercial maritime network unequaled in the east or superseded until the Europeans entered these waters.

Gordon Frickers ©  updated 14,01,16


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