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I always wondered where the countless fishing dhows we see every day were made. This evening I got my answer on coming across one such traditional dhow ‘factory’, right there on the highway leading to the airport.
I have earlier seen a similar factory but that churned out dhows made of steel sheets, which are possibly cheper and easier to make.
This facility is run by master craftsman Ustad (master) Abdulla who, at 55, has been in the business for the last 30 years.
“It is no easy job; it’s not quick either,” he said. “While a regular fishing dhow can take up to six months to build and cost around BD30,000 ($80,000), a large vessel for tourist excursions can run up a tab of BD200,000 ($530,000) and be ready in two years,” he said.
Awesome, really! “And then there are those where the hull is made of fibre; and these are getting popular now.”
Further revelations were coming. “We get wood from all over the world – Thailand, Malaysia, India, Africa – and it’s not cheap.”
While teak wood is used for the main frame, another speciality wood is used for the keel and yet another one for the insides,” he revealed. “And that is where it takes time.”
We looked around the factory and found it to be a massive operation. There were no workers at that time but it was obvious when they are there, it’s a busy place. “My workers,” the Ustad revealed, “are craftsmen from India and Bangladesh; they are the best. They are professionals.”
As we left, I said I would write about him. “Oh, yes, you can. I have already been written about in several magazines. I will show you one.” He made his way to a red convertible parked nearby.
My parting question also drew an instant response. How many vessels does the factory make every year?
“Enough to keep me comfortable – and happy. The orders keep coming,” was all that he said as he got back to surveying his property sitting on a pile of wooden planks.
And we left!