Man Who Created World’s Largest Wooden Dhow!

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  • Majid Obaid Al Falasi, one of the last remaining boat makers in Al Jaddaf, was awarded at DP world for creating the world’s biggest wooden dhow.
  • Dhow’s are a very integral part of UAE’s landscape, Dhow’s adorn tourists brochures, postcards and the dh20 currency notes.
  • Al Falasi claims that the record would not go away from Dubai and that his legacy will be carried on by his son.

Emirati maritime tradition

Adjacent to the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library in Al Jaddaf a small group of people are working tirelessly to keep the Emirati Maritime Tradition alive. They construct dhows, which have sailed Arab coasts for hundreds of years bending large wooden planks as if they were clay.

After the workers have nailed the planks into place and built a frame, it is time to install the keel and stem. The ribs are installed next, followed by the rudder. Before long, the boats are ready to sail.

Integral part of landscape

Dhows are an integral part of the UAE’s landscape. Two of Dubai’s most iconic landmarks – Burj Al Arab and Dubai Opera are shaped like the traditional sailing vessel.

They also adorn tourist brochures, postcards and the Dh20 currency note, but modern vessels have taken a wing out of their sails, making them relics of the past.

The Obaid

An Emirati man is battling heavy odds to keep the dhows afloat.One of the last remaining boat makers in Al Jaddaf, Majid Obaid Al Falasi was felicitated by DP World earlier this year for constructing the world’s largest wooden dhow.

Almost the length of an American football pitch, the 92-metre long handcrafted vessel called ‘Obaid’ has also been recognised by the Guinness World Records as the largest boat of its kind.

Maritime Museum 

“I learnt everything from my father so,It’s fitting that the boat is named after him. We have got enough things here to make a maritime museum. Perhaps we will make one some day.” He says referring to his office filled with vintage maritime artifacts.

World’s largest dhow

“I used to go straight to the shipyard after school and watch boats being built from the ground up. My father built what was possibly the world’s largest dhow in the mid-1970s. At the time, the largest boat weighed 180 tonnes. Ours weighed in at 300 tonnes.

People mocked my father, saying he’d never be able to fill such a large vessel, but he proved them wrong by ferrying a large haul of fertilisers and other mixed cargo from Pakistan to Abu Dhabi on the boat’s maiden voyage.” said Al Falasi.

Raw passion

“I was unfazed when I decided to build the world’s largest dhow and began construction without any blueprint. All that we had was raw passion and a firm belief in our ability. We sourced the longest pieces of logs from around the world. For the first time, steel was added to a dhow to give it strength.” said Al Falasi, who took the mantle after his father died in December 2009.

Guinness world record

When he was nearing completion, Al Falasi applied for a Guinness World Record, only to be told that his entry couldn’t qualify as there was already a dhow in another Gulf country that was longer and wider than his.

“I protested because the dhow they were referring to was attached to a hotel. It couldn’t sail. But Guinness authorities refused to budge, saying “a dhow is a dhow.”

Change of plans

“The change of plan set us back by several months and cost us a lot of money. It was suggested that I add an external fixture to increase the length and width of our dhow. But I refused. I said if we have to break the record then we will have to do it the right way,” he says.

First voyage

“Built from 1,700 tonnes of wood and 8,000 tonnes of steel the record-breaking boat finally hit waters in 2019 but it wasn’t officially inaugurated until the following year.

We ferried 623 used cars among other cargo to Yemen with me as captain, Steering the enormous vessel was an exhilarating experience.” The honour was finally bestowed upon Obaid in October 2020.

Bentayga models

With the establishment of the Marine Agency for Wooden Dhows, an agency set up by the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCFC) in 2020 to streamline and regulate the activity of traditional vessels in the emirate’s waters.

Dubai has seen a strong revival in dhow trade. These traditional maritime vessels have had such an impact that five of Bentley’s limited edition Bentayga models were inspired by them.

Forefathers’ legacy

During the first half of 2022, 6,052 wooden dhows transported one million metric tonnes of cargo from countries throughout the MENA region and beyond.

According to Al Falasi, the dhow trade will pick up even more in the coming years.

“This is our forefathers’ legacy. Every day, we will protect it.”

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Source:- Khaleej Times

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