MASTER OF CRAFT
THE DHOW OF TIME
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IN CONVERSATION WITH
ALY GOMAA AL-ERIMY
SHIPYARD OWNER IN SUR, OMAN
Aly Gomaa Al-Erimy comes from a long lineage of shipbuilders based in Sur, Oman where handcrafted ships, various types of dhows synonymous with ancient trade, have been constructed for several hundreds of years. The Al-Erimy family continues this tradition with the youngest generations of the family who learn by observing the hired craftsman build two commissioned ships a year within the yard.
ThisALY GOMAA AL-ERIMY, SHIPYARD OWNER
craft runs like
blood through our
S+O — WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SHIPBUILDING IN THIS REGION OF OMAN?
Al-Erimy — Oman is known all over the world for the construction of wooden ships. This area, Khor Al Batah, is a natural harbor where ships have been built or moored in for over five hundred years. The area was very important to sailing since the Gulf of Oman is the only entrance of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean into the Persian Gulf.
S+O — WHERE IN THIS TIMELINE DID YOUR FAMILY ENTER THE BUSINESS?
Al-Erimy — Our family has been making ships here for three hundred years. The shipyard has been passed down in my family from generation to generation. I have done this work for twenty-five years. We teach it to our children so that they can carry on the tradition. Our family has three children who come here and learn how the work is done so that they can ensure our future.
S+O — HOW ARE THE SHIPS CONSTRUCTED?
Al-Erimy — There are no building plans. The client lets us know what ship size they want and then we begin constructing it from scratch using logs of wood. Around eighty percent of the work is done solely by hand. The rest of the work is done using small machines like drills and saws.
S+O — HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO COMPLETE A SHIP?
Al-Erimy — It depends on the size of the ship. For a large ship, we’ll usually work on it for a year or more. A smaller vessel may need six to eight months to finish. We can work on up to two ships a year in this place.
S+O — WHAT CHANGES HAVE IMPACTED THE INDUSTRY?
Al-Erimy — After the advancement in transportation means, including new canals and ship routes, land trade and the advent of giant modern merchant ships, these wooden ships were abandoned. As a result, this is one of the last places in the world that one will find shipyards still making these vessels by hand.
S+O — WHO IS THE CURRENT CLIENTELE?
Al-Erimy — From time to time, we’ll get to build a small ship for a fisherman or a larger one for a wealthy client here in the region. Mostly our business concerns the tourism industry where boats are commissioned for tourist cruises on our coastal waters.
S+O — WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO CONTINUE THIS TRADITION?
Al-Erimy — There are practical reasons like providing work or preserving the past. But in truth, this craft runs like blood through our veins.
Photography by Clement Jolin
Filming by Mark Bliss
Special Acknowledgments - The concierge at Chedi Muscat
Exclusive Edition 020 Omani Dhow Ships
As long as time can remember, the shores of Sur, Oman have been home to shipyards handcrafting the great merchant ships of our ancient trading civilizations. Today, a small number of shipyards continue to offer the creations, in varying sizes and shapes, born from full logs of wood sans building plans, crafted by hand and mind to the commissioning parties expectations.
Sur, Oman is an ancient port town roughly one and a half hours from the Omani capital of Muscat. Sur has been an important town for sailors and trade with East Africa and India since the sixth century given its position on the coastal waters of the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. It became known for its shipyards, where large wooden boats have been constructed by hand for this trade. Today, Sur remains a worthy day trip destination for visitors staying in Muscat looking for a glimpse into the country’s seafaring past or combining with trips to the nearby wadis. Our Sur Travel Notes include a combination of recommendations for both cities.