The Dhow: Sometimes, in certain occasions, it seems that time has the power of stopping itself in Tanzania. I am not really sure if this is a kind of magic, but there are moments in which I feel as if I were in a sort of limbo, a very good limbo, where I am completely in peace.
It can happen in the bush during a safari or while climbing Mount kilimanjaro. You never know in advance.
I had several of these moments, but I remember one in particular.
I was in Stone Town, Zanzibar, sipping my drink on the terrace of the Africa House Hotel: a classic for those visiting the town.
Of course it was sunset and everything was perfect. The Indian Ocean was helping the last dhows to return or to go fishing with its calmness. The perfect situation.
The dhow is the essence of tranquillity, at least for whom admiring them passing by.
It‘s a sail boat and it’s used for fishing or for escort turists during their little trips while exploring the coast and its secrets.
Its origins are Arab and it is typical of the coast of East Africa.
The dimensions differ according to the use made of it.
In ancient times, sailors went out to sea with a special tool called kamal, which employed the stars for keeping orientation. Fascinating, isn’t it? It gives something romantic to the whole thing.
The inhabitants of the East African coast traded with Middle East countries: they used to navigate to Saudi Arabia or Yemen using the monsoon winds.
The fishermen are aware of the right seasons and of the right places, where they wait for weeks, while living in huts made of leaves of coconut trees built at the edge of the sea.
There are several kinds of dhows.
The majahazi was used to reach the Arab coasts. For fishing ngalawa is the most suitable. It’s often made from mango trees or kapok trunks. Ancient skills still effective nowadays.
A curiosity: in Kiswahili language kapok trunks is misufi and mango tree trunks is miembe.