Building a big handmade boat in a country with no forests is a challenge - but crafting the world’s largest dhow is an even greater challenge.
Named ‘Obaid’, in reference to Obaid Jumaa bin Majid Al Falasi, it was built by an Emirati shipbuilder who began an apprenticeship at the age of nine in the mid-1940s.
Decades on from the heyday of the Creek's trading boats, a family-run yard Majid Obaid Bin Majid Al Falasi & Sons (UAE) still produces traditional hand-built vessels – and most importantly, has had their largest boat recognized as the largest wooden Arabic dhow.
The majestic dhow measures 91.47 m long and 20.41 m wide. That's the length and almost half the width of a standard American football field floating over the Indian Ocean.
Hypothetically speaking, balancing this huge structure on either its bow or stern vertically would make this dhow stand almost as tall as the Big Ben in London.
Work on this majestic dhow started years ago, with no actual engineering vision or blueprints.
Local craftsmen described it as the "art of dhow building".
According to Majid Obaid Al Falasi, aged 52, it is not for prestige that drove him to build the largest dhow, but for his late father, Obaid Jumaa bin Majid Al Falasi.
“Our forefathers were divers, our ancestors worked in the sea, and my own father pursued this craft for almost all his life. This is a gratitude to my father, and my country which always aims for the forefront positions,” says Majid Obaid.
“We tried to get the longest pieces of log available. We are born as dhow builders, and can build dhows using other material, but wood keeps its identity. This achievement is just the inevitable continuation for building dhows in the world,” he added.
A modern adaptation is adding steel to the wooden structure.
The dhow is larger and stronger than a traditional one, and will be able to carry four time more cargo in and out from Dubai’s docks.
“I see it in the eyes of my son. He is passionate about what I do, and what his grandfather used to do. This is what matters, for them to be able to continue the tradition and have it transferred to the next generation" - Majid Obaid Al Falasi
The dhow stands at a height of 11.229 meters, and it weighs 2,500 tonnes.
It has been constructed from material sourced both locally and abroad and will have an estimated load capacity of up to 6,000 tonnes.
The ship is built from approximately 1,700 tonnes of wood and 800 tonnes of steel.
The dhow is powered by two 1,850 horsepower engines and will used to transport cargo from the UAE to Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, India, and maybe Iraq.
"At a speed of 14 knots, it will be enough for this dhow to operate and achieve its desired ROI. Who knows, you might see this dhow docking at different ports all across the world."