AskDefine | Define dhow

Dictionary Definition

dhow n : a lateen-rigged sailing vessel used by Arabs

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A coasting vessel of Arabia, East Africa, and the Indian Ocean. It has generally but one mast and a lateen sail.

Extensive Definition

A dhow (Arabic,دهو) is a traditional Arab sailing vessel with one or more lateen sails. It is primarily used along the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, India, and East Africa. A larger dhow may have a crew of approximately thirty while smaller dhows have crews typically ranging around twelve.
For celestial navigation, dhow sailors have traditionally used the kamal. This observation device determines latitude by finding the angle of the Pole Star above the horizon.
Up to the 1960s, dhows made commercial journeys between the Persian Gulf and East Africa using only sails as a means of propulsion. The freight was mostly dates and fish to East Africa and mangrove timber to the lands in the Persian Gulf. They sailed south with the monsoon in winter or early spring and back again to Arabia in late spring or early summer.


The term "dhow" is also applied to small, traditionally-constructed vessels used for trade in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf area and the Indian Ocean from Madagascar to the Gulf of Bengal. Such vessels typically weigh 300 to 500 tons, and have a long, thin hull design. Also, it is a family of early Arab ships that used the lateen sail, on which the Portugusese likely based their designs for the caravel know to Arabs as sambuk, booms, baggalas, ghanjas, and zaruqs.

Types of dhow

  • Ghanjah - a large vessel with a curved stem and a sloping, ornately carved transom.
  • Baghlah - the traditional deep-sea dhow
  • Battil - featured long stems topped by large, club-shaped stem heads
  • Badan - a smaller vessel requiring a shallow draught

See also

dhow in Danish: Dhow
dhow in German: Dau
dhow in Spanish: Dhow
dhow in French: Boutre
dhow in Hebrew: דאו (ספינה)
dhow in Italian: Dhow
dhow in Japanese: ダウ船
dhow in Dutch: Dhow
dhow in Norwegian: Dhow
dhow in Polish: Dau
dhow in Portuguese: Dhows
dhow in Russian: Доу
dhow in Swedish: Dhow
dhow in Turkish: Dhov
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