Dhow Building 


I obtained the following information on dhow building timber from Salman Rouhani's website (www.salmanrouhani.com). It is posted with permission from the author.
In the [Arabian] Gulf the timber that was best suited to shipbuilding was always scarce and shipwrights needed good timber in order to build larger shows.  The Malabar coastal region [south western coast of India] however, has a wealth of forests that produce a large variety of different species of timber. Traditionally in Kuwait the timber would be left out to dry for up to two years. For the frame of the dhow a strong and hard wood is needed as it has to carry all the weight of the ship and needs to be able to handle the impacts of the waves and winds.

For the planks of the ship the wood needs to have a certain level of softness and flexibility to allow the timber to fit the curves of the sides of the dhow when being placed onto the frames.

The wood needs to be cut when it is mature and in the correct season. The correct season depends on the type of tree. If the wood is cut at the wrong time it can lead to the timber rotting and changing due to shrinkage and the joints opening up.

The most common types of timber imported for dhow building:

  • Coconut timber(Cocus nucifera)

    Used to build the hulls of the dhows exclusively. Coconut timber was imported from the Maldives and the Lakshadweep region of India. The trunk of the coconut timber was used to build planks anchors, oars and masts. The fibers above the nut were used to make ropes which would be non-perishable. 

  • Teak (Tectona grandis)

    Considered to be the best timber for shipbuilding, the tree itself is almost golden in color and can reach heights of 39.62 meters. Teak is considered a superior timber for several reasons. Teak doesn't split, crack, or shrink.  It is durable and strong but is still easy to work with. Teak is generally also used in the keel of the ship as well as the stem and the stern posts. Teak is not permeable to water and water does not cause it to rot for at least 100 years. It is considered “incorruptible”.