Me too. I didn't really know what a Dhow is, was or will be. But the small boat called the Dhow has arrived and departed the east coast of Africa for more than a thousand years.

These little boats still work hard (of course it's really the people on board who work hard) to transport goods from Africa to the Middle East, to India and even to China. And then back again with reverse products. I've seen some ruins on the east coast of Africa dating back 500 years or so which have relics of Chinese porcelain. During my time here I have developed an admiration for these boats. And more importantly, for the sailors who have for a millennium gone out onto the Indian ocean to make a living. These little Boats still compete with the monster cargo ships. To me, that is amazing. Size counts, but sails matter too. The photos above show a Dhow facing off against a container ship in the port of Zanzibar. I like the spirit of the little sail boats. And this photo shows a Dhow courageously sailing into the port at Dar es Salaam.

Perhaps a few museum pieces will help to explain the unique and formidable structure of our friend the Dhow. This is an early version (a few hundred years ago, I guess) with it's sleeping quarters.

And this close up shows how the craft was built withouts nails or screws: it was sewn together.

The unique mast and sail structure is what makes the Dhow special. Modern sailboats seem to use the main mast as the primary point from which to hang the sail. But the Dhow only uses the main mast to hang it's own sail structure: the sail supported by the boom (bottom piece of wood) and the front piece of wood. I decided to try to describe the Dhow in spite of no knowledge about sailing. And perhaps this piece will circle around sailing communities as a joke about how a landlubber talks about sailing. Even so, I retain my respect from the shore to those sailors who take the Dhow into the Indian Ocean to make a living.

So here are three shots of a Dhow, it's sailors and it's unique sail structure.

Off the shore of northern Zanzibar the Dhows wait to go to work.

This is my favorite image of a Dhow.

But then again, this coffee shop Dhow is pretty spiffy: