The traditional shipbuilding industry in Oman is thousands of years old, and despite the challenges it retains its position – Al Shabiba

Muscat – Khaled Orabi

The manufacture of traditional wooden ships is one of the oldest industries in the Sultanate of Oman. This is due to the Sultanate’s unique coastal location, where it is surrounded on all sides by water. It looks out from the Sea of ​​Oman to the north, and the Arabian Sea to the south; The Sultanate has the longest sea coast, with a length of more than 3000 km. The Omani were also known for their ancient maritime history and their travels, as they reached southern Africa and northeast Asia in India and China. Therefore, this industry has maintained its position through the centuries until now, even though it has recently suffered or is deteriorating somewhat, especially with regard to the violation of modern boats known as fiber boats. “Al-Shabiba” interviewed Ali bin Juma bin Hassoun Al-Araimi, the owner of the “Traditional Ship Factory” in the Wilayat of Pictures, to tell us about this industry and what its status is now and how far it has reached.

Ali Al-Araimi says: This factory is considered to be the oldest of the traditional shipbuilding factories in Oman, and it was inherited by a paternal grandfather and spans more than five generations. Places in the factory and on some traditional ships written in it and that they date it.

Al-Araimi, who works with him in this factory, added 15 people, including his sons, saying: This factory was founded by the hands of the ancestors and was based on the traditional industry, I mean the pure craft, where the old ships did not use nails but were tied with ropes made of palm fibers, and then developed It took a while to use nails but there were no tools used to cut wood or to make holes for nails make, etc. Rather, the process of manufacturing these ships was all done 100 percent by hand, so Oman, specifically Tire, was only known for manufacturing these traditional ships. And it is still unique to this day, as there is no Gulf country, no state or Omani city that manufactures these traditional ships now, except the state of Tire.

career development

Al-Araimi explained: Over time, the business has evolved a bit, so the profession has evolved, as some tools have been used in that industry, such as an electric saw or a machine to make holes in which nails and others placed, which greatly facilitated and accelerated the production process.For example, in the past, cutting one piece of wood took a whole week, but currently it takes, for example, minutes or a maximum of an hour, but the rest of most parts of the industry have preserved the traditional craftsmanship, which has allowed them to retain their character, splendor, uniqueness and privacy, so making one medium-sized ship takes between a year to about a year and a half.

Al-Araimi pointed out that the design and construction of traditional ships was carried out by a person who designed and supervised the entire process of building the traditional ship and was known in the local dialect as “the mole”, what the professor means, and it is equivalent in the modern era to the engineer, because the manufacture of these ships is not based on a previous design, but rather depends on the event or sense and talent in its construction, for which the people of Oman were known, for they are the people of the sea and many of them inherited this profession from father to grandfather and for several generations.

He also pointed out that those types of ships they manufactured in the past were sailing ships, as they are mainly dependent on the sail, but with the modern era, engines were developed and added to it, and that these ships have different shapes. , sizes and types, whether by size or even use. The size is many, including: “Al-Ghanja, Al-Mule, Al-Sambok, Jalbout, Al-Hull, and Al-Owl.” The largest is the “Al-Ghanja” ship, and the smallest is the small “Al-Hull” ship, because the hull ships are large and small in size, and the smaller ones are preferred for hunting because of their small size, and there are other small types such as: “Al-Shou’i and Al-Hawry”. The Al-Ghanja ship is the largest of the traditional ships in size, and there is another ship under construction of this type of “Al-Ghanja” that we have been manufacturing for more than a year for an Omani private company and we have not finished manufacturing it, and it takes about another year, and it is considered to be the largest traditional wooden ship built in the Sultanate of Oman.

Special requests from ships

Al-Araimi said that the demand for this type of ship is still going on due to its specificity and uniqueness, and that is why we as a factory manufacture very special requests of these ships, as we recently four traditional wooden ships of the “sambouk “Type for one of the Qatari authorities to be used as ships in the World Cup Tourist docks on some beaches in the country, especially as part of the preparations for the World Cup. We have received a request since 2016 to to build it and has been working on it for four years and it was delivered successively until the last ship was delivered in 2020.

Al-Araimi has confirmed that he is currently building two ships for an Omani private company, Sultanate of Oman, which will be 50 meters long, 10 meters wide and 8 meters high. It will consist of three floors, and it will also combine sailing ships and motor ships, and it will also dock on some Omani beaches.

He stressed that the factory is known for its history and that it used to manufacture private ships for kings of countries, and the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said previously asked us in 2003 to build a special ship, and it was of the type of “Sambouk”, and it took two years to build, and we finished and delivered it. In 2005, we learned at the time that it was a special gift given by Sultan Qaboos to King Abdullah II of Jordan.

And about the cost of those ships and how much they vary, Al-Araimi said, of course, the cost of each ship depends on its type, size and the quality of wood from which it is made, and the case now depends on the design, decoration and interior of the ship This is a type of Ganja, which is the largest, and its price varies between 450 and 500 thousand Omani riyal.

Teak

Al-Araimi pointed out that traditional wooden ships depend on a basic type of wood, that is teak, also known as teak, which is used in the manufacture of the main hull of the ship, because it is a very strong type and everything resist. erosion factors such as salinity, humidity, high temperatures, sun, etc., and we have specially prepared it earlier in The past is from India, while we currently get it from Malaysia and Burma.As for the interior panels or pieces from which the interior of the ship are made and are considered the ribs of the ship and are called in the vernacular “Shalman” they are made of “Cider” and “earring” wood, which are types available in Oman.There are also other types of wood that is used in the manufacture of “Tire” ie the ship’s pole and it is of a type called “Groko” which is an African name because it is brought from African countries like Congo or Cameroon, and we also bring nails from Pakistan off.

He also pointed out that this factory was redeveloped ten years ago, where modern equipment was introduced to help shorten the time and effort in the cutting process, the opening of the holes in which the nails will be placed and the sanding process. enter into them or into the introduction and design of modern bedrooms, kitchens, toilets, etc., and with all this there is still a great interest in making these ships in the traditional “hand” way, for that is the secret of their uniqueness.

He added: Although this industry still retains its position and there is a demand for it, it is few compared to the past, and we see that it is facing a significant decline and challenges, due to its high prices , which is due to the nature of the high prices of wood, as well as the labor and time it takes in Manufacturing, to make one ship takes about two years and employs between 15 and 20 people, and more ‘ a challenge is the violation of fiberglass boats on it, as it has become much cheaper than traditional wooden ships, but what keeps traditional ships their position is their uniqueness and that they are heritage.It still has its customers who come to buy it for us, whether from within or outside the Sultanate, from the Gulf states of Qatar, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait.

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