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A win for traditional Swahili boat builders

The tiny Indian Ocean island of Ilha de Mozambique has a very long history as a boat building centre. When Vasco de Gama visited here more than 500 years ago he noted how important it was to the island's maritime economy.

More recently however, boat building on Ilha has been threatened by pressure from some business owners who complain that it should happen somewhere else, out of sight. But today the boat builders got the news they were looking for, confirmation that they can continue to use the beaches to build and repair their dhows as they've always done.

Today's announcement by the Port Adminastrador that the beaches between the pontâo (jetty) and the mangroves are recognised boat building beaches is welcome news. A win for boat builders as well as local residents and visitors who see this tradition as a very important part of the island's cultural heritage.

The boats are traditional sailing dhows, built in the arabic style that dates back to at least the 12th century in this part of the world. Construction methods have changed very little in all this time. Hand tools are used to fashion the main structural pieces from mangrove, the local hardwood Umbila is preferred for the planks and the mast is made from local ironwood.

Watch a time lapse film of dhow construction from start to finish here

Dhows continue to provide a vital service, linking remote fishing villages and towns all along the coast. It's a locally owned, affordable, low carbon transport network that is a source of community pride and a draw for visitors exploring this fascinating section of Mozambique's coastline.

For information on Dhow Safaris in Mozambique go here

1 Comment

Dec 16, 2022

Cheers to traditional boat building on Ilha! And, what a great boat-building video - thanks so much for sharing!


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