A dad, a dhow and a dream: Emirati sets sail for Karachi in record-breaking boat

Special A dad, a dhow and a dream: Emirati sets sail for Karachi in record-breaking boat
The world’s largest wooden dhow, Obaid, is docked at Deira wharfage in Dubai. (Photo courtesy: Guinness World Records)
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Updated 03 November 2020

A dad, a dhow and a dream: Emirati sets sail for Karachi in record-breaking boat

A dad, a dhow and a dream: Emirati sets sail for Karachi in record-breaking boat
  • Guinness World Records says Arab vessel is world’s largest dhow

DUBAI: The world’s largest dhow, Obaid, will soon set sail from Dubai, UAE for the Pakistani port of Karachi, as an Emirati man looks to fulfill his late father’s dream.

The dhow, named after Emirati shipbuilder Obaid Jumaa bin Majid Al-Falasi, was certified by the Guinness World Records on Wednesday as the biggest traditional, lateen-rigged coastal Arab sailing vessel.

Al-Falasi’s son, Majid Obaid Al-Falasi, told Arab News on Sunday that he is planning to pursue his father’s dream and set sail for Karachi in two months to reach the port where his father built his first boat four decades ago.

“In 1975, my father went to Karachi and built a boat there which was even then the biggest boat in Pakistan, and named it Al-Fateh,” said the CEO of shipbuilding company Obaid bin Jumaa bin Suloom, which was founded by his father in 1972.

“It all started from Karachi, after which my father started making dhows here in Dubai. He made over 2,500 dhows in his lifetime,” Al-Falasi said.

“My father was a dhow builder and did it as a business. He wished in the 1970s to build the world’s largest boat. And here in the UAE, we have a desert, not a forest, so he used to visit Pakistan and India where all such material is available.”

Karachi-made Al-Fateh was completed in 1976, after which the pioneer shipbuilder returned to the UAE. Al-Falasi recalled how the boat bewildered everyone when it docked in Dubai.

“When he came back to the UAE, the biggest boat at that time weighed 180 tons, and our boat that was made in Pakistan weighed 300 tons,” he said. “When he brought it to Dubai, the traditional people made fun and questioned as to how it would work.”

The Obaid, built in remembrance of Al-Falasi’s father, is several times bigger than Al-Fateh. Its construction began three-and-a-half years ago.

The dhow stands at a height of 11.229 meters and weighs 2,500 tons, measuring 91.47 meters in length and 20.41 meters wide — the length and almost half the width of an American football field.

Balancing this massive structure on either its bow or stern vertically would make it almost as tall as London’s Big Ben.

It was constructed from material sourced both locally and abroad and will have an estimated load capacity of up to 6,000 tons. Around 1,700 tons of wood and 800 tons of steel were used to construct it. The wood was brought from Africa.

“We tried to get the longest pieces of log available. We are born as dhow builders and can build dhows using other material, but wood keeps its identity,” Al-Falasi said.

With steel structure added, the dhow is stronger than a traditional one and will be able to carry four times more cargo. Two 1,850-horsepower engines power it.

“This achievement is just the inevitable continuation for building dhows in the world,” the shipbuilder said.

Al-Falasi’s father died in 2009, but his legacy is alive and thriving in the family.

“I now see it in the eyes of my son. He is passionate about what I do, and what his grandfather used to do,” Al-Falasi said. 

“This is what matters, for them to be able to continue the tradition and have it transferred to the next generation.”