Reviving the Uru legacy
A dhow (uru) being built at Chaliyam in Calicut will be the show-stopper at the International Dhow Festival part of the concluding ceremony of the 2022 Fifa World Cup to be held in Qatar
KOCHI: Haji P I Ahamed Koya boat builders is a familiar name to many in Calicut. Having built around 200 vessels, they are maestros in Uru making since 1885. The company will construct the ‘Baghlah’ dhow — a traditional Arabic sailing vessel used over 800 years ago — to be displayed at the International Dhow Festival being held as part of the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.
The Baghlah dhow is being built traditionally — without using a single piece of metal, not even nails. The 27ft-long Uru is completely handmade using coir fibre. Authentic Indian teak wood is being held in place using hand-sewn coir ropes connected through the holes created on the timber planks.
“The model we are recreating is 6ft high and 7ft wide and can hold six people. We received the order from Qatari government authorities who are trying to familiarise the new generation with the sailing culture of the middle east. This is more like reviving an age-old tradition. Our vessel being featured at a World Cup venue is a matter of pride for us,” says P O Hashim, managing director of Haji PI Ahamed Koya Boat Builders. The dhow, which is fastened using coir ropes, has 2,500 stitchings made with hand. There are around 5,000 holes on the teak wood.
“The Uru was used for sailing before nails came around. That is why it is challenging to make them. Eight workers have been working on this vessel for the last four months,” says Hashim. The Uru is being constructed under the guidance of chief carpenter Gokul Edathumpadikkal. The intricate hand-stitching is being done by experts from Ponnani. “They have been doing this work for around 35 years,” he says.
Inspired by history
Hashim derived his inspiration for the Baghlah from ‘Jewel of Muscat’, a dhow built based on the design of the Belitung shipwreck. “The remarkable ship replicated by the Oman government was sewn together by 35,000 stitches and set sail for Singapore. I always wanted to make a smaller version of it,” he adds. Even when sailing in seawater, the coir ropes won’t deteriorate. “The ropes are quite strong. The stitching is made more firm and intact using fish oil,” claims Hashim. The dhow which is under construction in Pattermadu dhow making unit is nearing completion. Hashim plans to send the Uru to Qatar in a 40ft container. “It is difficult for an Uru of this size to sail on water,’ he adds. Hashim also makes Baghlah’s for other clients.