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Speaking of Sanbaq dhows

Sanbaq’s go back a long way;  so does payment for this painting. Delivered in good faith last June (2008) and still only half paid for.  Words like repossession begin to surface…

Has the good Samaritan has been mugged?

Why is it that ANY time I deviate (and it is rare) from our standard terms which are very fair to all,  I get trouble?

The problem started when a friend and artist’s agent’s partner let him down badly so I accepted defered payment by way of trying to give him time to re organise and get back on his feet. What I did not expect was for payment to be 10 months late ands to still be getting excuses.

Think “Sinbad the sailor” and you are on the right track in more senses than one.

This commissioned marine painting, for the Government of Oman, of a Sanbaq dhow engaged with pearl divers remains unpaid for as does another delivered last October of a Gangah dhow and a fourth awaiting delivery also unpaid for. Meanwhile the pound stirling has devalued 25%…

It seems to me it is not just the sea off Somalia that has pirates!


On the other hand contacting Gordon Frickers is easy


or Telephone
01865 522435 (International: +44 1865 522435)


How keen will we be to work for these people again in future or recommend them?
Contact us to order your Prestige prints of a sailing dhow, maybe we can recoup part of our loss that way – or put in an offer for the originals and beat the Sultan of Oman to the draw, thank you!
Anyway, nothing wrong with the paintings, fine examples of  Gordon Frickers recent marine painting, rich in detail.

We see the unloaded dhow confidently edging her way into shoal (shallow waters),

The helmsman’s hand is on her wheel, he is about to commence turning her to windward. For’ard, a crewman is ready to let go the anchor

Under the poop deck the ship’s cat serenely watches all.

The Sanbaq dhows were smaller than the Baglah dhows, Measuring some 50 to 60 feet length overall, the Sanbaq dhow was much favoured for general purpose trading.

With her flat ish bottom and being highly maneuverable, they were equally capable of entering creeks, running up a beach or making an ocean passage.
Early Sanbaqs were built by literally tying planks together. This system as recorded as far back as the 8th century, While early chroniclers remarked on the constant bailing, very leaky vessels,  it had some advantages, being resistant to damage on rocks and easy to repair.

The arrival of Europeans in the Arabian Seas and the dhow tendency to become piratical demonstrated how vulnerable these rope fastened ships were to canon fire.

Oman has been a seafaring nation at least as far back as the 8th century when an Omani vessel was reported to have reached Canton in China.
The traditional large dhow, also popularly known as Al Boum, Al Ghanjah, Shu’i, Al Badan, etc. were used in trading and warfare, being strong enough to  weather storms and reach ports in Iran, India, South-East Asia and way down the African coast.
Almost since time immemorial, for sure as far back as King Solomon of Israel, large wooden ships have sailed the Indian Ocean and Arab seas.
Without archaeological evidence, so far Gordon Frickers does’nt know of any ancient wreck of a vessel indigenous to the Persian Gulf or Indian Ocean that has ever been found.

Maybe you do?

If so we’d like very much  to hear from you.

Indigenous to the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, India, and East Africa, the earliest dhows were almost certainly simple dugouts with teak planks sewn to their sides to form a hull.

Teak has the benefit of being almost rot proof in sea water and poison to marine borrers like terrado worms

Gradually larger vessels would have evolved. A keel was introduced, to which planking was sewn, later tree nailed.

Shell-built construction differed from the European frame-first method, in which planking was attached to ribbing.

Large ships were built by this method in Europe (see http://www.frickers.co.uk/marine-art/zeven_provincien_2.html).

Shell-building allows shipwrights to create a vessel one plank at a time.

By the eighth century Arab fleets of such ships were part of a commercial maritime network unequalled in the east or superseded until the Europeans entered these waters.
The piratical tendencies of some Arab tribes living on the coast of the Red Sea have long been infamous and continue today to make headlines.

They forced the Romans to carry guards on their merchant ships, now it’s the turn of the U.N..

The Arab geographer al-Muqadassi warned, in the last decade of the 10th century CE, of the need to carry armed men and throwers of Greek Fire when navigating the waters of southern Arabia.
The sudden arrival of the Portuguese with ship-mounted cannon changed all that.

The Arabs had to adapt, or, quite literally, have their dhows blasted to pieces; why?
Nailed ships had the strength to bear the weight of the cannon that the Arabs were soon obliged to carry.

Further, they were better able to withstand the impact of shot and shell.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the Qawasim Emirate of the lower Gulf created a maritime empire that displaced earlier Omani dominance.
Their power rested on large fleets of dhows, with skilled and ferocious crews.
The “pirate” attacks on Anglo – Indian shipping brought Britain’s naval intervention in the early nineteenth century and the eventual establishment of a trucial system under Pax Britannia.

In today’s world, piracy continues to be a serious problem which the United nations deals with using special forces for example, after a ransom was paid, French special forces chased into Somalia, and captured 6 Somali pirates early in 2008.
Until the 1930s hundreds of dhows made up the fleets that sailed over the pearling banks from June to September.
Today a considerable number of commercial cargoes are still carried in motorized dhows particularly between Dubai and Iran.
Some dhows are used for sea training, others as yachts for recreational purposes; a very few having been specially built as yachts including at least one at Cowes, England.
You could commission a similar painting.
Traditionally the Gulf’s most important manufacturing industry was the construction and outfitting of dhows.

It is difficult to discern foreign influences on dhow design because similar ships evolved for a while in the North of Europe. 

We do know that tree and iron nail fastenings began to supplant sewn planks after Portuguese and other European ships entered the region in the early sixteenth century.

The sewn dhows much loved by there crews had the advantages of flexibility when touching bottom and ease of repair. They required constant bailing but still achieved long voyages.

However when used to attack European ships…

Not surprisingly given the regrettable given Islamic hostility in some areas to “unbelievers”, little research has been carried out on these interesting vessels and their remarkable crews.

This is unfortunate as on many occasions dhow crews like all true sailors have been pleased to show their individual vessels to visitors and these hardy and daring sailors deserve to be better chronicled.

Maybe and I hope one day an enlightened Arab will show leadership and commission a research project on traditional dhows?

Many feel the majestic baghlahs and ghanjahs, with their ornate transom decoration and grand size, were the apogee of dhow building in terms of pure design, while smaller than the baglah, the sanbaq being some 50 to 60 feet length overall, the Sanbaq was considered a more workman like vessel.


You could own this or a similar magnificent painting simply by contacting Gordon Frickers via page http://frickers.co.uk/contact.html or a call to 01865 522435

For certain the dhows helped mould the Eastern world of today and have left a romantic and fiery legend.

Gordon Frickers © 2008

With particular thanks to Adrian Phippen, Ruth Nailor, Chris Boddington and the staff of Plymouth Maritime Reference Library.
Traditional Arab sailing ships by JAMES TAYLOR
Kay, Shirley. Bahrain: Island Heritage. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Motivate 1989.
Vine, Peter. Pearls in Arabian Waters: The Heritage of Bahrain. London: Immel, 1986.