Oman Maritime History

“The Omanis were the first nation to cross the waters of the Indian Ocean, and they did so long before the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians, Indians, Greeks, and Romans, stressing that the Omani ships had priority in discovering many countries and islands of the Indian Ocean.” - Russian scientist Andrei Shgakov

The strategic location of the Sultanate of Oman has contributed to the prosperity of maritime activity throughout the ages and the driving force for the prosperity of the Omani ports and the Sultanate is still one of the leading countries in maritime activity and its large ports in Muscat, Sohar and Salalah still play an important role in preserving this ancient maritime heritage. History confirms these facts. In Ras Al Jinz, the remains of a boat made of fronds were used in trade with India 4,500 years ago. This boat is the best testimony that the Sultanate, which was known at that time as “Majan”, had commercial relations through The sea with ancient cities such as Ur and Sumer in Iraq. And in the state of Gujarat in India, the Sultanate also witnessed a great recovery due to the copper trade that was popular in Sohar, Samad Al-Saiyal, the island of Masirah, and many other sites at that time 1_872793_1_34. This trade was also popular because of the availability of skilled sailors and the prosperity of the boat industry. During the past centuries, commercial ports and Omani fishing ports have spread along the coast from Khasab from Khasab to Musandam Governorate to Sohar, Mutrah, Muscat, Qalhat and Samhram in Dhofar. In addition to the presence of closed places surrounded by mountains and deserts such as Ras al-Hadd, Barr Al-Jissah and Bandar Al-Khiran. These sites provided the safe havens for ships from weather fluctuations and were used as resting points for seafarers. And it was stated in one of the Sumerian texts that the great king Sargon was boasting that ships of "Majan" visited his kingdom and docked at its ports, along with ships from other countries.

With the end of the last millennium BC, Dhofar witnessed a great recovery in frankincense trade with the Kingdom of Sheba, India, Egypt, Rome and China. The frankincense trade was the reason for the prosperity of many cities and ports in the south of 162921. The Sultanate, such as Khor Rori, Al Baleed and Mirbat, as well as the booming trade in Omani pottery throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The writings of the Greek historian Pliny in the first century BC indicate that the control of the frankincense trade made Some of the southern merchants of the Arabian Peninsula are among the richest merchants in the world at the time. In the eighth century, the Omani sailor Abu Ubaidah bin Abdullah bin Al Qasim Al-Omani, who is believed to be the famous sailor "Sinbad", arrived in China, where he established a commercial community in the city of Canton. Likewise, the famous sailor Ahmed bin Majid was one of the princes of the seas in the fifteenth century and he guided Vascoe da Gamma on the path of Cape of Good Hope and its surroundings.

In the eighteenth century, Muscat emerged as one of the most important trading centers in the Indian Ocean during the reign of Imam Ahmed bin Saeed and during the rule of his son Mr. Sultan bin Ahmed, the areas controlled by Oman expanded to include Gwadar in Pakistan, Shahriar, Hormuz, Bandar Abbas and Qaisham in Iran and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. B3uxViIU As for his son, Sayyid Saeed bin Sultan, he succeeded in extending the Omani maritime influence from the head of Gordafor in the Horn of Africa, Bremba in Mozambique, including Mogadishu, Malindi, Mombasa, and Zanzibar, and during his reign, the Omani ships were arriving in distant cities including London and New York and in 1834 AD gifted the master Saeed bin Sultan Al-Barajeh Liverpool has 74 cannons to King William IV as a gift from him to the British Crown, while Ahmed bin Noman Al-Kaabi arrived in New York in 1840 aboard the merchant ship (Sultana) envoy to the United States.

Omanis used multiple types of wood in terms of the source, strength, and rigidity in shipbuilding, including Omani woods, such as al-khaloub that grow in Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar, and al-sidrand al-qirt spread in Oman, to male al-shalmanat, al-farmat, al-halaqeem, and al-jawari.

This is in addition to al-ghaf, al-samar, al-amba (mango) wood, but they use them little because of their weakness. They use them in the manufacture of oars and boxes in which sailors put their clothes and belongings.

There are African wood, such as al-meet tree spread in Somalia, and has solid and durable wood. They use it to make al-shalman. There are also al-anfoulah and al-misimbati suitable for several purposes in the manufacture of the ship, such as decks, cabin doors, and sides of al-dabbousahfor suitability for inscription.

There are Indian types, such as al-saj (teak) one of the finest types of wood for shipbuilding because of its hardness, durability, and resistance to water, moisture and heat. They use it in making most of the ship panels. There is also al-bineetahis used in making the submerged parts of the vessel. They use al-feeni to make the deck and connecting al-shalmanat. There is also al-banqali, which is solid durable wood whose trees are long and used in making ship structure (al-hirab). Compared to teak, it is flexi blend withstand shocks. There is also al-fan that produces solid and flexible wood used in making al-duqul and al-firmal.

Originally, Omanis did not use nails in making ships but ropes. With the evolution of the industry, nails replaced ropes. Omanis made some nails themselves, such as al-hirab, and imported other types, especially from India. Omanis used some organic materials in shipbuilding to protect the ship against corrosion, rust, water leakage, panel soaking, and sticking of some marine organisms. These substances include al-sal, an oil extracted from al-‘omah(sardine) and sharks, and al-damer, a substance extracted from some trees that grow in India.They used these two materials to paint the ship from the sides to prevent panel saturation with water or its leak into the ship. There is also a substance called al-‘amilah, a substance extracted from the fat of camels and sheep and mixed with sawdust after grinding to form adhesive. There is al-nawrah,a limestone material mixed with sheep and camel fats to paint the submerged ship panels to maintain hull integrity.


Asyad Al-Behar by Humood Al-Ghailani

Photo credits:
Haitham Al Farsi

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