Nestled in the heart of Maritime Experiential Museum is a replica of a 9th century Arab dhow. But to the people who built it, the Omani community, and the crew who steered her through a 68-day voyage, the Jewel of Muscat is more than a replica; it is the embodiment of a proud maritime history and heritage. Here are six facts that will help you grasp the majesty of the Jewel of Muscat and its story.
1. To kick things off:
Here’s the route that the Jewel took, steered by Captain Saleh Al Jabri. It lasted 68 days at sea, while the full voyage lasted 138 days, and covered 6630 kilometers.
2. The inspiration behind the Jewel
The original 9th century ship which inspired the Jewel of Muscat met with an accident while traveling back from China to the Arabian Peninsula along the maritime trade route. Evidence of its journey between these two ports existed in the form of its cargo, which included various artifacts ranging from Chinese and Arabic ceramics to silver and golden pots and coins, as well as the spice star anise.
3. A culture steeped in maritime history
The sea has always played a major part in Omani history. Omanis have navigated the oceans since before the fourth millennium BC, contributing to the booming trade in civilizations of the Tigris & Euphrates Rivers and the River Nile. Omani sailors were among the first Arabs to travel to India, China, Africa, and the Americas, and by mid 9th century had established a strong trade route to the Far East. Much of their military might also came from their navy, and since the dawn of Islam their fame as skilled seamen helped the early spread of the religion. To this date, the drive to explore the seas and the yearning for marine adventures are attributes that are highly valued by the people of the Sultanate.
4. Guess the number of nails used to make this magnificent vessel
Zero. That’ right, the Jewel was crafted from planks of the Afzelia Africana tree, sewn together using a rope weaved from coconut fibres. In keeping with the authenticity of dhow-making methods, not a single nail was used. The body was then coated with a layer of goat fat and crushed seashells to make it watertight.
5. An authentic 9th century sailing experience…
The Jewel’s journey was also a recreation of a voyage of old; the crew navigated using traditional 9th century navigation tools, helped along by a few modern techniques, all in the name of furthering our understanding of ancient navigational methods.
This also meant using a 9th century toilet that sat just outside the vessel.
6. With authentic 9th century perils
It wasn’t a journey that was smooth sailing from start to finish. En-route to Galle from Cochin, a brutal storm broke the mast – for those of you unfamiliar with the parts of a ship, that’s the main beam supporting the sails. As with traditional dhows, the Jewel relies only on the winds to travel, without the help of motors. The crew made emergency repairs by lashing wooden beams to the mast and miraculously, managed to sail for another 5 days before reaching Galle. There they searched the jungles for two weeks before finding two suitable trees to replace the mast.
Now that you understand a little more about this magnificent ship, come visit it at MEMA, right here at RWS. Maybe you’ll be inspired to give seafaring a go. For more visitor information, visit www.rwsentosa.com.
Meanwhile, here’s a snippet of MEMA’s Grand Opening on Oct 15, 2011.