Kenyan dhow sails into the International Small Craft Center

dhow lores

Photo courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum.

Newport News, VA – The Mariners’ Museum & Park is pleased to announce the newest addition to its International Small Craft Center–Lamu, a sailing dhow from Kenya, is fully rigged and on display. There are now 42 countries represented in the center.

This newly donated boat is a jahazi–a type of dhow built in Lamu, Kenya. This dhow was an ocean-going trader sailed by a crew of 10 to 12. It operated along the East African coast from Mogadishu, Somalia to Tanzanian ports and as far east as Mumbai, India. Lamu was built by Ali Abdalla Skanda’s father in 2004. Ali’s family includes craftsmen and merchants whose trade reached as far as Egypt and Arabia. He carries on the traditional art of building and sailing dhows that he learned from his father.

This boat, built and used around the island of Lamu, was recently brought to the United States as part of the annual Folklife Festival, organized by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife, on the Mall in Washington DC.

“Having a true dhow in our collection is vitally important to the overall story that The Mariners’ Museum is uniquely equipped to tell: mankind’s relationship with the sea” said chief curator Lyles Forbes. “We have models and images of dhows in the collection, but there’s nothing like an authentic, full-size boat to truly highlight important stories of early travel on the sea.”

The International Small Craft Center is a 17,500 square foot facility houses a collection that features nearly 150 boats from 42 countries. The boats are from diverse cultures and waterways and are arranged around the Center in eleven thematic areas. The Center also takes visitors on a journey beyond the boat and helps them discover the individuals who used the small craft.

The Mariners’ Museum, an educational, non-profit institution accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, preserves and interprets maritime history through an international collection of ship models, figureheads, paintings and other maritime artifacts. For hours and information, visit, call (757) 596-2222 or write to The Mariners’ Museum, 100 Museum Drive, Newport News, VA 23606.

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