Sailing legacy and maritime history
For thousands of years, the people of the United Arab Emirates have found ingenious ways to understand and benefit from the sea’s richness. If you love the sea too, you’ll adore Abu Dhabi, a stunning archipelago with over 200 islands. Connect with a sailing legacy that stretches back centuries while enjoying state-of-the-art marinas, waterfronts and beachfronts offering world-class facilities, stunning views, fine dining and luxury shopping.,.
Home to over 400 kilometres of pristine coastline and hundreds of natural islands, it’s no surprise that Abu Dhabi’s rich culture and heritage is intricately intertwined with the Arabian Gulf’s turquoise waters.
Pearling and fishing both played a major role in the emirate’s past, with ports throughout Abu Dhabi – from the small, western marine hub of Delma Island to the more developed city ports – having been home to fishing and pearling fleets as well as active boatyards where highly skilled craftsmen forged the beautiful and traditional dhow, a wooden vessel that quickly gained a reputation for being one of the sturdiest at sea. The boat-building industry also helped develop trade relationships across the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, with boats made for pearling and fishing significantly contributing to the local economy.
Abu Dhabi’s seasoned sailors would travel as far away as East Africa to trade dates, pearls and mangrove wood. The sea was Abu Dhabi’s economic lifeblood, and a source of nourishment, with the city’s sailors, fishermen and pearlers honouring and respecting the water, immortalising their craft and love of the ocean in ancient sea shanties chanted as their crews harvested their marine treasures.
Today, you will still see stately Arabian dhows sailing the coast, and there is rarely a more inspiring sight, with their billowing, white sails capturing the wind against blue skies.
These traditional sailing vessels continue to ply the seas as they have done for hundreds of years, in annual races that commemorate the days when pearl-diving fleets, which had been at sea for months, would challenge each other to see which might be the first home with the season’s precious haul. Much as in days past, winners of modern-day races can expect handsome rewards for their efforts.
In the past, the thriving fishing industry used local materials to create unique designs for fishing nets and traps, improving the catch of the different types of sea life found in the Arabian Gulf’s waters. If you would like to be transported to a time long ago, see traditional seacraft, and talk to the people who played a starring role in the emirate’s many ocean adventures, head to the House of Artisans, situated at the historic and picturesque Al Hosn site in the city. The Sea Craft section is home to many traditional fishing, pearling and boating tools and designs.
The city’s love of the sea is still apparent today, with residents and locals enjoying getting out on the water, in dhows, yachts, kayaks, speedboats and other impressive modern vessels.