Kalbā and dāw in Khaliji art: tracing extinct dhows in Arab and Persian iconography


  • Mick de Ruyter Flinders University


dhow, gallivat, iconography, technological differentiation, shipbuilding


Indigenous, or Khaliji, art from the Arabian and Persian shores of the pre-modern Gulf offers evidence of extinct types of watercraft, in particular the kalbā (gallivat) and the dāw (dhow) with their conspicuous counter stern. While European art and texts offer testimony of these vessels’ appearances, lesser-known indigenous petroglyphs, graffiti, woodcarvings, and manuscript paintings offer a Khaliji view of their own watercraft. Even images seemingly deficient as architectural diagrams remain significant in light of the few reliable referents from oral history, ethnography, archaeology, or modern watercraft. The distinctive projecting counter stern common to these vessels allows identification of the kalbā and the dāw in iconographic sources that otherwise lack technical merit. Both types of vessel were used as fighting vessels in the Gulf, while the dāw was also operated in commercial roles in the Arabian and Red Seas. The shared fate of the kalbā and the dāw, both rendered anachronistic by shifting styles and influences in shipbuilding, is important for understanding the nautical technology of pre-modern Khaliji societies.


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How to Cite

de Ruyter, M. (2020). Kalbā and dāw in Khaliji art: tracing extinct dhows in Arab and Persian iconography. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 50(1), 127–139. Retrieved from https://archaeopresspublishing.com/ojs/index.php/PSAS/article/view/299