Omani's Jewel of Muscat: Re-creating a 9th century sea voyage

Omani's Jewel of Muscat: Re-creating a 9th century sea voyage

Omani's diplomatic gift to Singapore will sail across the seas the old-fashioned way
The Jewel of Muscat dhow
Jewel of Muscat is a copy of an Omani trading vessel discovered wrecked off the coast of Indonesia in 1998.

A group of Omani sailors are preparing to spend five months in cramped, stark conditions on board a ninth century Arab sailing ship replica, all in message of goodwill to Singapore. The team will be delivering their vessel, the Jewel of Muscat, to Singapore as a symbol of closer ties between the two states. 

The Omani sailors are re-creating the way their counterparts would have lived on board such a vessel a millennium ago, living for five months in the same conditions and even eating the same foods -- dried fish and dates. They will navigate a key Indian Ocean trade route once used to transport precious cargo from Arabia to the Far East. 

"We have tried to think back a thousand years," captain Saleh Al Jabri, a former captain in Oman's Royal Navy told CNN. "We all understand life must have been very difficult and very hard then and we will try to do almost the same."

He and his crew will use very simple navigation tools to keep the 18 meter-long ship on course: observing the sky, sea color, marine and bird life. The closest any of them will get to technology is the 'kamal' -- a small block of wood connected to a piece of string -- used to calculate latitude.

Jabri hopes to reach Singapore by June 2010, with short stops in India and Malaysia: "The boat, like those at the time, is very slow," he explained. The boat is likely to sail at an average of 2 knots (3 miles) per hour. Ninth-century ships would have carried everything from frankincense and myrrh to porcelain and food stuffs like dried fish and dates across the Indian Ocean -- and so will the Jewel.

Singapore is now looking for the best place to exhibit the Jewel of Muscat when it arrives in the middle of the year. Senior Minister Goh believes the dhow will be placed on land when it arrives in Singapore as it can be best preserved that way.

"It will be a challenge," said Jabri, "but I can't wait to recreate this glorious passage to Singapore."

To follow the Jewel of Muscat and its voyage to Singapore, head to www.jewelofmuscat.tv.

A technology reporter and wannabe entrepreneur in a previous life, Larry is now City Editor for CNNGo Singapore, where he sacrifices his nights, caffeine intake and waistline to the demands of the job.
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