Friday, December 20, 2013

Dhows and Blue Wooden Doors

Dhow building is becoming a lost art in the Middle East.  Today only one dhow shipyard remains in Bahrain.  In days of yore these traditional Arabic wooden boats dotted the seascape.  Fishermen, pearl divers and merchants all sailed them, plying the coastal waters of the Persian Gulf and crossing oceans, carrying goods to India, China and East Africa.  Today, it is we tourists who board these vessels for a cruise.  Even so, the boats will be powered by diesel engines rather than the fickle wind.  

Same goes with the old architecture that used to line the streets of Manama or Jeddah--the old wooden doors and windows are disappearing fast.  Skylines are modern.  Buildings are made of glass, steel and concrete and so tall they reach the stars.  The elaborate wooden window shutters and doors truly are a lost art.  If you are lucky enough to find one, it will be in some narrow forgotten alley.  Some have been saved and are now displayed in museums.

It makes me realize the importance of the tourist industry.  As long as we are allowed to travel to distant lands, we will seek out the arts and crafts of the people living there.  We will buy the rugs and pots and baskets.  We will pay to ride the old boats.  We will patronize museums and take walking tours through the old souks and old parts of town.  Tourism should be embraced and not feared.  We are a curious, friendly bunch who travel far to see something exotic and different.  We are vital to the economy of the world and vital to the salvation and preservation of cultural arts.

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