Behind many modern features
of Kuwait, lie reflections of the countries maritime heritage. Al
Hashemi-II, a majestic wooden ship of gigantic proportions, rises high
above the Radisson Blu Hotel, Kuwait. This impressive structure is the
realization of one man's vision and dedication to preserve Kuwait's
maritime heritage for future generations. Apart from bringing back
memories of those graceful bygone days of sail, she is recognized as
one of the largest wooden ships of the world.
For Husain Marafie, one of the owners of the hotel, this is his third
and most ambitious dhow-building project. Mohammedi-II, his first
enterprise houses the popular Al Boom Restaurant and Al Ghazeer, which
followed it, is the Radisson SAS Hotel pleasure cruiser. Al Hashemi-II,
the newest dhow dwarfs its older sisters.
Arabian dhows have distinct names for each model and Al Hashemi-II
falls into the Baghlah classification. These ships excelled as
classical cargo carriers during the nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries. A traditional deep-sea vessel and attractively carved
stem-head, transom stern and window apertures; the baghlah was the most
ornate of all the Arabian dhows.
Traditional shipwrights of Oman claim the credit of introducing this
outstanding model to the Gulf waters; yet she has European ancestry and
an Indian link in respect of her design and fittings. The average
storage capacity of these ships was between 350 to 450 tons and they
were mainly used for transporting cargo around the Gulf and to and from
India and Africa. Sharing the destiny of many other graceful sailing
vessels that once sailed the Gulf waters, the baghlah also vanished
from the waterfront.
Little more than a century ago Husain Marafie's great grandfather built
a baghlah and named it Al Hashemi. Husain Marafie has named his present
dhow Al Hashemi-II in celebration and commemoration of the memory of
this forerunner, which saw active service for the Marafie family. For
him, the preservation of Kuwaiti maritime heritage and continuation of
his family's ship building and ship owning traditions that spans well
over a couple of centuries are a driving passion.