A 30-member team from Qatar has set off to India on a historic 44-day voyage in a traditional dhow called Fateh Al Khair.
The crew being led by captain Hassan Essa al-Kaabi, consists of 16 experienced sailors, dhow repairers, cooks and other technicians.
The group members, sporting traditional costumes of Qatari sailors, were given a touching farewell from Katara Cultural Village, amidst singing of traditional Qatari folklore music by a group.
The voyage, according to the organisers, stemmed from the penchant of Katara in reviving the deeply rooted relationship of the citizens with the sea and whatever that entails related to customs and traditions.
The journey plan
The dhow will first reach Oman, and then to proceed towards India. The team, it is understood would reach Mumbai port on October 15.
A highlight of the journey is a tour from Mumbai to Calicut in Kerala where the crew will visit key locations where Arabs in the past used to conduct trade and have their dhows manufactured.
The return from Mumbai is on October 25. On their return trip, they will spend 5-6 days in Muscat and then will concur in Doha on November 17, which will coincide with the launch of Katara’s 5th International Dhow Festival to simulate traditional sea journeys.
Dhow will not use modern equipments
Even though the 32 year old dhow has been equipped with an engine, GPS and satellite equipments, the organisers said that the crew would not use them.
The plan is to sail depending on the wind conditions prevailing in the sea and use the engine and other machineries only in case of an emergency.
Fateh Al Kheir has four small life boats onboard which could be used by team members in the event of an emergency. Each of these boats is capable of accommodating 16 people at a time.
The dhow is capable of loading up to 250 tonnes of materials on board.
Dignitaries attend farewell
Qatar’s Minister for Energy and Industry Dr Mohamed bin Saleh al-Sada, Indian Ambassador Sanjiv Arora, Oman Ambassador Dr Mohamed Nasser al-Wahaibi, Italian Ambassador Guido de Sanctis, Palestine Ambassador Munir Ghanim and a host of other guests including Katara general manager Dr Khalid bin Ibrahim al-Sulaiti were present at the farewell ceremony.
Indian Ambassador Sanjiv Arora said, “This journey can be perceived as a recreation of the history and culmination of the deep-rooted ties between Qatar and India.”
He said the Indian embassy coordinated with competent parties in India and made required arrangements, including the issuance of visas to facilitate the mission of Fateh Al Khair to India.
Fateh Al Khair team manager Mohamed al-Sada expressed the hope the voyage would generate considerable interest among Qataris, other GCC citizens and also among Indians as it would be a unique journey taken out by the sailors as part of their interest to revive and demonstrate an ancient tradition of this region.
As the Fateh Al Khair was berthed more than 200m away from the Katara shores, owing to the shallow waters near the beach, the sailors boarded two smaller boats prior to their voyage to reach the dhow.
This is the second voyage of Fateh Al Kheir. The first was held November 22 to December 18, 2013 when it sailed to five neighbouring GCC countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the UAE.