Travel and boats, an enduring love affair

I took these photos in 1977, when I lived in the middle east for a year. Both are on the beach in Abu Dhabi. I doubt that this area even exists any more. They were building the dhows directly on the sand, almost entirely by hand except for a huge horizontal band saw which was used to cut up teak logs for planks. These are “real” photos, taken on 35mm colour slide film in the gorgeous Olympus OM2 that I bought out there. Hard to remember how long you had to wait to see the photos. I would take time choosing my framing, but once the film was full, I had to send it back to Europe to be developed and then have the slides sent back to me. Anything from three weeks or more before you saw the result. Despite that, we tended to get fewer pictures, but more good ones.

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What is fascinating about these beautiful boats, from a European boat builder’s view point, is that even though the hull is perfectly symmetrical, as it has to be, the planking either side does not match at all. The planks are fitted together first, and then the internal framing cut to fit inside. The exact opposite from what we do here.

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I called this the Fisherman’s mosque, and looking on Google maps, I think it is still there, but no trace of dhows anywhere near it. I actually won third prize in an architectural photography contest with this shot. I won the first prize as well, for a photograph of the Eiffel tower, which sadly I cannot find any more. It is probably in a box in the attic. I was very proud of it, as the judge was a French photographer, who said he must have seen 10,000 pictures of the Eiffel Tower, but he had never seen one like that. Sadly, we may never see it again now.

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