UAE: Meet 70-year-old Emirati who has been crafting miniature dhows for over 50 years


Emirati artist Abdulla Mohammed Ali Mutawwa,70, has dedicated the last five decades to preserving the UAE’s cultural legacy. He does so in a small workshop beside his Fujairah home, crafting miniature dhows one at a time in an effort to safeguard the nation’s rich heritage and culture.

“Embedded within our very identity should be the narratives of our forebears,” remarked Mutawwa, as he skillfully wielded a hammer to secure a nail, fashioning a three-foot traditional dhow during the recent Al Maleh and Fishing Festival in Dibba.

“This small dhow represents our rich maritime tradition,” he says.

Mutawwa embarked on his journey in his early twenties, fuelled by a passion for preserving the country’s cultural heritage. He firmly believes that these miniature dhows provide a glimpse into an earlier era, one that was the lifeblood of Emirati villages.

“I started on my own. Growing up in a coastal town, I would watch these small boats navigate the waters. My attempt to replicate them evolved into a cherished hobby. It is my way of ensuring that our traditions and heritage are not forgotten,” he say.

Mutawwa’s miniature boats aren’t mere decorations; they are replicas of the historic vessels that once held immense significance in this region. In his workshop, several of these tiny boats grace the shelves, and for the event, he brought a selection from his collection to showcase his craftsmanship.

“Crafting one of these takes considerable time and effort. I can finish a single piece in just five days, working tirelessly for 12 hours each day,” says Mutawwa, emphasising his dedication to achieving flawless precision.

“As for the exact count of pieces I’ve made over the years, it must have surpassed several thousand by now,” Mutawwa adds with a humble smile.

“Many meticulous steps must be followed to achieve the perfect shape and authenticity,” explains Mutawwa. “From selecting the finest wood to intricately carving and painting every tiny detail.”

He underscores the importance of the initial wood choice: “The selection of teak or rosewood ensures both originality and quality.”

The process continues with the delicate art of carving, where Mutawwa’s skilled hands shape every detail, even the smallest components like the masts. Finally, the finishing touches involve a masterful painting that breathes life into the tiny vessel with vibrant colours.

Besides his miniature boats, Mutawwa has also crafted a 20-foot-long boat, a unique project he keeps for himself. “It’s the only boat I’ve made for sailing, taking over 5 months to complete. You can find it parked on the shore in Fujairah,” he reveals.

Mutawwa doesn’t hoard his art; he teaches young people about culture and heritage, aiming to instill pride in history and encourage its preservation. “I offer lessons wherever I can,” he says. “I want our youth to understand our history’s importance and carry it into the future.”


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