The shoosh (singular shasha) are the small fishing boats built of materials from the date palm that have been used for centuries along the eastern coast of the UAE and the Sultanate of Oman.
Ninety percent of the material necessary for building these boats is obtainable from the date palm tree Phoenix dactylifera. The remaining material is gathered from trees located in the mountains, such as the Zizyphus and Acacia. The long fronds of the date palm are prepared by removing the leaves and soaking the stems which will make them pliable and manageable. These stems are tied together securely with a rope made from the date palm. Today nylon rope is often substituted for the original date palm rope.
The base layer of stems is bound tightly and is secured by a frame made of wood from the Zizyphus or Acacia tree. This frame contains seven cross beams along the base with corresponding beams on either side of the boat. The large section of the date palm stem which is attached to the trunk (that is, the branch stumps) was originally used to create buoyancy. Today, however, styrofoam is generally used. These segments are bound together with date palm rope and secured above the base of the stems. Above this are placed another seven cross beams and a layer of tightly bound stems. The sides of the shasha are also constructed with tightly bound date palm stems. All of the cross beams and stems are secured with the date palm rope.
A shasha usually has two oars, one located in the middle and one at the back. These oars are also constructed with wood, again from either Zizyphus or Acacia trees. The shasha usually seats between two and four people, although larger shoosh can also be constructed. These can carry up to five people.
The primary function of the shasha is as a fishing boat and it is, therefore, only designed to travel short distances. The stems used for buoyancy can become heavy due to absorbing of water and thus impede long distance travel. Once a shasha has reached its desired destination, fishing nets or cages can be dropped. The distance travelled is usually no more than 15km. It may also be used for short distance travel, for example from Fujairah to Kalba or Fujairah to Qurayyah. The shasha is a boat type primarily known from the Batinah (East) Coast in Fujairah and in Oman. There is also a historical reference to the type being present on the island of Socotra, off the tip of the Horn of Africa, and now part of Yemen.The similarity of boat type is an indication of the exchange of ideas and of the movements of peoples along the Indian Ocean – East Africa trade route.
Abdullah Mohammed Sulaiman is a master builder of the shasha, the traditional fishing craft of the UAE’s east coast made from the date palm.
For years Abdullah and his friends built and rowed these boats to go fishing in Fujairah waters. Unfortunately the advent of fiberglass boats with outboard motors put an end to the shasha (shoosh pl.) for fishing purposes but a resurgence in traditional Emirati sport and culture has led to a revival of palm branch boat building.
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