You may have to wait till there are enough passengers to warrant the dhow’s departure, so sample a few refreshments at the Snack-Bar Ti Jamu (or at Stop if in Maxixe) at the beginning of the jetty – an ideal spot for admiring the dhows on the bay, especially at sunset. Adhering to a quaint tradition that dates back hundreds of years, the dhow crew will insist on carrying you to and from their boat, an old-fashioned service offered with such genuine enthusiasm that it would be impolite to decline.
Dhows are synonymous with Inhambane. Walk into any of the villages along the shores of Inhambane Bay that are accessible from the main road and you will come across skilled carpinteiros (carpenters) building new vessels using traditional tools and techniques that have been handed down for generations.
The origin of the name ‘dhow’ remains unclear, but what is known is that these craft originated in the seas off Arabia. The ocean-going variety, which displaced up to as much as 200 tonnes, was used for the slave trade until 1860. Today, dhows that big are very scarce, but the ‘modern’ ones still display the characteristic lateen (triangular) sail, a single, short wooden mast and a very long yard (crosswise spar) which is rigged at an angle of 45° when the vessel is under way.