Kalba and daw in Khaliji art: tracing extinct dhows in Arab and Persian iconography

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Indigenous, or Khaliji, art from the Arabian and Persian shores of the pre-modern Gulf offers evidence of extinct types of watercraft, in particular the
kalbā (gallivat) and the dāw (dhow) with their conspicuous counter stern. While European art and texts offer testimony of these vessels’ appearances, lesser-known indigenous petroglyphs, graffiti, woodcarvings, and manuscript paintings offer a Khaliji view of their own watercraft. Even images seemingly deficient as architectural diagrams remain significant in light of the few reliable referents from oral history, ethnography, archaeology, or modern watercraft. The distinctive projecting counter stern common to these vessels allows identification of the kalbā and the dāw in iconographic sources that otherwise lack technical merit. Both types of vessel were used as fighting vessels in the Gulf, while the dāw was also operated in commercial roles in the Arabian and Red Seas. The shared fate of the kalbā and the dāw, both rendered anachronistic by shifting styles andinuences in shipbuilding, is important for understanding the nautical technology of pre-modern Khaliji societies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies Volume 50 2020
Subtitle of host publicationPapers from the fifty-third meeting of the Seminar for Arabian Studies held at the University of Leiden from Thursday 11th to Saturday 13th July 2019
EditorsDaniel Eddisford
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781789696547
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event53rd Meeting of the Seminar for Arabian Studies - University of Leiden, Leiden, Netherlands
Duration: 11 Jul 201913 Jul 2019

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies
ISSN (Print)0308-8421


Conference53rd Meeting of the Seminar for Arabian Studies
OtherThe Seminar for Arabian Studies is the principal international academic forum for research on the Arabian Peninsula. First convened in 1968 it is the only annual academic event for the study of the Arabian Peninsula that brings together researchers from all over the world to present and discuss current fieldwork and the latest research. The Seminar covers an extensive range of subjects that include anthropology, archaeology, architecture, art, epigraphy, ethnography, history, language, linguistics, literature, numismatics, theology, and more besides, from the earliest times to the present day or, in the fields of political and social history, to around the end of the Ottoman Empire (1922).
Internet address


  • dhow
  • gallivat
  • iconography
  • technological differentiation
  • shipbuilding


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