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Reconstruction of ancient traders' voyages
on 23 February 2003
I bought this a long time ago, along with the other early travel reconstruction books by Thor Heyerdal. Since then I have become a fan of Mr.Severin's work - he is a dedicated enthusiast, and that comes over loud and clear in his books. He sometimes gets carried away on the tide of his enthusiasm and repeats himself several times, but you can forgive that, as his eagerness and will to learn drag you along with him on his wild dreams.
The Sindbad voyage was an attempt to see if a sewn wooden boat could make it to China, using only primitive navigational instruments, in support of a theory of the extent of early Arab trading, considering that the Sindbad legends may have had a basis in fact.
The boat is a hand-made, no-metal reconstruction using traditional Arab boat-building techniques, which have only recently fallen out of favour in preference to iron nails and steel bolts. Oman was used as the base for the boat-building and, given its long history of trading with Africa and India, was deemed to be the best place to start the voyage from - the boat's name 'Sohar' comes from one of the major towns on the nothern Omani coast.
Extensive research went into finding the best materials, techniques and above all, locating artisans who still knew something of sewn boats, and people who could still handle sails. The description of that quest and the actual building is a pleasure to read - Mr. Severin's infectious enthusiasm communicates itself through the pages to the reader.
The voyage itself is a tale of acclimation to strange food, cultures, and heat, the camaraderie that grows between vsstly different cultures, and relief that the boat survives all that the weather can throw at it, with an ease that a more rigid construction would have complained at. So strong is the boat that it still stands today on a roundabout outside the Al Bustan Palace Hotel in Muscat, as beautiful as ever.
I've read the book several times and it still comes across as fresh as the day I first picked it up. Enjoy! *****