So Old a Ship

Twilight of the Arab Dhow

by Marion Kaplan

  • RRP £15.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-9557208-2-6
  • Pages: 85
  • Maps: 1
  • Photographs: 80
  • Published: April 2015
  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback

Jacket text...

Ocean-going Arab dhows were fast disappearing when, in 1974, National Geographic published 'Twilight of the Arab dhow' by Marion Kaplan, a British-born photojournalist and writer then based in Kenya. For a firsthand view of the ancient trading voyage Marion Kaplan travelled from Kuwait to Dubai on a small Gulf dhow, then from Dubai to Mombasa and down the African coast aboard a larger dhow. She began her voyage as passenger. She ended it as crew. Now, when the world's oldest commercial sailing route has faded into oblivion, she recounts her adventure, with numerous unpublished photos, in So Old a Ship. This is the last close look by an outsider at dhow people, dhow trading and dhow life before those lovely wooden ships were gone forever.

About the author...

Marion Kaplan is a London-born photojournalist and writer. She lived in Africa for twenty years and, as freelance, worked for a wide range of magazines and newspapers including National Geographic, Time and People in the United States, The Observer and The Times in London. From her Africa work arose her book on the post-independence period, Focus Africa (Doubleday and Elm Tree). Later, based in Portugal, she contributed articles and photos to the international magazines of Reader's Digest and travel articles to The New York Times. She is author of The Portuguese: the Land and Its People (Viking, Penguin and Carcanet). Her photographs have also appeared in numerous other books and international media. She now lives in southwest France.

From the postscript by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston...

"Every time I saw a dhow under sail I marvelled at their grace and speed and I always hankered to emulate Villiers and make a long voyage on one. It was not to be. Sailing dhows are almost non-existent now and the skills will soon be lost, so it is timely to have this record of voyaging and life aboard one for posterity."

Articles about So Old a Ship...

The Telegraph Picture Gallery
Twilight of the Arab dhow: Marion Kaplan's 1974 Indian Ocean voyage

The National, UAE
Twilight of the ocean dhow: Sailing the Arabian Sea in 1973

"Marion Kaplan, then living in Kenya, shipped aboard two working dhows for a National Geographic story. Despite being a woman in a male-dominated world, she started as passenger and ended as crew. Her story, published in 1974 and again here, must be the last of its kind. It's a singular story with photos to match." - Classic Boat (August 2015)

"Twilight of the Arab Dhow: Marion Kaplan was asked by National Geographic in 1972 to record voyaging on the last of the Arab dhows. Four decades later, she describes that vanished world." - Classic Boat (October 2015)

"Twilight of the Arab Dhow: Photojournalist Marion Kaplan recalls sailing on one of the last ocean-going trading dhows from Dubai to Tanzania." - RYA Magazine (Autumn 2015)