Classic Ships of Islam

From Mesopotamia to the Indian Ocean

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This book charts the development of Islamic ships and boats in the Western Indian Ocean from the seventh to the early sixteenth century with reference to earlier periods. It utilizes mainly Classical and Medieval Arabic sources with iconographical evidence and archaeological finds. Maritime activities in the region resulted in a cross fertilization, not only of goods but also of ideas and culture which gave an underlying cohesion to the Arabian, Persian and Indian maritime peoples. This study has led to a re-evaluation of that maritime culture, showing that it was predominantly Persian and Indian, with Chinese influence, throughout the Islamic period until the coming of the Portuguese, as reflected in nautical terminology and technology.

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Dr Dionisius A. Agius is a Fellow of the British Academy. He currently holds the Al Qasimi Professorship in Arabic and Islamic Material Culture at the University of Exeter and is affiliated with King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah. Author of In the Wake of the Dhow: The Arabian Gulf and Oman (2002, 2010) and Seafaring in the Arabian Gulf and Oman: The People of the Dhow (2005, 2009).
"Für Interessierte am arabischen Schiffbau mit Sicherheit eine willkommene Bereicherung, liegt doch mit dieser Studie eine Publikation vor, die nicht nur schiffbautechnische, sondern auch geo-politische Aspekte umfassend und facettenreich darstellt."
Thomas Feige, Das Logbuch, 44. Jg. (2008) H4.

"Rarely do books come along that make such a demonstrable contribution to the field of maritime history […] a work that effectively re-lays the foundation for the study of Muslim shipping in the western Indian Ocean."
Lincoln Paine, The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du Nord, 18.2 (2008), 120-122.

"As a reviewer seeking to do full justice to this complex work one would almost have to match Agius word-for-word, so rich is the study in its assessment of sources, the arguments of other scholars, and its overall sweeping contribution to the much-neglected field."
Kenneth McPherson, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 38.1 (2009), 180-182.

"The book [...] advances our understanding of Islamic material culture as well as social and economic history and offers a fascinating journey into the past [...].
Yaacov Lev, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 38 (2011), 391-395.


This book appeals to the specialist and non-specialist readers; all those interested in maritime history, maritime culture, trade and technology, ship-typology, travel literature, Arabic semantics, underwater archaeology, ethnography and boat architecture.