discovering the heart of Oman

Salut Museum


Sindbad the sailor

Navigation in Oman, legends and history

The navigation
Oman was a land of great navigators, and the legendary sailor Sindbad believed he was born there. The stories of his exploits recounted by Scheherazade in The Thousand and One Nights are replete with magical places, fabulous creatures, and terrifying natural phenomena that the restless sailor, who set off from Oman to conquer the Seven Seas, faced during the course of seven long and perilous journeys.
Omanis were not only expert seafarers, but also skilled ship builders.

The vessels built by the Omanis had certain features that distinguished them from the other boats which plied the waters of the Indian Ocean. For example, the planks were not held in place by nails, but were ‘sewn' with ropes made from palm trees fibres. The wood most commonly used for the hull and mast was either teak imported from India or the trunk of the coconut palm. The sails could be woven from coconut fibres, palm leaves or cotton.

Navigational instruments

Sailing the seas in ancient times required an exact and close knowledge of the sky’s features. The stars and planets were the sole reference points that sailors could rely on to navigate in the open ocean. At first, mariners used their hands to measure the height of the stars above the horizon, but as time passed increasingly sophisticated instruments were developed, from the kamal to the astrolabe, the sextant, and the octant, culminating in instruments that are still in use today.