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Omani sailors voyage back in time aboard 9th century ship - CNN.com

Anouk Lorie:

The Jewel of Muscat: A group of Omani sailors are setting off on a voyage into the past aboard a faithful replica of a 9th century Arab sailing ship. Using ancient navigation techniques, the "Jewel of Muscat" will navigate a key Indian Ocean trade route once used to transport precious cargo from Arabia to the Far East. It will take five months to travel from Oman to Singapore and the crew plan to live just as their counterparts would have a millennium ago.

"We have tried to think back a thousand years," captain Saleh Al Jabri, a former captain in Oman's Royal Navy told CNN. "We all understand life must have been very difficult and very hard then and we will try to do almost the same," he said. This means Jabri and his 16-man crew will live in cramped, austere conditions and eat the same food as their predecessors -- dried fish and dates, Jabri told CNN. He and his crew will use very simple navigation tools to keep the 18 meter-long ship on course: observing the sky, sea color, marine and bird life. The closest any of them will get to technology is the "kamal" -- a small block of wood connected to a piece of string -- used to calculate latitude.

"Jewel of Muscat" is a copy of an Omani trading vessel discovered wrecked off the coast of Indonesia in 1998. Using ancient techniques, "Jewel" was hand-stitched using coconut fibres, instead of using nails. Layers of goat fat mixed with lime will protect the ship's wood from leaks. "Jewel's" timber planks come from Ghana; the sails were constructed from palm leaves in Zanzibar; and the teak masts were made from Poona trees found in Southern India. Ninth-century ships would have carried everything from frankincense and myrrh to porcelain and food stuffs like dried fish and dates across the Indian Ocean -- and so will "Jewel." Jabri hopes to reach Singapore by June 2010, with short stops in India and Malaysia: "The boat, like those at the time, is very slow," he explained. The boat is likely to sail at an average of 2 knots (3 miles) per hour...

BBC News - In pictures: Journey of ancient Arab trading ship