Yes, of course it’s hand-made in the traditional way.
No, I don’t have any help. I start with sheets of top-quality, 24 carat gold, then I beat and mould them into shape for the main hull and the sail. The smaller parts need a great deal more care; some of the ropes are quite delicate and break easily. It’s not something you can rush.
How long? If I could spend all my time working on it, inshallah I could finish one in about three days, but I have to mind the shop, too. Sometimes I have so many customers that I can’t spend any time on my dhow. I hope one day to have a shop-boy to look after the customers, then I can make more dhows, which will make more money.
If you ask me to make one for you, I will say three weeks, but if God wills it, you can have it in two.
You are only here for one week, and you want to buy this one? Blessings on you. I will sell it to you for ten thousand dirhams.
No, I won’t sell it for two thousand. The gold cost me more than that. Would you like to see the receipt? No? Okay; I will make you a special price of eight and a half thousand. Any less than that, and I will lose money.
Four thousand? No. I have a wife and children to feed. How can I feed them if I sell my work so cheaply? Seven and a half.
I’ve been making these and other gold workings for fifteen years. My father was a goldsmith, and his father before him. I never wanted to be a goldsmith; I wanted to be a lumberjack. I saw a film about lumberjacks in Canada when I was a boy, and it looked so adventurous and exciting and manly.
My father wouldn’t permit it. He said I should learn what he called a marketable skill, something that would earn reliable money. I acceded to his wishes and studied the family trade. He was right, of course; it gave me something to fall back on, in case what I really wanted to do with my life didn’t work out. He died just about the time I became proficient. That left me as head of the family, so I had to stay to look after my mother. I couldn’t leave our home town until she died also. By then, I had married and started a family; between us we decided to come to Dubai, where we had heard there would be better chances of making a good living. That was eight years ago. For now, we are doing okay, but people want jewellery more than they want my models. Jewellery is more difficult for me to make and doesn’t give such a good profit because of the large number of people selling it. It’s more difficult to price, too, because the cost of gold changes so much and so quickly; sometimes hour by hour. I would find it easier to work with something with a more stable price.
I base the price for my dhows on what it cost me to buy the gold I used to make them, then I add for the time it takes me to make them.
Okay. I sell it to you for six thousand, but you are getting it very cheap.
This short story was written in response to Kreative Kue 14, issued on this site earlier this week.