Dhow is a term that Western users have applied to traditional Arab sailing vessels. These vessels have been in use since the Greeks were in power; in other words, they are a very old type of ship. Therefore, no one knows exactly who designed the dhow. It is known, however, that they originated in the Indian Ocean, which may explain why they were quite different from the sailing vessels plying the Mediterranean at the same time. Dhows have several distinguishing characteristics. One of these is a lateen (triangular) sail arrangement. Another is that, traditionally, the hull is stitched together. Dhows also traditionally were pointed at both ends, although many modern dhows have square-shaped sterns.
The dhow has several different uses. Originally, dhows were used for simple tasks such as offshore fishing. As the Arabian and Islamic population grew and expanded, and began an intense system of trade with the rest of the known world, the dhows’ uses also grew, as they were adapted for purposes of trade.