Folktales from around the world – Qatar Edition


Besides being a dream destination, Qatar has a rich history of folktales and myths. Folktales or hazawi have been a part and parcel of the country’s rich cultural heritage for centuries. These stories have been passed down from one generation to another through word of mouth and still manages to capture the imagination of listeners. 

Exploring Qatar through its folktales

Let’s go on a journey and explore the history of one of Qatar’s most treasured artifacts, the traditional dhow, and how it came to be.

Qatari Dhow
Qatari Dhow


May and Ghilan

Qatar is famous for its traditional dhow or boats. This striking wooden boat with its majestic sails was once used for pearl diving, fishing, and transporting goods. It is believed that the dhow was invented by a man named Ghilan.

According to legend, Ghilan was a wealthy man who owned numerous boats and commanded a large number of sailors and fishermen. He was a master of the sea and was well-respected. That was until a woman named May emerged. She owned superior boats with stronger and more experienced men that put Gilan’s boats to shame. 

One day, both May and Gilan attempted to harvest the same pearl bed. May with her superior boat and stronger rowers was the faster of the two. As she raced past Gilan, he called out to her for help. But she mockingly replied, “The towing is in the head of the oar.” This incident humiliated Gilan. He then set out to figure a way to beat his competitor.

 One fine day, as he was observing a grasshopper, he noticed how its delicate wings worked. He used the same principle as the grasshopper and installed long thin sails on his boats. These gave his boats the ability to travel at faster speeds. 

On the day of pearl diving, both May and Ghilan set out to harvest the pearls. May expected to win again but was shocked to see Gilan’s boat outpace her. She called out to him for help but he proudly replied, “The towing is in the head of the mast.”

This incident has then inspired all of the Qatari dhows. Ghilan’s boats with its thin hull and the long, elegant sail went on to become the blueprint for the famous traditional Qatari dhows. The dhows are still used to date and can be seen sailing across the Doha Corniche. 

Doha Corniche
Doha Corniche

Now that you know about one of Qatar’s most fascinating folktales, check out these 6 amazing historical sites in Qatar that are sure to bring the story to life. 

You can also check out this quick and handy Guide to Qatar to make your travel planning much easier.


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