Alan Villiers

Indian Ocean dhow of the 1930s

Wilfred Thesiger provided an account of the loss of the cultures of the lands of east Africa and the near east, Alan Villiers provided us with the last days of the sea going sailing trade of the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the coast of East Africa. A thorough seafarer Villiers left his home in Melbourne Australia when he was fifteen working as a crew member on whaling ships and grain transports. Throughout his career he would purchase ships and work on the reconstruction of famous ships and captained the Mayflower II on its maiden voyage in 1957.

Life aboard the Spirit of Righteousness

He spent a short time as a journalist but has penned some forty books and numerous articles on the history of seafaring and his own experiences at sea. He was a photographer and film maker and has left us valuable images of life at sea.

His most memorable literary adventure was Sons of Sinbad, his 1938 account of his voyage on the east African coast in an Arab trading Dhow. As a passenger he was able to gain an intimate access to the lives and trading practices of the crew on a sailing vessel the likes of which had plied their trade on these routes for a thousand years. These ships were soon to succumb to the faster and larger steam trading vessels bringing an end to a harsh yet free way of life that would now be difficult to find in any modern circumstance.

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