When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi paid a visit to the Iraqi marshlands in September 2017, photos showed him on a mashoof, the traditional narrow canoe that has been in use in the region for centuries. Yet the boat, a symbol of transportation in this UNESCO-protected area, may well be the part of the region’s heritage on the verge of extinction.
The owner of a mashoof boat, Razaq Jabbar, a traditionally dressed man with a sunburnt, wrinkled face, told the media March 25 that he was proud to take the Iraqi prime minister on his boat. Jabbar is one of the few dozen skilled artisans who continue to build these boats, and he might be the last in his family to continue the trade.
According to the head of the Chibayish Tourism Organization, Raad Habib al-Asadi, there are less than 50 mashoof manufacturers in southern Iraq who continue their craft. They are located mostly in the towns of Basra, Hillah and Kufa, where vast rivers and swamps are found.