Iraqi miniature shipbuilder celebrates Basra's naval heritage

BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi Ahmed Dhafir hopes the miniature wooden ships he spends up to 40 days creating will recall the southern Iraqi city of Basra’s proud naval heritage and heyday as the “Venice of the Middle East.”

Dhafir, 34, uses traditional tools and methods learned from his father to model historic and modern vessels that have sailed the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which passes through the province of Basra and into the Gulf.

“The finest wood that I use is old teak from doors and frames of old houses,” he said.

A single ship can sell for 250,000 to 1,250,000 Iraqi dinars (roughly $210 to $1,050) and measure up to 1.7 meters.

Basra’s network of canals and waterways has earned it comparisons with Italy’s Venice, and it is the port from which the fictional sailor Sinbad set sail.

Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Andrew Bolton