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Figurehead of the Tall Ship ‘Shabab Oman’.

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The origins of the ship’s figurehead lie in the early days of seafaring. They were used as religious symbols to protect the ship, and to express the sailors’ belief that the ship was a living thing. There was also the belief that a ship needed to find its own way, and could only do this if it had eyes. Figureheads are carved wooden sculptures which decorate the prow of a sailing ship, and were thought to represent the vessel’s spirit. It was believed that they offered the crew protection from the harsh seas and safeguarded their homeward journey. The figureheads were also used to identify a ship—one of a range of subjects would be chosen, reflecting the name of the ship.  The figurehead of ‘Shabab Oman’ (meaning  ‘Youth of Oman’) pays tribute to the Arab sailors who ruled over the Indian Ocean a long time ago.