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 Expeditions Programme 

Euphrates 1: Hilla to Basra Expedition


Our first expedition as Safina Projects will be a journey on the Euphrates delta from Hilla to Basra (approximately 630 km, including river, canals, marsh and open water environments), travelling with eight Guffa coracles made during the past year, and other traditional and experimental boats.


Seven of the Guffa will be connected with a lattice based on Kelek raft construction, and a circular arched superstructure resembling a Marsh Arab Mudheef, forming a 1:2 scale version of the Ark Re-imagined Hub (see diagram below). This will be propelled by Guffa paddles and Kellek oars, and is designed to be dismantled for transport and reconfigured for the study of its properties in use on different waterways.

During the expedition’s preparatory phase we will source the famous asphalt of Hit, Chiddem, to use in tarring the boats. The construction of various types of known, lost and experimental vessels will be explored using techniques based on traditional methods, including bundle-construction reed boats; palm based (non-wood) canoes; and the mixed basketry technique used to make Tubug barges. We also invite project partner organisations, and local communities en route, to participate with other non-motorised boats of local construction and traditional design.

River Expeditions Programme


Euphrates 1 is the pilot expedition for a planned long-term programme of river journeys covering the whole of Iraq’s riverine terrain, including repeat visits with different specialist research partners. Aims include:

  • Creating highly visible and participatory art to raise awareness of cultural heritage and connect people.

  • Testing the viability of reconstructed known, lost, and experimental boats.

  • Identifying and documenting the small boats of Mesopotamia, many of which are lost or at risk of extinction. Strategies include exploring Iraqi archives and the world heritage archive, oral history interviews, observation of artefacts and geographical features in the field, and experimental boat reconstruction.

  • Identifying and documenting the crafts and vernacular architecture of the region, specifically those rooted in prehistoric times, which could have formed part of the construction or contents of an ancient Ark.

  • Providing opportunities for partners to participate and carry out field research on related topics outside our immediate area of enquiry, or to carry out constructive projects (e.g. ecological or educational).

  • Assessing the changes to organic cultural heritage since historic expeditions recorded their findings.

Visualisation of Ark Hub (above); Guffa on Tigris Flotilla expedition, 2013 (below); experimental reed boat, 2016 (bottom).

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