On Arwad Island off the coast of Syria, a group of 20 sailors-to-be are preparing for a voyage their captain believes has not been undertaken for two and a half millennia.
They plan to set off on Sunday on a journey that attempts to replicate what the Greek historian Herodotus mentions as the first circumnavigation of Africa in about 600BC.
Their vessel, the small, pine-wood Phoenicia, is modelled on the type of ship the Phoenician sailors he credited with the landmark voyage would have used.
The Phoenicians lived in areas of modern-day Lebanon, Syria and other parts of the Mediterranean from about 1200BC and are widely credited with being both strong seafarers and the first civilisation to make extensive use of an alphabet.
Celebrating Damascus as a capital of Arab Culture for the year 2008, event organisers sponsored the British-run expedition project to mark their festivities.
The year-long voyage will take the crew into some of the most dangerous waters in the world.
As well as sailing round the southern most tip of Africa, they are preparing to deal with pirates and long periods of waiting for favourable winds.
The skilful shipbuilders in Arwad are familiar with construction techniques dating back 200-300 years, but shipbuilder Orwa Bader, 28, says this is the first time they have ever tried to build in the Phoenician style.