Luzzu: Colorful Maltese Fishing Boat
Luzzu: Colorful Maltese Fishing Boat
Luzzu is the colorful traditional shipping boat of the Maltese Islands and is often called LOOTZOO in Malta. The Luzzu has gained the importance of an unofficial national symbol of Malta considering its historical and till date commercial importance to the Maltese village. These distinctive boats are painted with bright colors like red, yellow, blue and green. The boat showcases some old customary traditions of the island like the presence of a pair of eyes near the bow. This custom was followed by Phoenicians and Greeks in the ancient times. This pair of eyes is called the Eye of Osiris or Eye of Horace. The origin and design of Luzzu and other Maltese boats date back to the Phoenician and Carthaginian Era.
During the Second World War, all the invasions to Italy were controlled from the Maltese shoreline. For around three years Malta emerged as an important constituent in the world. Large number of Luzzu boats were scattered along the Grand Harbor during that time. With the importance of Luzzu boats in Maltese history they have become an unmistakable symbol associated with Malta. These can also be seen engraved on the reverse side of older Maltese coins, lira.
Solid construction of the boats with a double ended hull makes the boat strong and sturdy to survive the turbulent weather conditions. Earlier Luzzu was a sailing boat, however with modernization Luzzu has developed into a motor boat with onboard diesel engine. There are many variations to the Luzzu with small differences in the architecture. Kajjik and dghajsa are the two variations to Maltese boats. Kajjik differs from Luzzu in the built of its transom whereas dghajsa boats closely resemble to Luzzu but slightly smaller in dimensions.
Owing to the enormous activity on the Valletta Grand Harbor, Luzzu boats are used in large number as passenger ferries and as fishing vessels. Luzzu also acts as a medium to transfer sailors form their ship to the land. This reliable seacraft attracts to tourist and are now widely used for tourism purposes along with its traditional usage of fishing. The boats are of great tourist attraction in Marsaxlokk which is the largest fishing village of Malta.
The construction of Luzzu is more or less dependent on the choice of its owner. The bottom of the boat is flat with planks of wood placed in continuous strakes from stern to stem. White deal is used for the planking purpose. Rest all parts of the boat such as sides and internal flooring is done by ash and red deal. Another characteristic feature of Luzzu boats is the presence of Moustaches. In earlier times, the color of the moustache was used to differentiate as to which village the Luzzu belongs. The decoration of Luzzu included the painting of the eyes of Horus, floral prints and the ornamental painting of the owner’s name on the boat.
As a ritual, local fishermen also place olive branches on to the Luzzu. These branches are blessed on Palm Sunday and are meant for boats to prevent from drowning and evil eyes. Luzzu boats have scene various development stages but the built still closely resemble the luzzijiet built in 17th century in wood design and paintings. The earlier luzzu were dependent on oars, then came the sail boats and now what is found is diesel engine boats. Earlier the boats used to be smaller in size and these days they are constructed in large sizes.
The colors that a fisherman have on his Luzzu are the ones which his fathers and grandfathers had on their Luzzu. The color is not usually changed for ages pointing to the superstitious nature of Maltese fishermen.
These colorful fishing boats makes the Maltese harbor a colorful and delightful site adding a unique touch of tradition to these fishing harbors. The sight of sprawling Luzzu boats on relatively calm and placid sea is truly a postcard moment.