Lenj | The old Captain of the Persian Gulf
Building Lenj is one of the oldest handicrafts and arts of the people of southern Iran.
Lenj is a small ship used for commercial or transportation purposes and is mostly found in the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.
History of lenj construction
Lenj construction is one of the oldest industries in Iran, dating back to the Afshari period (1796-1736 AD). In fact, the special art and skill of the people of southern Iran in building lenj and equipment led Nader Shah to use the art of these people to equip his navy.
Residents of the northern mainland of Persian Gulf mainly used lenj for commercial purposes (fishing, pearl fishing, moving goods, etc.) or transportation. In the past, most of the sea voyages to different regions such as Mumbai, Basra, African countries, etc., which sometimes lasted up to a year or more, were with this ship.
Prototypes of lenj had sails and moved using wind power. In the 1950s, at the same time as the arrival of diesel engines in Iran, these gasoline and diesel engines were used in the construction of lenj.
Construction of the lenj
The construction of lenj begins without a plan and initial design, and it is usually built using mind maps. The skill of making and designing stages, like many ancient arts and crafts, has been passed down from generation to generation. People who build boats are called golaf.
Lenj construction is usually done with little manpower. One master craftsman who is the designer of the lenj and about seven or eight golaf.
Lenj construction requires high skills in recognizing the position of stars and celestial bodies, calculating latitude and longitude, forecasting weather conditions, and so on.
Moisture-resistant forest trees, native trees and a special type of high-quality Indian wood called “Sai” are used in the construction of the lenj. It usually takes 2 to 4 years to build a lenj. The lenj can be used for a long time (up to 100 years).
Boats when on the water, must have one captain and at least 6 crew members called Joshua.
Each lenj has different sections, which include: the captain’s room, which is called the “qomare”, the lenj storage; Which is known as “Khan”, Debuseh which is a food warehouse, kitchen, engine room and …
Today, for various reasons, such as costly and time-consuming manufacturing process, most sailors prefer to use ready-made samples made of fiberglass. The new lenjes are equipped with a variety of routing and guidance technologies in addition to maintaining their traditional appearance.
Qeshm lenj construction workshop
One of the best examples of lenj workshops in southern Iran is located on Qeshm Island and the village of Goran. Goran village is located about an hour away from Qeshm.
Goran is located in the western part of Qeshm Island, close to Chahkuh Strait and Tandisha Valley. After crossing the mangrove forest, you will reach the lenj construction workshops located near the shore of Goran village.
As soon as you enter Garkah, you will be greeted by a large semi-finished lenj that is under construction.
Unfortunately, in recent years, with the stagnation of the market for the manufacture of wooden lenjes and the presence of Chinese and Japanese fiberglass lenjes, work in many workshops for making lenj has become difficult.
The oral knowledge of making a lenj, the skill of the golafs, along with many of the rituals and ceremonies of making a lenj are in danger of being forgotten.
From Qeshm and Dargahan you can easily go to Goran village.
In Qeshm, go to the Zeytoon (Olive) Park and from there go straight to the Valley of the Stars and the Naaz islands and the port of Kendall. After passing Qeshm Airport, go to Soheili village and continue the route to reach Goran village. In Goran village, you can easily find lenj making workshops.
If you live in Dargahan, go to the villages of Giahdan and Remkan. After passing Qeshm Airport, go to the Hara (mangrove) forest, pass the villages of Soheili and Tabal. After a short distance, you will reach the workshops.
The legacy of lenj construction and its global registration
Most of the lenj construction workshops are located in Hormozgan, Bushehr, Sistan and Baluchestan and Khuzestan provinces. Bandar Laft, Goran, Kong, Jask, Genaveh and Chabahar are the most prominent ports for lenj construction in Iran.
The lenj industry has a rich cultural background; Poems, songs, and rituals performed during the construction of the lenj, the launching ceremony of it, the rituals and songs with which women escorted or greeted sailors at the beginning of the voyage or return from the voyage, and … all are part of the intangible heritage of this industry.
In 2011, at the suggestion of Iran, “Traditional Iranian knowledge of construction and navigation in the Persian Gulf” was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
To read this article in Persian Language Click here.
* Written by Marjan Ghanavati and Translated by Nafiseh Asadollahi.