The Lenj Making of South of Iran (Persia)

The existence of the ancient Siraf port proves that from the time of Elamites, Sea Trading and all related businesses were popular in Iran, and the most reliable document proving it dates back to the early years after the Arab’s Invasion. Lenj on general is a form of boat that based on its size is used for different purposes like trading and fishing. In the southern parts of Iran, on the Persian Gulf coast, the life of people is directly depended on the sea. For these people everything comes from sea, their food, their source of income, their culture, and even their temperament. Naturally, making boats (Lenj) in cities so depended on water gains meaning far deeper. Lenj is not just an object; it is a way of life that involves all members of community. When a Lenj was to be released into the water, everyone in the village gathered and helped anyway they could. The fact that there are more than 10 forms of Lenj, that to foreigners all seems the same, proves the importance of the vehicle among the South dwellers. The most common of these types are, Baghaleh, Boom, Sambook, Jalboot, Tashaleh, Boozi, Tartary and Sammach.

Lenj is not just an object; it is a way of life that involves all members of community. When a Lenj was to be released into the water, everyone in the village gathered and helped anyway they could.

The main material used in making these boats is teak wood that has water resisting characteristics. Everything in making a Lenj requires technique and deliberation even the simplest of acts like nailing because if not done correctly it may cause a split and leaking of water. When making the Lenj is finished, the spaces between the wood planks are filled with cotton wicks that were soaked in sesame oil; this cotton wick is known as Kalfat. The boat is once again covered with oil and then it is ready to sail.

Releasing a Lenj to the sea had its own ceremony as well. When a Lenj was being made people of the village keep speculating about the time of its release and when the time came people gathered and celebrated the events together. The ceremony begins with the clergy of the village reading from the holly Quran and blessing the ship with the name of God. Then the owner of the Lenj, who usually is its captain as well, sacrificed an animal (Camel, Cow, or Sheep based on the financial situation of the person) and with its meat a meal was prepared and served to all that were present. After the sacrifice, the moving began and with the help of a tool named Dowvar the ship was slowly led to the sea. Dowvar is a wheel with long sticks attached to it, there are two other long sticks placed in the sea in a required distance with two pulleys. A thick and rigid rope is fastened around the Lenj then passed from the pulleys attached to the sticks, and at last tightened around the cylinder of the Dowvar. Depending on the size of the boat, a number of healthy young men with older experienced villager took the sticks of the Dowvar and began turning them while singing rhythmic songs. To ease the movement clogs of wood covered in animal fat were placed in front of the Lenj and the lower part of the boat was covered with Sevend that are mats made from Palm leaves. The Sevend protect the boat from the damages of possible fall. The boat entrance to the sea is accompanied with people’s cheers and then the feast begins.

The technique of making a Lenj in Iran is referred to as the culture of Lenj making proving that it consists of more than just an art and that it has its roots in the life and identity of the people living in the Southern part of Iran. This Art was registered by UNESCO as an Intangible World Heritage in November 27th, 2011.