The Maltese Harbour Boat – Id-Dghajsa tal-Pass
Did you know that Malta has a rich patrimony of boats (dghajjes)? Unfortunately not all of these boats survived to this date. For instance the Gozitan boat (id-dghajsa tal-Latini) has been lost forever. Still, we can enjoy a number of locally made boats which are pretty unique. The most popular boats would be the kajjik, luzzu and fregatina. Kajjik and luzzu look alike.
The luzzu is the foremost traditional fishing boat. It is pointed at both ends and is painted in characteristic brights colours. A variant, the kajjak, also a fishing boat, is similar in appearance, but has a square transom (back of the boat). Fregatina boats you can see during Freedom day race in the Grand Harbour.
The most popular boat (dghajsa) is the ghajsa tal-pass (the Maltese harbour boat). As the name suggests this boat is mainly seen in the waters of Malta’s Grand Harbour. And this is exactly where we spotted ours. It was waiting right across the road from the Upper Barrakka Garden lift.
When I’ve spotted the man sitting on the dghajsa I had to ask him if he would take us across the harbour to Birgu. A very spontaneous boat trip that I was sure Oliver and I would enjoy. Since I didn’t plan for such an adventure I had a pushchair and two backpacks. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but not exactly what you want to be carrying on a relatively small boat. To my pleasant surprise it was no problem and the driver was very helpful.
It is a long but elegant boat, which can be relatively quickly rowed across the waters because of its weight. We still used a motor to get us from point A to point B. Some might say that the ‘motor’ makes it less romantic or whatever, but it didn’t take away any charm from the experience. Plus traveling with a 2 year old, there is only so much time he stays excited before he starts fidgeting.
Some say that the Maltese dghajsa tal-pass is the ‘cousin’ of the Venetian gondola. I’ve been in Venice and there are definitely similarities, but historians believe that this boat’s origin has been lost in time.
Yes this trip was indeed very exciting and we both enjoyed it very much. As I already mentioned it was only crossing from Valletta to Birgu, but it made our day. The trip was only €3 (I gave the man €5 as we really loved it) plus he also offers harbour cruise which is definitely worth a try!
Olly couldn’t believe that we were actually on a small boat in the middle of the Grand Harbour! What a fun spontaneous trip mama!
The Maltese harbour boat has its particular characteristics. It should be about 21 feet long. These boats are painted in the traditional bright maritime colours: red, green and blue. Yellow and white could also be used. The colours are painted in stripes parallel to the waterline or to the curve of the upper border.
The trip is less than 10mins and you get dropped off in front of the Malta Maritime Museum in Birgu. It’s not the most comfortable disembark, as you land of relatively right stairs. I managed with a 2 year old, a pushchair and two bags, so it’s definitely doable. Plus it’s the experience. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.
Then we went for a short walk around the marina. Checked out the locomotive in front of the Malta Maritime Museum and then walked towards the America University of Malta.
Did you know that there is a kinetic sculpture of id-Dghajsa tar-rih in Bormla Deck 1? The artist is Matthew Pandolfino whose proposal won a competition in 2016. Dgħajsa tar-riħ is a massive nine-metre long metal structure, weighing three tonnes, comprising of a dgħajsa tal-pass (water taxi) and a zeppelin.
To go back to Valletta we opted for the classic ferry which leaves from the other side of the dock. Just cross the bridge near this sculpture and you will soon see the stand. The cost of one way ticket was €1,50 which included free ticket to the Upper Barrakka Gardens Lift (costs €1). This ferry stops just few meters away from where we took the dghajsa. It does the job, but definitely not as magical as the dghajsa.
It was a very nice adventure and I recommend it to everyone. Remember, you don’t have to take the dghajsa because you need get from point A to B, but for the experience itself. On the map below I tagged the spot where we took the dghajsa exactly. Hope it helps. 🙂