…where seafood comes from
Photos and words by Mary Charlebois
It’s early morning. The sky is changing from deep indigo to gold. The fishing boats of Marsaxlokk bob quietly in the harbor. Fisherman sit under a shelter drinking coffee and eating Maltese pastries. On a striped bench, a deckhand catches a few winks. The conversations are mostly in Maltese, but I hear English, Italian, and a language I think might be an African dialect.
Marsaxlokk has been home to fishing boats for centuries. Some are small, holding one or two men, fishing close to shore. Others carry a larger crew and venture further out to sea. Most are motorized, but a few are man-powered using oars. All sizes and colors bring back the Mediterranean cornucopia of seafood to the Marsaxlokk fish market, fishmongers, and markets in Malta and Gogo.
The bright colors of the boats are traditional. The small luzzu were the first to be decorated with yellow, red, blue, white and green bands of color encircling the vessel. Luzzus are pointed on each end, and often have a bow and stern that curve up to a point similar to a gondola.
The market comes to life
Crushed ice is poured into shallow bins that are quickly filled with fish and shellfish. Grouper, snapper, swordfish, tuna, and amberjack are lined-up waiting to be taken home for Sunday dinner. Clams of several varieties, oysters, squid, and my favorite, king prawns, join the displays of Neptune’s gifts. I can’t wait to buy the makings of my seafood dinner.
Eyes on the fishing boats of Marsaxlokk
Luzzus traditionally have the eyes of Osiris placed prominently on the bow. The Eye of Osiris is a traditional amulet that protects the fishing boats and fishermen while at sea. Some believe it’s a Phoenician custom, but it was also practiced by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians.
To view a full-sized slide show, click on an image in the collage.