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History of the jábegas: where to see and learn more about this peculiar vessel



History of the jábegas: where to see and learn more about this peculiar vessel

On the Pedregalejo promenade it is common to spot a boat in the distance entering the Mediterranean.

On either side of the bow, a mythologically inspired eye can be seen, which, like a unique symbol, confirms the ship's origins. It is a “jábega", a traditional fishing boat, 100% from Malaga, which continues to arouse passions among the rowers who steer it centuries after its birth.

An age-old vessel

Traditionally, this characteristic boat was the vehicle used by fishermen to apply the now extinct technique of trawling close to the shore. Nowadays, the use of the jábega is for nautical or sporting purposes and is even the main star at official competitions (the famous jábega leagues) led by rowers enamoured with this tradition. Crews must train on a weekly basis following the instructions of the skipper who is in charge of each vessel in order to be up to scratch.

All along the coastline of Malaga there are numerous associations and clubs, for both veterans and children, who keep this age-old Phoenician tradition alive. Although the jábega dates back to the Phoenicians, there are many traces that can also be identified in its shape and that correspond to other civilisations that ploughed through the waters of the Mediterranean and make it an agile, unique vessel. Its structure is made of wood and the sacred eye painted on the upper area shows the historical remains of an earlier culture, that of the Sumerians, who pioneered the first great waterways in Mesopotamia, Palestine, Apulia and the Mediterranean.

The jábega is long and narrow in shape and generally 7 to 9 metres in length. One of its most distinctive elements is its bow. It is a front end fitted to the wheel, reinforced on the sides and with a smooth S-shaped surface. What's more, this traditional seafaring boat does not have a rudder. Each rower uses a large paddle called an oar placed on one side to manoeuvre it. Normally the jábega has a crew of 10 to 12 people.

One of the most magical moments involving the jábegas is the procession of the Virgen del Carmen every 16th July. Hundreds of devotees and sailors watch every year as the virgin is embarked on one of them so that she can bless the waters of the Malaga coastline from Huelin to the El Palo neighbourhood.

The jábega is undoubtedly still one of the most important and representative icons of the city. The history and traditions of the fishing industry continue to beat in the hearts of Malaga’s people, who transmit this feeling those visiting the capital of the Costa del Sol.

Events where you can see the jábega in action

Summer is always a good time to see these vessels and all the tradition that surrounds them in action. One of the events is the provincial jábega racing league, which is usually held in late spring. Another important event is the traditional jábega regatta, which is held during the Feria de Malaga.