Ancient Egyptian Boats : Feluccas

Ancient Egyptian Boats : Feluccas
Page content


After taking a look at various types of ancient boats such as bark boats, dugouts etc, let us learn about feluccas. Feluccas are ancient Egyptian sail boats that were used in the ancient times as a primary mode of transportation. Still used mostly in the protected waters of Red sea and eastern Mediterranean, Feluccas are considered an important transportation medium in Egypt’s Nile

Egyptians, who invented this boat, are supposed to be known as the first ones to make major advances in ship building in the ancient time. Before the invention of Feluccas, the Egyptians used simple reed boats that soon became obsolete because of their non reliability and limited usage.


The Egyptian people learned that they can make bigger and better ships by constructing a framework using wooden planks. As large wooden trees were hard to find at that time, Egyptians constructed the vessels by lashing together thousands of small wooden planks using ropes made of grass or other similar natural fibers.

However, there is no strong evidence as to how the earliest feluccas were built. Some of the experts believe that Egyptian people might have first covered a normal reed boat with a tarred cloth, arranged wooden planks on it to make a framework and then removed the reeds afterwards or they might have first built a temporary outer structure and then put an internal wooden framework on a normal canoe or similar wooden boat. Whatever way the boat was made, one thing was sure that Feluccas were the most spectacular piece of engineering at that time. Within, few years, boats as long as 30 meters were being made and used.

Boats with a wooden hull, Feluccas had triangular shaped sails which were known as lateens. The sails were put on wooden masts that were strategically located to make the best out of the blowing winds. As feluccas depended totally on wind they didn’t have any other mode of propulsion, however, when needed oars were used to power them.

Feluccas are still used on Egypt’s Nile cruises for providing relaxing rides or sight seeing to tourists. The modern feluccas are also totally dependent on wind and thus are not facilitated with any kind of engine or propulsion system. However, not many feluccas are still made out of wood. To keep the traditional feel alive, the modern feluccas have the same layout as of the traditional boats but there is no keel, instead a heavy steel plate is provided at the center. The sails are still made out of local cotton and other natural fibers. A modern felucca, just like the traditional ones, can accommodate around ten to fifteen people on-board, including the crew members.


Image Credits