Category Archives: History
After 25 years, the Labour Party is now in power and all of the hootin’ and hollerin’ has died down. I do not follow Maltese politics at all, but what people were saying was that they were ready for a change. Sounds like the US in 2008…
The only thing I know for sure is that Labour has said that they will build the new power plant and lower the electricity bills, and we will be very happy if that happens. Of course they’re going to build it right near us further deteriorating our beautiful view…but I guess you can’t have everything.
And of course I hope that the country’s economy remains stable and strong.
That’s all I know of the politics of this election.
Recently, we had a museum-hopping weekend. On Saturday, we visited The Inquisitor’s Palace which included the jail and the torture chambers (my, they were nasty people!) and The Malta Maritime Museum which is quite rich with artifacts, ship models, and actual boats. Given Malta’s strategic location in the Mediterranean, she has a very full maritime history as you can imagine.
The highlight of the weekend was the trip to Palazzo Falson on Sunday. The Palazzo is in the old walled city of Mdina which is a beautiful “silent city”. Mdina was the capital of Malta prior to the building of Valletta. As there are no cars and very little foot traffic, it has the nickname of “the silent city”. It is peaceful, quiet, and beautiful with high walls and magnificent views. It is the highest point in Malta and you can see the entire island from the walls.
The Palazzo was a private mansion owned by a collector which has been turned into a museum. The collections are vast and amazing for one single owner – art, artifacts, silver, Oriental rugs, weapons, medals, books, jewelry, he even had a very old chastity belt on display (it was appropriately included in the armory as it sure looks like a nasty weapon!). The rooms are decorated just like they were when he lived there.
We ended the day with an incredible meal in Mdina at a restaurant called Sharma – Arabian and Indian food, and a beautiful ambiance. The cuisines & restaurant décor are inspired from the ancient spice trading between India, through the Middle East leading to North Africa & the Mediterranean.
This is where different cultures influenced each other’s cuisines and customs until they became as we know them today.
The restaurant is housed in Casa Magazzini, an antique building used by the knights as stores for their ammunition. There is a large terrace with a wonderful view from the top of the bastions, this will be in operation as part of the restaurant from later on in 2012, although you can still go on the terrace now to enjoy the view.
Along with the ancient temples (see prior post dated June 4), the Maltese heritage contains another great mystery, the Cart Ruts. These are unique to the islands of Malta.
There are a number of pre-historic sites that have what appear to be parallel ruts (tracks) made by carts etched deep into the limestone, some up to two feet deep. The cart theory is weak though, as any attempt by a vehicle today to move through these tracks wouldn’t succeed as the vehicle would get stuck in the tracks. And, although all of the tracks are in sets of two, parallel to one another, they are of varying widths.
There is another theory that they were made by so called ‘slide cars’ towed by animals to transport goods. Yet, this isn’t really feasible either as dragging a slide car over the coralline limestone of the island would hardly make a scratch, much less a rut, even if it was dragged for years. However, it is possible that at the time, the hills were covered in soil, not limestone, and ruts could have been carved into soil.
It is possible that these carts were wheeled yet alternatively, they could have been built before the invention of the wheel. This is unknown as there is no way of dating them. And, they would have had to have very high axles to make ruts up to 2 feet deep.
What were these tracks made from and what were they used for? Many of them criss cross each other suggesting something like a railway junction leading experts to believe that this was some sort of transportation system.
Adding to the enigma of these tracks, many of them run off the edge of cliffs. ?? Some are even found on the sea floor.
When you come to visit us, you can see them yourself and try to unravel this mystery.
The 2 ½ weeks long Malta Arts Festival followed by 3 days of The Malta Jazz Festival were high-points for Tony and me this month which was otherwise dominated by the oppressive summer heat. Something was happening everyday including theater, art exhibitions, dance, concerts, recitals, demonstrations in dramatic composition, and master classes in performance training and movement. We attended three events—the first was a dance performance titled Old Salt: (A) Portrait of Seamen, it was like a play without words. www.rubber-bodies.com
The evening program took place outside at the Grand Harbour, with twinkling harbor lights and boats gliding slowly by adding to the ambience. Tony and I sat and watched the beautiful and haunting story of four women left behind by their men who went to sea. The dancers wore masks and costumes, and there was a fish who was a messenger, bringing the women notes from the sea. At times, the fish actually got into the water! About 15 – 20 feet above the stage was a platform which was built to resemble the skeleton of a ship—the ship’s ribs—and on it played a string quartet. It was so beautiful.
(My next post will be about the concert and jazz festival we attended so stay tuned.)
Like most everyone, Tony and I never visit the sites that are right in our own backyard, but last weekend it was so hot, daytime temperatures around 98 degrees, that we desperately sought a place to cool off. And, what better a place to cool off than an underground cave? And so we took a holiday from Tony’s work and my music and headed off to Ghar Dalam (pronounced ar dàlam) which is right in our village near the sea. Even older than the temples of Tarxien, Hagar Qim, and Mnajdra is Ghar Dalam which means Cave of Darkness. It is a cave that contains the bone remains of many small animals that became extinct on Malta at the end of the Ice Age. The museum at Ghar Dalam—actually the air –conditioned museum at Ghar Dalam, contains the bones of many of these animals, the most interesting being the pygmy elephants and dwarf hippopotami, which became extinct about 180,000 years ago—so this cave is really old, yes?
To me, the most fascinating sight in Malta is the ancient temples. They are over 7,000 years old! They are among the oldest remains of man found anywhere on earth, Cyprus being the other site with human remains of this period.
These temples look similar to the famous Stonehenge in England, with the basic structure of two very tall vertical stones with a horizontal stone across the top. Those are the doorways into the temples, with the insides shaped like small amphitheaters. However, the Maltese temples are 2,000 years older than Stonehenge so they were clearly not built by the same people. Like Stonehenge, they were built so that during the summer and winter solstices, the sun shines through the exact middle of the ‘doorway’ into the temple beyond.
How could these giant structures have been built thousands of years before there was machinery? How could the stones have even been transported to the sites? How could these stones have been lifted into place? No one knows who built these temples or where the people came from to live and worship on the tiny island of Malta. Because nothing is known about these people, the era is called The Temple Builders Era. They arrived, they built the temples, and then they disappeared. There is speculation that they could have been Phoenicians but that theory has been dismissed as the temples have been dated to at least a thousand years prior to the Phoenicians.
Isn’t it interesting that 2,000 years apart, ancient people built temples that looked the same and functioned the same astrologically in both England and Malta which are not even close to each other? Even in today’s jet age, it’s a 3 1/2 flight from Malta to England…
We have personally been to three of these temples – Tarxien (Tar-shee-en), Hagar Qim (Ha-jar-eem), and Mnadrja (Man-ay-dra). The Tarxien temples are in the middle of what is now a village. Hagar Qim and Mnadrja are within a two minute walk of each other on a hilly area right by the sea. It is a beautiful quiet spot with gentle sea breezes blowing. I wonder why they built two temples so close to each other…
I will be blogging much more about the temples and adding photos so check back often.
The Malta International Fireworks Festival is an annual event organised by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Tourism and the Malta Tourism Authority.
The Grand Harbour provides the perfect setting for this spectacular event, which takes place on April 29th and 30th. The festival includes fireworks displays designed by foreign pyrotechnic companies as well as some of the best local fireworks factories.
Everyone is invited to attend and enjoy the spectacle free of charge. The best locations for viewing the displays are Ta’ Liesse / Barriera Wharf, Valletta.
The festival also serves to commemorate Malta’s accession into the European Union that took place on 1st May 2004.Read more ›
As the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter are of a religious character, people flock to Mass in big numbers to commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.
Holy Week commences on the Friday preceding Good Friday, when the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is carried in a procession through the streets of Valletta and many other towns and villages. During this time, the Maltese flock to the churches in great numbers. On Maundy Thursday, the ‘seven visits’ take place, which are the visits to seven different churches, to pay homage to the Altars of Repose.Read more ›
Valletta, Malta’s capital and a World Heritage site, is nothing short of an open-air museum. It is a living experience of Baroque architecture, a monument donated by the Knights of St John nearly five centuries ago. Throughout the years, Valletta has welcomed emperors, heads of state, artists and poets and is now the permanent seat of the Maltese government.Read more ›