WELCOME

This blog is dedicated to Malta - my island home. My aim is not to bore you with history but to share my thoughts and a few facts together with a photo or two. For a more in -depth background of the island please go here. The purpose of this blog is not to point out the short-comings of the island. There are plenty that do that already. My wish is to show you the beauty of an island at the cross roads of the Mediterranean, a melting pot of history; a place where fact and fiction are sometimes fused to create unique myths and legends; a country that has been conquered so many times that our culture is a mish mesh of the lands that surround us and of lands far away. I confess that my greatest desire is to make you fall in love with this tiny enchanting island.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Pink Persian

No matter how many times I’ve wandered though the streets of our capital city, it seems that Valletta never ceases to surprise me. Sometimes I wonder if my eyes have just been opened to the wonder of it all. This pink shop front literally made me stop dead in my tracks. I had passed this way many times before. Was it  really possible that I could have missed such a whimsically painted store all those other times?

Valletta (36)

But now my curiosity is even more piqued. What went on behind that pink facade? Maybe it used to be a restaurant. Or a dance hall. Or possibly a store selling belly-dancing costumes. If only I could find a clue … but this city guards its secrets too well. I will just continue to wonder while looking forward to the next closely guarded secret that Valletta will reveal.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Malta!

Today, September 21, Malta celebrates its  independence. After thousands of years of foreign rule, the island was granted  independence from Great Britain in 1964. For hundreds of years, Malta’s strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean made it a coveted prize to whatever super-power was dominant at the time. Our shores have seen battles and bloodshed. Our magnificent harbour could tell a thousand tales of the skeletal remnants of ships that lie slumbering beneath its surface.

Valletta at Twilight (5) 

Grand Harbour at twilight

Valletta at Twilight (6)

But the wheel has turned and times have changed. The past belongs to history and what the future holds is still unknown. Hopefully,  these islands will continue to play a part in world history and Malta will continue to celebrate many more birthdays in the future.

flag Photo source

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Waterspout

September is here and with it come the first storms. There is always a feeling of exhilaration in the air as the hot summer days unwillingly bow out and let the cooler days of autumn take their place. Storms at this time of year can be quite spectacular – with lots of heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Today, the northern part of the island got to witness a natural phenomenon which occurs every now and then – a waterspout.

Photo by Joe Attard

Photo source

Unfortunately, I did not take this picture. I did not even see the waterspout. What am I talking about? We did not even get one drop of rain at my workplace in the southern part of the island. I am quite envious of people who managed to get a photo of it. Oh well … maybe next time.

Some more photos here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ruby Tuesday: A Most Unlikely Pear

 

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Perhaps you have seen them before. Perhaps you may have even eaten them. But there may be some among you who have never set eyes on these curious fruits. They go by the name of prickly pears. And prickly they certainly are. But pears? That they are not.

 

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The prickly pear is the fruit of a cactus known as Opuntia ficus-india which was introduced to the Mediterranean from the Americas. It grows liberally here and even with no care at all, these cacti are usually laden with fruit at this time of year.

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The fruit comes in three distinct colours: white, yellowish-orange and red. Once the firm, prickly skin is removed, the fleshy fruit can be eaten. Most prickly pears are very sweet and have a very characteristic taste. Here in Malta a liqueur called Bajtra (pronounced Baytra) is made from the fruit.

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I thought the red colour of these fruit would make an appropriate entry for this week’s Ruby Tuesday.

RubyTuesdaybadgebydriller[1]

If you are interested in seeing other posts featuring the colour red, please visit  Mary at Work of the Poet.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wayside Chapels (3) – St Agatha’s Chapel

A simple facade – totally unassuming and easily missed amongst the more ostentatious palaces and houses of the old capital.

 Rabat & Mdina (22)

A clean, uncluttered interior; for the most part unadorned – virginal, almost, like the saint it is dedicated to.

 Rabat & Mdina (20)

And as the eyes get used to the dimness they are drawn, by coincidence or by design, to the only source of light pouring down from the sky above.

 Rabat & Mdina (21)

In the silent sanctuary prayers are fervently whispered and comfort is taken in the certain knowledge that they will be heard ….

 

A chapel to St Agatha was first built on this site in Mdina in 1410 by the nobleman Francesco Gatt and his wife Donna Paola Castelli. The original building was destroyed during a major earthquake that shook the island in 1693. The current chapel, also dedicated to St Agatha, was built in 1694 and was designed by renowned Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa who was also responsible for the design of the cathedral of Mdina. Grand Master Wignacourt was present for the opening of this chapel in 1696.

Saint Agatha is one of the patron saints of the island together with Saint Paul and Saint Publius. There is a common belief here that Agatha escaped from her native Sicily because she was being persecuted for being a Christian and that she found refuge in Malta for a number of years. When she returned back to her homeland she was martyred by having both her breasts cut off.

When the Turks attacked the island in 1551 it is said that a nun had a vision in which Saint Agatha told her that the people of Mdina needed to take an image of her and all the soldiers and civilians were to carry it in a procession and place it on the bastions facing the enemy. The  Turks are said to have been so impressed by the sheer number of defenders that they left the island and attacked the sister island of Gozo instead – carrying away the majority of the population into slavery. Fact or fiction? What is certainly true is that the Turks did try to attack Malta in 1551 and, for some reason, turned away and attacked Gozo, decimating the population. The rest could be a unique mixture of fact and fiction that is so essential for the birth of legends.

In the past the chapel of St Agatha was only open on February 5th – the feast day of the saint – but in recent years, the chapel has been restored and is now open to the public on a regular basis.

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