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.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The New Star Of Strait Street

I walked past this fa├žade a couple of times wondering  what was inside. At first I thought it might be a new kinky boutique or some type of club or even a dance hall. It was intriguing, to say the least.

New Year's Eve in Valletta (20)-1

Then I looked up at the sign above the door (just visible in the photo above) and it explained everything. This is the new public bathroom in Strait Street. Strait Street has a very chequered history, which I will write about some other time, but for many years it was Valletta’s red light district.

New Year's Eve in Valletta (21)-1

So I thought that the newly refurbished building was quite in keeping with the street’s past – wouldn’t you agree?

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Strait Street

Valletta

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Tale Of A Solitary Stroll

I took a walk on a mild winter’s day through the winding streets of an old, old town.

St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (23)

I stopped several times on my solitary stroll next to houses that were built when the town was young.

St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (43)

And as I touched their weathered stones I wondered, as I always do, about all the lives that these walls must have sheltered.

St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (39)

I had so many questions that I wanted to ask:

If I opened this door, where would it lead?

St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (38)

Who lived in this house?

St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (20)

Who drank from this trough?

St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (42)

There are such pretty colours here – was it always like this?

St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (17)

Did people pray at the foot of this cross?

St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (15)

What children played played in this small alley-way? And where are they now?

St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (28)-1

But these buildings hold on to their secrets too well. I am left to stroll the streets with my questions as companions. Maybe next time, I whisper, you will give me a glimpse of the answers I seek. Perhaps I imagined it, but it seemed to me that the faintest of chuckles accompanied me for the rest of my walk.

St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (46)

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Believe me, I try, I  really do try not to get carried away but if I had to just recite historical  facts this blog would be too boring, don’t you think? I believe that we all need small doses of fantasy every now and then.

Tradition has it that the area I strolled through used to be a Jewish ghetto prior to their expulsion in 1492. According to an article entitled Jews of Malta on the website Beit Hatfutsot, there is no evidence to support this as the Jews here were free to mingle with the rest of the  population. Some Jewish remains have however been found in the  nearby burial site known as St  Paul’s catacombs, which makes them unique since they are Jewish catacombs within a Christian complex. So there definitely used to be a few families living in  this area in the distant past.

Photographed in the Hal-Bajjada area of Rabat.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Wild flowers of Malta: Borage

Borage (Borago officinalis) is a wild plant that is commonly found in the Maltese countryside. Between January and  May the plants are covered with tiny blue star-shaped flowers which have white and black centres. Small, stiff bristles grow on the stems and leaves. Borage was originally a native of Syria but has now spread all over the Mediterranean, North Africa, Europe and Asia Minor. Both the flowers and the leaves are edible and, in some countries, are sometimes included in salads since they have a sweet, cucumber-like taste. The flowers are sometimes candied and used to decorate cakes.

Wild flowers 002

Borage is said to have various medicinal properties and has been used to calm nerves, as a diuretic, tonic, emollient, sedative and expectorant, amongst other uses.

Wild flowers 004

Very rarely the plant may produce pink or white flowers. However, I have only seen these flowers in photos. I hope that one day I will come across them on one of my countryside walks so that I can share them with you. In truth, I find the blue-coloured flowers to be quite interesting since they  provide an interesting contrast to the more common yellows and whites of other wild flowers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

An Island At The Crossroads

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I rarely write about current events on this blog but I cannot fail to do so during this time of upheaval. After the quick shift of power in Tunisia and Egypt, the revolution in Libya is turning into a bloodbath and the winds of civil war are howling around the streets of Tripoli. With just 210 miles of deep blue sea separating us from our Libyan neighbours, Malta has become the main hub which other countries are using to rescue thousands of their workers stranded in Tripoli, Benghazi and other cities or from remote areas in the desert. To date, over 12,000 people have made it to our shores by air, ship or catamaran. Almost overnight, this little island has become a humanitarian base, acting as a stepping stone for all those that have fled Libya and now wish to continue on their journey  homewards.

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Perhaps I find it rather ironic that in times of peace Malta is so easily forgotten and dismissed as just an island which is the southern-most tip of Europe, of no importance whatsoever – and this is not far from the truth. But in times of war and crisis, the story is very different.

The Mediterranean is an ancient sea and for thousands of years the superpowers that conquered the until-then known world, rose and fell on its shores. Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Moors, Turks – their dominion has come and gone, their memory entrenched forever in our souls, their legacy still part of our daily lives. As the world focuses its eyes on North Africa, I believe that the final chapter in the history of this embattled sea still needs to be written and that the final curtain on this drama still needs to rise. Which makes me wonder what further part this island at the crossroads will have to play in the history of this oldest of seas ... but that is a story which only time can reveal.

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