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, January 31, 2013

The Valletta Indoor Market (Is-Suq tal-Belt)

Valletta on a Sunday (7)

I was saddened to read Sherry Ott’s article about Valletta’s indoor market on We Blog The World. The author’s conclusion that “the (market) culture is dead” may, at face value, appear to be correct. But the author, a traveller who was probably here for not more than a couple of weeks, probably did not have the time to delve a bit deeper into this issue; into why this happened.

Valletta on a Sunday (8)

In truth, for many years, Valletta did have a thriving market. I remember going to the Valletta market in the mid-70s when the place was a bee-hive of activity. Fishmongers, vegetable sellers, butchers and grocers proudly displayed their wares, advertising them at the top of their lungs. The noise and the intermingled smell of raw fish and meat were over-powering. But is was an organised type of chaos. This was the Valletta market in its heyday – a places of smells, yells and bustling humanity.

In 1982, the government of the day took a decision to relocate the market to Floriana (it always makes sense to transfer a thriving market to a different town and expect loyal customers to follow). The Suq tal-Belt was hastily refurbished and an enterprise called ‘Ixtri Malti"’ (Purchase Maltese Products) was born. The project was doomed from the start, especially since most of the items on sale would have felt right at home in Soviet Russia, Mao’s China or Gaddafi’s Libya. One by one, the shops closed down and the building’s gates were padlocked for a number of years.

Valletta on a Sunday (9)

In the late 80s the market returned to Valletta and, although no longer quite as busy as it used to be, started to re-attract customers. Unfortunately, the fact that people had got used to shopping elsewhere, coupled with the dwindling and ageing population of Valletta, ensured that its death  knell had been rung.

Today, it is a mere shadow of what it used to me. It feels like one of those abandoned town in the American Wild West – the signs are still hanging, the infrastructure is in place, but the only footsteps that echo down the empty hallways are the ghostly echoes of times past.

What about its future? There is talk of turning it into a museum of contemporary art or into an arts and crafts market. Both ideas could work, given the necessary financing and restooration that needs to take place. Personally, I would like this building to be returned to its roots. It could so easily be a thriving place once again like Firenze’s Mercato Centrale.   Market stalls, craft booths, a couple of florists, maybe a few specialty stores and small outlets selling street food. I am sure it would not take that much effort to breathe some life into the place. As long as it is not a half-hearted effort and is imaginatively done, it will work.

Valletta on a Sunday (10)-001

Is-Suq tal-Belt (Valletta Indoor Market), Merchants’ Street, Valletta

November 2012

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Snapshots of … Bahrija Valley

Bahrija Valley is an unspoilt natural area situated beneath the quiet village of Bahrija (which means moth). The place makes for a very pleasant walk, especially in Spring, and it one of the few places in Malta where you may catch a glimpse of the elusive freshwater crab. The valley itself has a healthy population of wild plants  and flowers and also stretches of farming land.

Bahrija 27.02.10 (7)Bahrija 27.02.10 (18)Bahrija Valley (3)Bahrija Valley (5)Bahrija Valley (11)Bahrija Valley (13)Bahrija Valley (15)Bahrija Valley (34)

Feb3

At its far end the valley starts to rise towards the cliffs which plunge down to the sea beneath.

Bahrija Valley (38)Bahrija Valley (50)

This is a truly wonderful place for a walk in peaceful surroundings.

Monday, January 14, 2013

In Praise Of An Island

I have often wondered what a visitor from New York would think of Malta. Why New York, you might ask? Well, because for many Maltese, NY is the quintessential American city: it is fast, crowded, and vibrant and as different from Malta as the sun is from the moon. So when I came across Michael Jurick’s article Magnificent Malta, posted on his blog in August 2012, I started to read it with some trepidation. But this renowned NY-based photographer had nothing but praise to shower on Malta and Gozo. Sometimes it is like a breath of fresh air to see these islands through the eyes of an outsider. Because, let’s face it, living here and seeing the same buildings and the same scenery day in, day out tends to make most people a bit jaded – myself included. But Michael Jurick’s stunning captures of the little ordinary things that we walk past so casually every day are a testimony that these islands are still able to enchant and enthrall.

Jurick’s article attracted comments from over 300 readers and went viral soon after it was published. I stumbled across it a few days ago, quite by chance, but I am so glad that I did. Malta, of course, is not without its faults. I live here and I could point out many. Life here is what it is. There are times when it can get strangely overwhelming to exist within such small boundaries. But there is one thing that I do know: that wherever this life may take me and wherever I will roam, my heart will forever be tied to the sun-drenched shores of this little land.

First Swim of the Year (22)

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