On the outskirts of the village of Qrendi, beneath a chapel dedicated to St Matthew (more about that in a future post) is a circular depression in the ground. It is known as ‘Il-Maqluba’ which roughly translates to ‘the upside-down one’ or the ‘inside-out one’. This natural depression is said to have been formed in 1343, after a particularly severe winter, possibly accompanied by an earthquake. Il-Maqluba was formed by the collapse of the underlying limestone strata. In geological terms, this is known as a doline. The place is now a sink-hole and collects water from the surrounding fields and country-side. That is the scientific explanation of what happened.
But there is a more colourful story, of course. It is said that a small village of evil people lived right over the area where the depression is today. A pious lady who lived in the area where the chapel is now situated repeatedly warned her neighbours to change their evil ways – to no avail. As a result, God decreed that the ground beneath the village would collapse, sparing none except the good woman. Angels were then sent to dispose of the hamlet by dumping it at sea. This is said to be how the small island of Filfla, a few miles off the south-west coast of Malta, originated. I suppose that this is a case when the legend is so much more interesting than the truth.
The doline itself is 15 metres deep and has a perimeter of 300 metres. It supports a variety of trees such as bay laurel, sandarac gum, carob and hawthorne and other endemic vegetation.
Equipped with a rope and some sturdy shoes, it is possible to go down into the doline – something which I still need to do. Perhaps this winter I will try to experience Il-Maqluba from the bottom looking up, as opposed to always peering down the steep slopes at its lush green interior.
For an aerial view of il-Maqluba, go here.