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Malta. Easter 2006

Fitz Family Rule
When it comes to family holidays, we never return to the same place.
The dangers of letting Fitz book a family holiday
"We're going where?
Malta, why Malta, we were only there a couple of years ago?
Oh you know, it's just a nice place for a holiday and it was cheap.
What you mean is, it's got lots of those old stones and things that you like to look at.
I s'pose it has. I never really thought about it.
Fitz Personal Rule.
Rules are for fools.

12th April
Valletta. The National Museum of Archaeology

For a month prior to the leaving for Malta I had exchanged numerous e-mails with the people from Heritage Malta to try and make an appointment to visit the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. Unfortunately every date and time I had requested was fully booked and the only appointment they could give me was for three weeks after I had left the islands.
My plan was to go to Valletta and visit the national Museum of Archaeology and see if I could beg an appointment or perhaps pick up a cancellation. Unfortunately my plans came to nothing. There were no appointments left, so that was that. I can't say that I was too deeply disappointed. I have visited the Hypogeum on a number of occasions and what the hell, there was still plenty more to see starting with the museum itself.

The Museum is housed in the beautiful Auberge de Provence on Valetta's Triq Ir-Repubblika, it's a doddle to find with its façade decked with large banners proclaiming it's presence. The Museum is currently being refurbished and when I visited only the bottom and top floors were open. The bottom floor is breathtaking. It is packed full of just about every thing you've read about prehistoric Malta, carved stones, altars, stone balls, Goddess figures, model temples, it's all here.

Non- flash photography is permitted in the museum, unfortunately because I've never really learned how to use my camera so most of my photographs came out blurred.
I would recommend that you check out the museum shop and buy a copy of David Trumps 'Malta Prehistory and Temples', it's a cracking book.

Trump has been involved in the study of Maltese prehistory since 1954, his book is up to date and as a guide book it is just about all you need to guide you around the prehistoric sites of Malta and Gozo.
All in all and in its current state, the museum may be a bit of a disappointment to you with only the two floors open but I'm sure that once the whole building is open it will be an absolutely marvellous place and Valleta is a wonderful city, it's small, friendly and beautiful to look at.
13th April Maundy Thursday
I'd planned an early start today, get out of the house before the family get out of bed and return in time for an early lunch.
Ok, confession time, I'm not a very good driver, there I said it. Blokes are all supposed to be naturally good drivers but I'm not, my brain is wired to look out of the window, I'm a passenger at heart. I'm far more interested in what's going on in the landscape around me than in keeping an eye on other road users. So it was with some trepidation that I drove out onto the Maltese roads.
Maltese drivers have a poor reputation but truth be told are pretty much the same as drivers anywhere else. They beep their horns a lot and like to overtake on both sides of you but apart from that there's not a lot to worry about. The roads are a different matter. Malta has some lovely roads, it also has some terrible roads, many of it's roads are a mixture of both. For example, I drove down one particular road that advertised itself as a by-pass around Mdina and Rabat, this road was a beautiful two-lane pristine blacktop. So there's me tootling along admiring the view when all of a sudden, SHITE! Where's the fucking road gone? In front of me was a row of concrete bollards and a farm track , the road had just….. finished!.
I love stuff like that, it typifies Malta. I wish I'd taken a photograph.
So back to Maundy Thursday.
Buggibba was to be my first temple site. I chose it because this was to be my first solo outing, the site was only a ten to fifteen minute drive from where I was staying and if I crashed the car I figured that I had enough cash for a taxi ride home.
Buggibba/Quara is a typical Mediterranean tourist town. It has developed in a strip along the sea shore overlooking St Pauls Bay. The temple is in the grounds of a hotel called the New Dolmen. I drove up and down the seafront looking for this hotel but was unable to find it. I eventually parked the car and walked along the sea front.
The hotel faces the sea but doesn't open out onto the shoreside road, its quite easy to find, just look for the biggest, ugliest hotel on the strip, and then march on in through the glass, marble and gold foyer, through the bar and out onto a patio area where you'll find all of the usual suspects laying around the pool on their sunbeds oblivious to the Megalithic wonder in their midst.
The temple has been incorporated into the hotel grounds and on the day I visited it was being used as a sanctuary/hangout for teenagers escaping from their over-oiled, overweight, g-string be-decked parents.

The uprights and lintel of the temple entrance are present and give the temple an air of authenticity, but apart from that there are a number of low walls and a few large stones but it is difficult to visualise what the original structure must have looked like from these meagre remains.

It's worth thinking about the closeness of the sea and the role it may have played in the choice of site for the temple builders. The sea is only a couple of dozen yards away from the temple. This part of the bay forms a natural harbour within a harbour. The view to the North West is interesting as it looks over to Saint Paul's island and the coast beyond.

This may be significant to the location of the temple when you consider that the wonderful temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra also overlook an island. However the temple entrance is orientated to face inland (south-south-west). This view is completely obscured by the hotel and town.
Another indicator that the sea may be linked to this temple is the lintel stone, that was discovered during the excavation of the temple, with carved fish along it.

This stone is now in the museum in the Archaeological Museum in Valletta.

The drive to Buggibba had assured me that driving in Malta shouldn't be too much of a problem so I decided to press on.
I'd been to the New Dolmen hotel and found a temple, I now felt the occasion called for a genuine dolmen. It was only recently that I found out that dolmen existed on Malta so I was quite keen to have a look at one.
My dolmen of choice was Ta Hammut unfortunately I couldn't find it. In my defence, Trumps description is rather vague and he describes it as one of the smallest dolmen. The other thing that put me off venturing too far from the path was the almost constant sound of shotgun fire.
However, I was not going to let this put me off finding a dolmen so my next choice was Wied Filep. Trump describes Wied Filep as "the most accessible" and as having "one of the biggest capstones" accessible and biggest, yeh, my kind of words.
Trump doesn't lie when he states that Weid Filep is accessible, it's right beside the road, trouble is you have to find the road. I spent a good part of half an hour driving in and around Mosta before I found the Dolmens. My tip is this, find the wadi on the outskirts of Mosta and head east along the road that parallels the steep valley. Take a look over your left shoulder and you should see a fort on the opposite hillside. Now wind your window down and listen. You should be able to hear the sound of dogs barking. So if you can see the sea, the fort and the wadi and hear the dogs then you are 'in the zone'. Incidentally the noise of the dogs barking is coming from the fort which is the Maltese police dog pound.
The dolmen are situated on the edge of Mosta and can be found on a raised limestone platform beside the road. The monuments have been walled-in presumably to protect them.

There are two dolmen , they are both sat on the same limestone exposure and it is possible to see how the stone has been quarried from behind the dolmen to create the large capstones. Trump states that the largest of the pair is 3.8m from end to end.

As impressive as the dolmen are it's the setting that grabbed me. The dolmen are sat on a hillside overlooking a wadi with the beautiful Mediterranean Sea in the distance. A modern addition to this view is a huge limestone quarry, I guess some people could see this as an abomination but for me it's just another sign of continuity of the use of the beautiful Maltese limestone. Only the scale has changed.

fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
6th May 2006ce
Edited 7th May 2006ce

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