Category Archives: Maltese History

Malta: A Summer of Feasts

Maltese feasts

Summer in Malta is characterised by traditional feasts which are held every weekend. These village feasts venerating the saints are an integral part of the Maltese culture and its Catholic tradition.

The ‘festa’ is the main social event in the Maltese villages and the local patrons look forward to this once a year event. In fact the week-long celebrations are the outcome of months of hard work by volunteers to celebrate the parish patron saint. On the day of the feast the statue of the patron saint is carried around the streets and is accompanied by brass bands. The celebrations themselves include magnificent firework displays, brass band music and street life. Band music is one of the most popular traditions on the Maltese Islands. Every town and village has at least one, and usually two band clubs. Traditional festa snacks include the rich and colourful nougat.

The village feast is an opportunity for Maltese families to get together at the village square and it is also the perfect occasion for visitors to experience the Maltese village life. Two of the major Maltese feasts are the Assumption of Our Lady which is held on the 15th of August and Our Lady of Victories which is celebrated on the 8th September. Our Lady of Victories, also known as ‘il-Vitorja’, commemorates the defeat of the Turks at the end of the Great Siege of 1565. The highlight of this feast is the Regatta (boat race) held at the Grand Harbour.

Undoubtedly, the village feast remains one of Malta’s most visual cultural festivities with food stands selling traditional Maltese nougat and spectacular exhibition of fireworks. The entire village is also decorated with banners and buildings such as the band clubs are also lavishly decorated.

Visiting Malta this Summer? Feel free to contact our Concierge Team to find out which feast will be taking place during your holidays in Malta. The Grand Hotel Excelsior also offers private chauffeur driven service to various locations around Malta and Gozo.

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Azure Window: A Natural Wonder Lost

Azure Window Gozo 1970

The Azure Window way back in the 1970s

The Azure Window (Maltese: Tieqa tad-Dwejra or Tieqa Zerqa) was a limestone natural arch on the Maltese island of Gozo. It was situated near Dwejra Bay on the Inland Sea. The formation, which was created after two limestone sea caves collapsed, was a very popular site amongst scuba divers.

azure window 2017

The current site of the former Azure Window

In March 2017, the arch collapsed after a heavy storm. The natural monument was considered as the most known landmark in the Republic of Malta. The collapse of the window was expected and the incident was a consequence of the weakening of the pillar. The Azure Window was made of a Maltese limestone known as Globigerina Limestone which is the second oldest rock found on the islands covering almost 70% of its area. The rock, which is subject to erosion, gives Malta its distinctive coast and interior. Thickness of the limestone ranges from 23 m (75 ft) near Fort Chambray on Gozo up to 207 m (679 ft) around Marsaxlokk on Malta. The 28 m (92 ft) high arch consists of yellow to pale-grey limestone comprising the remains of the marine organism globigerinid foraminifera. The arch had been disintegrating as evidenced by large pieces of rock which had begun to fall from the underside of the arch. The rate of collapse had suggested that the arch would completely disintegrate within a few years. Its dangerous condition led to warning notices being placed along the cliffs to stop people walking over the top of the arch.

In April 2012 a large chunk of rock was dislocated and resulted in the opening of the window being made larger but also more unstable. It also had resulted in a reduction of its previously nearly perfect oblong shape. The window fully collapsed on 8 March 2017 after pillar collapsed, pulling the arch top with it. Following the collapse, only a stub of what used to be part of the stack that supported the roof of the window was left.

If you are planning your next holiday to Malta please feel free to contact the Concierge Team at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Malta who will surely guide you and suggest some great places to visit during your stay.

Photos credit: Bay Retro & Joseph Caruana

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Visit Malta: Majjistral Natural & History Park

Hedgehog

The Majjistral Natural & History Park is located in the Northwest part of Malta, extending from Golden Bay to Popeye Village, or Anchor Bay. Majjistral Park is the only natural park in Malta and it includes coastal cliffs and a rich ecological and rural heritage.

The park contains a diverse of habitats that include: clay slopes, boulder screes, maritime and clifftop garigue, agricultural land, a sandy beach and an associated dune. Native trees, shrubs and smaller plants are being planted and taken care of in the area after it was cleared of rubbish. In Majjistral, you can also find cart-ruts, rubble walls, farmhouses, tombs dating back to the Classical period, caves and a number of ‘giren’ that were used by hunters for storage and shelter. You can explore remains of British military architecture, dating to the early 20th century, amongst which is a military shooting range.

Girna

Majjistral Park was declared a National Park in 2007 and since then over 1300 plants were planted including olives, Evergreen oak, Carob, Myrtle, Golden Samphire and more. There are around 430 different species of plants in the park, including some very extreme species and other plants endemic to Malta – such as Maltese Spurge, Maltese Sea Chamomile, Maltese Pyramical Orchid and the Maltese Sea Lavender. The park is also home to 9 bird species known to breed there and several migratory species who visit. You can also come across different reptiles and mammals such as hedgehogs, various bat species, weasels and wild rabbits. The area is mostly composed of Blue Clay, the rock layer sandwiched between the Globigerina limestone and the Upper Coralline Limestone. Being one of the softer rocks, clay erodes easily with the action of the elements, collapsing limestone structures and leaving a stretch of scattered boulders. Erosion created the sandy beaches of Fomm ir-Rih, Gnejna, Ghajn Tuffieha, Golden Bay and Paradise Bay. The relative inaccessibility of these beaches makes them less frequented and they remain amongst the most pristine and picturesque bays of the island. The amazing landscape at Majjistral Natural Park
attracts several trekkers during autumn, winter and spring.

You can explore the site at your own leisure or join guided nature walks held every Sunday from October to May, subject to a minimum participation. You can book your walk by sending an email to walks@majjistral.org.

Find out what’s happening in Malta by contacting the Concierge Desk at this luxury 5 star hotel and they will definitely give you some great tips on Where to Go and What to Do during your next holiday to Malta.

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