Think of it as the Maltese version of 'Je ne said quoi'
Anyone who has ever visited Malta can attest to its discernible charm. Conquered, sieged and pillaged, people have battled over this prime piece of Mediterranean land for centuries. However, what is it about Malta that makes this small island nation so desirable?
Having visited recently for the first time, I discovered the answer. Besides the balmy temperature and the beautiful coastal views, Malta is boundless in terms of its cultural identity. Think of it as the Maltese version of ‘Je ne said quoi’; an intangible essence or quality, if you will, that is impossible to replicate outside its place of existence.
Here, unlike any other Mediterranean country, an intriguing blend of elements fuse together to form a character that is both boldly unique and undoubtedly Maltese.
Breaking down these core elements into a recipe of essential ingredients, here is an ad-hoc mélange that we feel carefully formulates Malta’s multifaceted charm, and at the same time rather conveniently reveals some top attractions and things to do in Malta.
A Pinch of Passion…
To begin this recipe you must add a pinch of passion. This shouldn’t be a problem since Malta isn’t in short supply of the stuff. Here, passion is inherent in daily life; an attitude and mantra. This is somewhere you will witness passionate spectacles from the streets to the skies whether it’s displays of zealous driving (horn-honking and overtaking aplenty), or ardent religious declarations. The type is irrelevant as for the Maltese people the fiery spark of passion is always ignited.
Spot to Source: To source this particular ingredient, head to the Marsaxlokk fish market on the South of the island. The bustling atmosphere, chaotic trading and protruding elbows here alone will provide you with more than enough passion.
A Dash of Pride…
Next stir in a generous helping of gelatinous pride. Not the bitter-tasting conceited type, but rather, a healthy dollop of the confident kind. Far from being a shameful factor, in Malta pride is a fruitful ingredient. Here is a country whose patriotism and self-sufficiency is so far ingrained that Maltese culture reigns supreme. Whether that be a road-side farmers’ market selling local and organic produce (as well as a ‘live-off-the-land’ type attitude), or, a small ramshackle shop reviving resident craft traditions, cultural awareness is everywhere.
Spot to Source: To scour out some pride, visit Malta’s Mosta Rotunda. Home to the third largest unsupported dome structure in the world, this beloved church was built entirely by the Maltese people, for the Maltese people (with no governmental support). Lashings of faith and pride to be found there…
A Splash of History…
To add some weight to your frothy mixture, beat in a splash of turbulent history. Bombarded with sieges, battles, inquisitions and, of course, the Order of St John, Malta is no stranger to its past. No other island can claim such a rich and varied history where foreign rule became almost the norm. Far from denying this eclectic heritage, however, evidence of it can be found all around the island.
Spot to Source: Search for history anywhere around Malta. Find it in the crumbling fortifications, battlements and noble palaces; scour for it amongst the red pillar post-boxes and old English Leyland buses or, alternatively, head to the Mdina and Citadella- Malta’s most carefully preserved medieval cities.
A Sprinkling of Religion…
If passion, pride and history form the basis of your Maltese mixture, then religion is the sugary-sweet ingredient that holds it all together. With more churches than there are days in the year, religion is the essential core of Malta. A predominantly Catholic country, religious icons, wooden rosaries and Virginal dedications can be found here in the hundreds. Not just a display of devotion, however, but a social gathering for all the community, Sunday mass is well attended by young and old. Here’s a place where the church bells cry-out and people listen.
A Touch of Tradition…
For the penultimate ingredient, crumble in a touch of tradition. The heart and soul of this salubrious mixture, longstanding traditions are simply a rite of passage in Malta. This is a place where local businesses are co-owned by couples and passed-down through family trees; where traditional Luzzu boats are used by contemporary fishermen, and where band clubs (political & musical) are still in existence.
A Smattering of Mystery
Now this is the secret ingredient, so listen carefully. It can’t be begged, borrowed, sourced or stolen. The final element essential to completing your mixture is….the mysterious spirit of Malta. A rare and ethereal essence that is barely tangible to the human eye and can only be experienced first-hand. To get your hands on this illustrious ingredient, therefore, you’ll just have to go to Malta yourself…
Main image by Shepard4711
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