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Mdina & Rabat

Mdina & Rabat

Mdina - the old capital


Mdina is the old capital city of Malta and lies on the south-western part of the island. You could say only a little bit in the outback. Beside it is Rabat. The population of Mdina is around 400 people. It is quite impossible that the population can increase, because the whole city resembles more a castle or fort then a city. The city lies 190mtrs above sea level (that’s quite high for Maltese landscape) and is surrounded with slopes on three sides. The city has almost the form of a square and is very strong fortified.

History of the city:
The city was mainly influenced by the Romans and Arabs. However it’s proven that its roots reach back to the Punic times. The Romans built the first fortifications, which were constructed more far around the city then they are today. When the Arabs ruled the city they minimized the fortifications on a smaller surface so to increase the defense power. They built new fortifications and the ditch. The Normann ‘Herzog Roger‘ conquered Mdina in 1090. He then built a cathedral and introduced the European feudal system, which founded the Maltese nobility. When the city could sustain an attack from the Turkish Arabian, it got the name ‘citta notabile‘ (1422) from Alfonso of Aragon. In 1530 the Knights of St. John arrived in Malta and the city lost its important significance and was more and more forgotten. The knights gave their attention to more important strategically points on the island, as for example the Grand Harbor. When Valletta, the new capital, was finally constructed in 1571 after the Great Siege of the Turkish - Mdina was totally forgotten. An earthquake destroyed many building on the island in 1693 - also in Mdina. However the knights helped to rebuild these. A black spot in the history is the visit of Napoleon, who stopped in Malta on his campaign to Egypt (1798). He despoiled and looted most of the treasures which where treasured up during the time of the knights to refill his war chest. He also expelled the knights from the island - they moved to St. Petersburg in Russia and later in Sicily where in a short span of time the order died out. After the French came the English. The Maltese agreed since the English helped to get rid of the French and hoped to get a stable economy and politics. During that period of time the city of Mdina was totally forgotten and got the name: the silent city. Only during the last century when tourism started to play an important role for Malta, the city revived to new life. Today the city is everything else but not silent.
There is a lot to see in Mdina; however the area where everything is located is very small. The city occupies 350 x 350 meters and forms almost a square. The city can be accessed through three gates: Gharreqin Gate, Greek Gate and Main Gate. The main gate is the nicest. The Greek Gate is mainly used by cars and the Gharreqin Gate is not really a gate but a side entrance. The city consists of many small alleys and the houses are pressed tight together - that should help against the strong solar radiation. Only the inhabitants of the city and deliveries are allowed to enter the city by car.
One will have a wonderful view, especially over the northern part of the island, if one stands on the terrace ‘Pjazza Tas-Sur‘ (lies on the north-western edge of the city). A nice cafe with an even nicer terrace and a much nicer view over Malta lies on the northern side of the city. The name of the cafe is FONTANELLA tea garden. You have to try the chocolate-cake - it is said that it is the best one in whole Malta. You also should have a look into the cathedral of St. Peter and Paul. There are nice frescos, statues and paintings. In front of the church there is the square: Pjazza San Pawl. The square is surrounded by old buildings and two old cannons are also present.

Rabat


Rabat lies close to Mdina. The city doesn’t offer as much as Mdina, however it is also worth a visit. In city are some traditional handwork shops. Nameable is also the church San Paul and Paulus as well as the Sant‘Agatha Catacombs.

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Vittoriosa (Birgu)

Vittoriosa (Birgu) is probably the nicest of the three peninsulas southwards of Valletta. The city was the first settlement around this area. When the Knights of St. John arrived in Malta in 1530 they set up camp in Vittoriosa and started to upgrade the fortifications, including the Fort St. Angelo. After the Great Siege of 1565 they moved to Valletta. Birgu has nowadays a population of 3000 and the fortifications are as impressive as those of Valletta. Behind every corner you can discover something new. The best way to enter the city is through the ‘Couvre Porte’ which was restored in 2002. Above is a modern gate which breaks through the fortification of the ‘Poste de Provence’ and is used as a road for cars.

Worth seeing in Gozo

Gozo has something to offer which Malta does not have. For example on one hand the Azure Window, a naturally formed arch on the coast. On the other hand the capital Victoria with the small romantic lanes and the large bastions, from which one has an excellent view of the whole of Gozo and parts of Malta and Comino. Then there is the beautiful beach, the Ramla Bay, and the historical temples of Ggantija. In addition the flair of the island and the inhabitants is a completely different one than in Malta.

San Gwann

San Gwann is a calm residential area. It lies central on the east-coast of Malta and is sourounded by Swieqi in the north, St. Julians, Sliema and Gzira in the east and Msida and Birkirkara in the south. Westwards are fields and Naxxar. The main road of Malta passes directly at San Gwann. What to see in San Gwann? In San Gwann is nothing exceptional to see. It‘s just a calm residential area.




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