July 25, 2016
No, you’re in luck: I’m not about to talk about Brexit. I’ve just returned from yet another little trip back home to my most beautiful country of Malta.
Recently, I’ve been spotting a pattern when it comes to the places I usually visit every time I’m back – a swim at Wied iż-Żurrieq, lunch in Valletta, a drink with friends at The Pub, and a drive/walk in the countryside.
When it comes to the countryside, Dingli Cliffs is one of my favourite ports of call whenever I’m in Malta. When I was at University, I often drove there to sit on some rocks to study and stare out at the vastness of the sea. One of my first dates with my boyfriend (almost seven years ago!) was to see the sun set on the horizon at Dingli Cliffs (we had later also gone to see a shooting star shower in the middle of the night). It’s a special place, and its majestic views and natural beauty have always impressed me. That first sight of the sudden vast sea below you as you drive across the road on top of the cliffs? It gets me every time.
It doesn’t seem like many Maltese people visit the cliffs often – perhaps because of the thoughts of death and tragedy that lurk around these parts. However, this should not deter anyone from enjoying the absolute beauty of the area, particularly because of the natural treasures that one can find… There are all sorts of Malta-specific flora and fauna (which I might be more open to appreciating recently due to being away from Malta…), such as Mediterranean thyme (sagħtar) (which evokes the most wonderful nostalgia due to its sharp smell), Maltese everlasting, common hawthorn (żagħrun) (which, as I’ve read on the latest Air Malta Bizzilla, is said to possibly help with chronic heart failure), the blue rock thrush (merill), the chameleon, and the ocellated skink (xaħmet l-art).
Some of my most favourite things about the Dingli Cliffs, however, are the peace and quiet, the view of Filfla (another island in the Maltese archipelago, which is a natural reserve), and the annual Agricultural Fest that takes place in spring. The latter is such a treat: sheep shearing! donkey rides! fried ravioli! traditional Maltese everything! I haven’t been to this festival these past few years, so next year, I’m going to have to be sure to pencil it into my calendar to try to be in Malta on that blessed May Sunday.
Last Sunday, as I walked around the area, I found this plaque at a corner, telling me that this area is Natura 2000 site, meaning that it’s a protected area (as it should be!). No sign in Malta is capable of surviving the harsh sun, so I’m not surprised that this one is a little bit worse for wear. I can make out that EU funding was given as part of the Rural Development Programme for Malta 2007-2013 to improve the quality of life in rural areas and encourage tourism activities in these parts. As regards the latter, there have been some questionable decisions taking place, but the improvement of the promenade, for example, has been a welcome addition to the area. Nevertheless, when I compare this type of natural environment with similar places in Luxembourg (I say “similar”, but there are no cliffs by the sea in Luxembourg – I can assure you that; what I mean is natural habitats), I’m often very impressed by how many natural spots in Luxembourg can be enjoyed without harsh railings and bright angular pavements. Then again, to enable ease of access (and safety!) for people and cars in a place like Dingli Cliffs, there are few other options, so I can’t say I’m displeased.
Ultimately, this post is an ode to a place I love. This area is perfect for nature lovers, for a walk, for a first date(!) (or any date, really), and for an outing with friends. Whenever it’s warm (and not too windy), a late evening walk along the promenade as the sun is setting will cure any ailment you might have, whether it’s of the body or of the soul.
If you’re Maltese or have been to Malta, what are your favourite spots on Malta/Gozo/Comino? Do you think more can be done at Dingli Cliffs? What should the EU be spending its money on when it comes to natural treasures like this one? Is there enough transparency when it comes to how much money is spent and how it is spent?Mathew Lowry