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Spotlighting Mdina

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

Two years ago a group of friends and I decided to holiday on the island of Malta. We stayed in an Airbnb hosted flat in a town called Mellieha, situated on the northern part of the main island, near the Popeye village. Mellieha is a beautiful town in and of itself, with an impressive twin spired cathedral, rolling landscapes, green areas, winding roads and a nearby seaside area. Our flat looked directly towards the cathedral which was lit up at night in soft orange hues; the sunsets were absolutely stunning.

However, that is not what I want to talk about in this blog. Instead I want to talk about the medieval fortress city of Mdina, located a little further inland but still on the northern part of the island. Of all the places we visited in Malta, Mdina is the one that impressed me the most. The town stands on a hill and so has a commanding view of the surrounding countryside and towns. As I understand it, Mdina was established in the 8th century AD and was the capital of Malta throughout the Middle Ages and right up to 1530 when the town was taken over by the Order of St. John. Being somewhat of a history scholar I couldn't pass up the opportunity of visiting it.

The taxi dropped me off in a small garden area just outside the city walls called Howard Gardens. It was a beautiful sunny Spring morning with clear blue skies; perfect for a walking tour of the city. I had no map, no itinerary and no clear indication of what I wanted to see and do. I would walk the streets and let them do the talking for me. So I set off in the direction of the Mdina Gate, which is the main entrance into the city. However, instead of walking through it, I decided to walk the perimeter of the walls first. Mighty impressive they were. Below me I could see a strip of manicured lawn that also followed the walls around. I didn't know it then, but I have come to learn that this is called the II-Foss tal-Imdina Garden.

Now the thing about walking around the walls is that you can't do a completely 360 degree tour around the city. At some point I doubled back towards the Mdina Gate and began my walking tour of the city proper. I walked up and down narrow, cobbled paths, past church buildings, up stone steps, through large wooden doors, arched doorways, tunnels, areas filled with people and even cars (I believe Mdina is still a working city and and people still live there). By a happy coincidence I was able to see a young couple get married in Mdina Cathedral, onlookers and wedding guests spilling out into the large, rectangular plaza directly in front. The cathedral itself is a large, Baroque style building, very beautiful and very impressive. Finally I was able to climb to one of the highest spots within the city and look out at the surrounding area. The town commands such an impressive view of the surrounding areas that one can easily see why it was once the capital of Malta; from the city walls one can see an enemy force approaching from miles away.

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