Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Malta Day 3

Today Maree and I caught the bus to see the Cave of the Ancestors, the first sacred site Ghar Dalam Cave and Museum.

In Birżebbuġa , Għar Dalam (aar-da-lam; the name means 'cave of darkness') is a 145m-long cave in the Lower Coralline Limestone. It has yielded a magnificent harvest of fossil bones and teeth. The lowermost layers of the cavern, over 500,000 years old, yielded remains belonging to dwarf elephants, hippopotamuses, micro-mammals and birds. The animals are all of European type, suggesting that Malta was once joined to Italy, but not to northern Africa. It's also where the first signs of human habitation on Malta, some 7400 years ago, have been discovered, with remains including pottery dating back to 5200BC and Neanderthal teeth found in the top layer.

In the museum are display cases mounted with thousands and thousands of bones and teeth. Beyond the museum a path leads down through gardens to the mouth of the cave, where a walkway leads 50m into the cavern. A pillar of sediment has been left in the middle of the excavated floor to show the stratigraphic sequence.

The history of the cave and that of the Islands can be decoded from Għar Dalam’s stratigraphy. The lowermost layers, more than 500,000 years old, contained the fossil bones of dwarf elephants, hippopotami, micro-mammals and birds among other species. This layer is topped by a pebble layer, and on top of it there is the so-called ‘deer’ layer, dated to around 18,000 years ago. The top layer, or ‘cultural layer’, dates less than 10,000 years and holds evidence of the first humans on the Island.

We then waited about 1 hour to catch a bus to some local markets however it never came and we decided to catch the bus back to Valetta which was also not running as sign posted and we discovered that there was a greater reason for these delays as we meet the couple who owned the property that the fire ceremony was held on in Glastonbury. Although they themselves were in Malta we enjoyed the beauty of the setting sun and the rising of the moon from their property over the Tor, such a special night. The lady is an independent publisher in Avalon and we chatted with her for about 1 hour about all things Glastonbury etc. This was meant to be as they say!!!!

We then caught the bus back to Valetta and enjoyed our lunch before going on a two harbour cruise and this is where we got a true prospective of how large this fortified city is, such a joy to float along and admire the architecture and glory of Valetta, the three cities, Sliema. When in the Great Harbour we saw how extensive the ship building industry is here, so close to the Sewers Canal, they have 6 dry docks for enormous cargo vessels and at present there are even three oil rigs being repaired here, their structures are so large when you see them up close. Interestingly there was an article on TV last night about the Egyptians opening in record time of 1 year a second canal beside the original Sewers Canal to allow two way traffic to pass, increasing the amount of ships that can travel this vital waterway.

The extent and the height of the fortification around Valetta is something to behold, the time and the effort required to build it would have been something else.

The views of the hospital we visited with the long wards from the sea.

Due to the height and extent of the fortification they have built this lift to get people up to the city.

Some of the oil rigs being repaired in the harbour.

Large passenger cruise ships dock here overnight for a day tour of Valetta before heading back to the Mediterranean.

A lovely afternoon then time to relax in the unit before heading out tonight to enjoy a local festival in Mgarr. We met an English couple Robin & Lesle who know live Mgarr and they explained the festival is a celebration of the harvest mostly fruit. We looked around all the stalls and handicraft stands as well as a vintage car display. We were then fortunate enough to get tickets to the traditional evening meal being served in the forecourt of the church and were entertained by all the very talented local children singing. The meal we had was traditional bread, snails then a pasta dish followed by a meal with the choice of chicken, pork or fish, we then had to leave to get the last bus home seeing the church all lit up at a distance, such a special evening.

The pride of the people can been seen in the detail and beauty of the displays around the village for this festival.

In the courtyard of the church this floral and fruit display was lovely.

As well as the produce there were handiworks on display, hand sewn christening dresses, knitting, art work, wire work

All sorts of farming equipment was on display including the John Deer tractors.

A traditional Maltese boat brightly painted and notice the eye on the front which is painted on each side to protect those who travel aboard.

Our last glimpse back at the church as we wait for our bus, I am still in awe that we have been welcomed so completely, included in festival and asked to seat at the table of the locals, so privileged.

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