A visit to the Ggantija Temples Gozo reveals a culture older than the ancient Egyptians with some fantastic names to boot.
One of the best things about the characters in the Maltese language is that the words make every glance at the map feel like an adventure ripped straight from the pages of TinTin or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
There’s the Tal-Qaċċa hill, It Tumbata and the bay at Qbajjar.
And then there are the Ġgantija temples that rise out of the fabled Xagħra plateau like Atlantis rising out from the sea.
They’re older than the pyramids and indeed the oldest part of the series of megalithic temples that scatter themselves across the islands of Malta, earning them UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
They oblige the imagination with great hulks of stone worn down by footsteps, with scratched remnants here and there leading to supposititions of altars, fertility cults and prehistoric graffiti. The sidekick museum features immaculate figurines, bone trimmings, jewellery and sketches from the foreign explorers who came here more than 100 years ago.
And yet despite everything being in place that should be, the processions of multi-coloured tourists flocking and flowing amid the stone jars and steals away some of the gravitas.
I have, I think, been exceptionally lucky of late. Bad news stories have kept crowds away from some of the oldest and most beautiful structures in the world (such as Petra and indeed the Pyramids themselves) and I have grown accustomed to solitude when contemplating the past.
Yet it’s important to remember that just because TV documentaries and (ahem) travel blogs explore the past through a sense of mystic wonder, I suspect that people then were much like people now: walking, talking and very much alive!
Unlike the Pyramids and Stonehenge, Ġgantija reveals its beauty in a slower, more deliberate way through trinkets and factoids that glisten here and there and some words that sparkle like music.
Take Torba, for example, which involves spreading crushed Globigerina limestone over rubble and beating it until it becomes hard and smooth. (And if a word like globigerina doesn’t brighten your day, then I don’t know what will!)
But away from the all the snippets that distract and delight me. Above all else, being able to see, stand on and touch work from humans who lived and breathed 5000 years ago is powerful, silencing, and stunning, no matter the crowds.
And besides, let’s face it, the word Ġgantija is cool.
I visited the Ggantija Temples in Gozo as part of an iAmbassador project with support from Visit Malta. As ever, as always, all of this jazz is mine all mine on the blog. As ever, as always.
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
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