Dec 12, 2016

Mdina, Malta's old capital

The name “Mdina” is a reminder that the Spanish Muslims (Moors)
ruled Malta from 870 to 1091.  Their influence is most notable in the language and food. During that time Christians and Muslims lived in relative harmony and the Catholic Church copied some Islamic rituals. Church bells ring five times a day inviting Catholics to pray and the Islamic month
of fasting called Ramadhan was transformed into Lent.  In the 1200s Charles II of Naples had all the Muslim inhabitants exiled or sold into slavery and the mosques were destroyed or converted to churches. Malta saw many groups come and go over the years each leaving their mark, however so slight, creating a unique culture.  

Mdina is a walled city and is called “The Silent City” because there is a limited amount of vehicle traffic. Upon entering the massive gate the most prominent sound is the clip-clop of the horses pulling the carriages called a karozzin along the cobbled streets. Needless to say, John and I had to take a ride.  While we rode through the streets I felt that I should give my

“royal” wave to those we passed. We were pulled by a famous horse that had appeared in many movies with his driver. I liked the dichotomy – horse and carriages within the walls and a classic car show outside the walls.  Mdina is also called “The Noble City” because it is still home to many of Malta’s noble families and impressive homes line the narrow, shady streets. I would have loved to stay in Mdina when the streets are lantern-lit nightly but John and I stayed in a great 5-star hotel – The Corinthia
Palace. It is called the “palace” because the home of the president of Malta, San Anton Palace, is across the street.  The gardens of the palace are extensive and have been open to the public since 1882.  We enjoyed wandering along the walkways, past fountains, ponds and a maze that was easy because the greenery is only
shoulder high. The gardens are surrounded by a wall giving it a “secret garden” ambiance. The grounds of the Cornthia are garden-like, also, and they even have their own herb garden. I was hoping to have a spa treatment while at the Corinthia’s but they were all booked so instead I enjoyed the pool – both pools – the indoor one with a hot tub and the multi-
level outdoor one.  In the evening we relaxed in the elegant Caprice Lounge before heading to dinner. One night we dined at the hotel’s Rickshaw Restaurant. It was one of the best Asian meals we have ever had. Again the problem was that we didn’t get to stay long enough to enjoy their many perks such as a free shuttle to the beach. 

One afternoon we had an awesome lunch in Marsaxlokk, a traditional fishing village with colorful fishing boats bobbing in the water. There were some beautiful handcrafted items offered in the vendor stalls that lined the waterfront.  The iconic souvenir of Malta is a filigree silver Maltese cross but the handmade lace and table covers were also exquisite. The
restaurants offer the “catch of the day” and they all had dining areas along the waterfront.  We ate at La Nostra Padrona enjoying their famed lampuka.  The dessert was unique - Imgaret - date-filled pastries deep fried served warm with ice cream. We couldn’t finish it all so we wrapped up some of them to enjoy later.