Ggantija Temples Gozo

The Ggantija Temples are located in the small village of Xaghra, about 2 miles (3.2 km) northeast of Victoria. The temples comprise one of the most significant archaeological sites in Malta and also in the Mediterranean. They also predate Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza, and both have been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple ruins are part of a megalithic complex dating back to the Ggantija Phase (3600-3200 BC).

The society responsible for the construction of both temples is often referred to as the ‘temple builders.’ Little is known about these people, other than they most likely came from modern-day Sicily and lived peacefully as hunter-gatherers. Another puzzling fact is that their society somehow disappeared. That is, historians cannot figure out how they vanished from the Maltese islands entirely.

The name Ggantija stems from the Maltese word for giant. Ancient legends about a race of giants that lived in Gozo were a way of explaining the presence of the temples. Together, both temples cover a total are of 10,000 square feet (3,048 square meters). They share a boundary wall and each is constructed out of massive limestone slabs, with some weighing more than 50 tons!

Excavations have produced clues about these colossal temples. Ritual rooms, curved walls, spiral-shape carvings, niches with altars, libation holes and animal bones provide us only with educated guesses about the original purpose of the temples. They were most likely used in the worship of a fertility goddess or Earth Mother, but beyond that there is not much to assume. It is likely that religious ceremonies would take place within the structure while a congregation of people stood outside in the large, raised forecourt in front of the temples. The altars in the larger of the two temples have become an iconic image for Gozo, and can be found on postcards throughout the island. Each altar is constructed out of vertical stone slabs. Also in the larger temple, is a stone hearth that suggests fire was an important component of temple rituals.

The reality about the Ggantija Temples is that nobody alive can know the complete truth about them. They remain a compelling testament to early human civilization and will continue to evoke a sense of mystery in all who visit them.

 

Operas in Gozo

Despite having just 30,000 inhabitants, the island of Gozo has two opera houses in Ir-Rabat , the Astra Theatre and the Aurora Opera House.

Each puts on at least one fully staged opera a year, often with international soloists. In fact, this opera season is now a regular appointment for opera enthusiasts.

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Online booking and more information on the opera and Festival is available on www.teatruastra.org.mt.

 

Qala International Folk Festival

Now in its 14th year, the Qala International Folk Festival has developed into a colourful celebration of cultures through folk dance and music.

For a whole weekend, the village of Qala is transformed into a hub of folk activities as the quaint village square is brought to life by a unique intercultural programme, that has grown to attract locals and visitors for its quality entertainment in an intimate, village setting.

This is a great opportunity to experience life at a village square while enjoying folk dance, music and traditional food, a true taste of Gozo in all senses.

Carnival in Gozo

Carnival Week is undoubtedly one of the most colourful events in the Gozitan – and Maltese – calendar. Traditionally preceding Christian Lent, Carnival provides five days of revelry with many people dressing up in colourful costumes and covering their faces with masks.

Carnival is closely associated with Maltese folklore. It has been celebrated in Malta since the arrival of the Knights of St. John in 1530, and some studies date the first carnival revelry back as early as 1470. Up until 1751, carnival was an activity exclusive to Valletta, but that is certainly not true today.

In Gozo, the main activities take place in It-Tokk (Independence Square), the main square in Gozo’s capital Ir-Rabat and in In-Nadur. Ir-Rabat (Victoria)’s celebrations are the usual carnival fare much like those in Valletta with floats, costumes and general revelry. Carnival in Nadur is quite different.

Nadur’s carnival is deeply traditional and essentially spontaneous. There is no organising committee and there are no rules. In Nadur the purpose of costumes is disguise – quite simply not to be recognised. Sunset reveals a multitude of masked and hooded creatures thronging the streets. People wear all kinds of funny and grotesque costumes, some satirical, and most remain silent to aid their disguise, gaining the Nadur celebrations the sobriquet, The Silent Carnival.

The Nadur ‘floats’ are often little more than carts released from their duties on local farms but there is an edge to the celebrations. Amongst the absurd costumes are to be seen placards daubed with remarks, most of them insults to public (and sometimes private) personalities. In order to avoid libel, many are indirect or veiled references that need the knowledge of a local to interpret them.