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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - Saqqajja

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Saqqajja

 

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Mdina Road, a long and busy tree-lined stretch is your most likely route to Rabat. This merges into Saqqajja Hill, as the ground rises steeply to the Rabat plateau. Your attention here will most likely be drawn to the Saqqajja Fountain, built on the site of a natural spring by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena. This was connected to the network of canals that used to supply water to Valletta. The passage of time and weathering exacerbated by the incessant flow of heavy traffic obliterated much of the intricate stone work. An attempt at restoration was made in 1931 using rudimentary techniques available at the time. A more recent intervention was completed in May, 2010, restoring the structure to its former glory. The Saqqajja Hill is the site of the traditional horse and donkey races, held annually on June 29th, the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul or l-Imnarja, as it is popularly known.

Saqqajja Square, gruesomely a former site for public executions sits atop the hill. This is the birthplace of Joseph Calleja, a celebrated Maltese-American actor who starred alongside such legends as Errol Flynn, Rita Hayworth and Charlton Heston during the Golden Years of Hollywood. A bust by the prolific sculptor Anton Agius was placed opposite the site of his former home in 2005, where the Bank of Valletta branch stands today.

The Casino Notabile with its ornate façade has been allowed to deteriorate and it is finally receiving the attention that is (over-)due. It was constructed in 1887 by the British Engineer Paulson Webster on the former site of a wash-house. Its foundations were laid on soft clay, which contributed to the rapid deterioration of the building's structure.

A statue of St. Paul was erected here in 1727 by de Vilhena. This statue was famed by locals to have miraculously shed tears; pilgrims flocked to see the alleged phenomenon or to seek divine intervention and a protective niche was eventually erected around it.


 

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