23 MAY 2017: It was March 7 and I had just landed in Malta; enjoying a long overdue visit with cousins, when I got an email. It was from a family friend planning a trip to Malta. She asked if I would recommend visiting a particular landmark in Malta, of which I was unfamiliar. I looked up at my cousins and asked, “What is the Azure Window?” Well, I may as well have asked if they had any opinions about politics. Their responses were immediate and robust.  

I learned that evening that the Azure Window was Malta’s endeared attraction. A formation made of limestone in the shape of an arch; it rose from the Mediterranean Sea on the island of Gozo, one of three principal islands of the Maltese archipelago.

At 28 metres (92 ft) in height the imposing sculpture had endured decades of natural erosion. It was a draw for film productions including Clash of the Titans and a backdrop for the wedding of Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen in the Game of Thrones series premiere.

Tourists were no longer allowed to stand or dive off the top of the arch, but I replied to the email that yes indeed, a visit to the Azure Window was highly recommended.

When I woke up the next morning, I learned that the slab and pillar of the arch had collapsed in a storm that night and the structure had fallen into the sea. Malta lost its beloved Dwerja Window and my cousins were heartsick.

I remembered that feeling from just over a year ago when part of the Elephant Rock formation in Hopewell Rocks caved in. There is a sense of sadness in losing an ancient natural landmark that was regarded with pride by residents and admiration from visitors the world over; a genuine sense of loss.

Malta has a unique history since first being inhabited in 5200 BC. It has been under a succession of powers including Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Order of St John, French and British before its independence in 1964.

The country enjoys 300 days of sunshine and assets that include medieval villages and Megalithic temples, limestone cliffs and sea caves and grottos, lagoons, and natural swimming pools in a sea that presents (poignantly) as azure.

Yet, Malta has another natural window, an arch in Wied il-Mielah on the northwest coast of Gozo and authorities are considering measures to protect and preserve it.

The window has already seen an increase of tourism, and like the Azure Window has exposure to severe storms and the raging elements of nature.

And I have no sooner typed ‘severe storms’ and ‘raging elements’ when I am reminded again of reactions to Maltese politics.

Azure window

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Pam Stellini

Pam Stellini delivers her original spin on alternate Tuesdays in her column Without Reservations. (Formerly titled, Notes from A Broad)

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