MALTA (8)


RABAT

It’s understandable that most visitors will miss Rabat and rather visit the ancient city of Mdina.

With no fortifications remaining, the town of Rabat is far bigger in area and population than Mdina. Here you will find schools and colleges and there are a variety of shops – all the normal things you’ll see in a town … but Rabat definitely has a character of its own. If you want to explore this town, it’s best doing it on foot.

Entering Rabat

We’ve used our time well in Rabat – visiting the Domus Rumana (a Roman Villa), the Catacombs and just strolling through the streets. We were also fortunate to be here on one of the feast days of Malta, namely the Feast of St Peter and St Paul. With the streets beautifully decorated, there were a joyous atmosphere.

Let’s go to our first sight of the day …

DOMUS RUMANA (ROMAN VILLA):

The Roman Villa in Rabat
It was this banner that had us curios …

Built in the 2nd century BC, the house presumably belonged to a wealthy merchant. The site was discovered in 1881 and contains amazingly fine mosaic polychrome pavements and some original architectural elements.

A timeline of the Roman Villa greeted us as we’ve entered the museum

A number of rooms were constructed to protect the mosaics and an upper hall was added to provide exhibition space. We were fascinated with the Roman antiquities that were on display.

One of the showrooms

There were quite a few statues in the museum, said to be dated to the middle of the 1st century AD. This meant it was about a century after the original construction of the house.

At least two of these show members of the family of Emperor Claudius. The best preserved is that of Emperor Claudius himself, followed by that of his daughter Claudia Antonia and that of a young boy with a bulla around his neck (probably portrays the young Nero, Claudius’ adopted son and successor in AD 54).

Portrait of Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54)

There is also an area outside (still part of the museum) that houses many more Roman artefacts. I can understand why they say that the remains of this villa were among Malta’s most significant Roman legacies.

I saw two Roman antiques that I’ve found both fascinating and interesting … a clay pot that were put together (it must be a satisfying job to be able to do that) and a baby rattle. I was thinking a lot about that rattle – I can just imagine when a baby in Roman times hit him- or herself with that rattle on the head – it could have serious consequences ☺️.

A restored Roman clay pot
The mentioned baby rattle

Our last (and probably the main attraction) were the mosaics. Apparently, these are rated among the finest and oldest in the western Mediterranean and they compare well with those of Sicily and Pompeii.

Mosaic floor
Mosaic with well-achieved three-dimensional effects
This mosaic has not completely survived, but it’s still a wonderful piece

We found this museum truly amazing to visit. It felt at times as if we’ve walked back into ancient footsteps. If you visit Mdina, don’t miss the Roman Villa in Rabat.

A last look at the Roman Villa

As we’ve strolled through the streets of Rabat, we’ve noticed all the colourful flags and decorations on the church … when we’ve asked the locals about these, they informed us that they are celebrating the Feast of St Peter and St Paul (celebrated on 29 June). It was beautiful to see Rabat in such a festive mood.

One of the many statues in Rabat

The 16th century cross-shaped parish Church of St Paul is ranked among the country’s most impressive structures. It dates from 1575, but was largely rebuilt in the late 17th century.

St Paul’s Church in Rabat

While strolling down the streets of Rabat, we’ve came across a couple of gentlemen sitting outside. With them, they had a few little cages with birds and in another a mouse. They probably saw us looking curiously at them and called us over … after a conversation in half-English and half-Maltese, we’ve came to the conclusion they come here every day to enjoy each other’s company (while taking a few drinks) and at the same time bringing their pets out to enjoy the sunshine. Well, that’s at least what we’ve understood … 😄.

Friendly gentlemen of Rabat (and their pets)

THE CATACOMBS:

Our last stop in Rabat included a visit to the vast network of catacombs. The most extensive, St Paul’s Catacombs, are a labyrinth of tunnels, niches and rock tombs in use up to the 4th century AD. St Agatha’s Catacombs are below the church dedicated to the saint who fled to Malta from Catania in AD 249.

St Paul’s Catacombs
Going down into darkness …

We’ve paid a visit to the St Paul’s Catacombs, but it was so dark and we literally had to feel our way down (maybe it will be a good idea to bring a torch with you when visiting these).

The underground cemeteries are honeycombed beneath Rabat and as deep as 7m (23ft) below the ground. Family graves are cut into the rock walls, there are also stone canopies, benches and early communion tables used by the early Christians.

We’ve taken many pictures, but some of these are just dark spots, while others are totally out of focus … but here’s two pictures just to give you some sort of understanding of what to expect 😁.

We always like to conclude a day of exploring on a positive note (and above the ground), so we’ve left the dark catacombs of Rabat and took a short drive to Ta’Qali.

TA’QALI CRAFTS VILLAGE:

Just a short distance from Rabat (and Mdina) is the craft village of Ta’Qali. It is situated on the former World War II airfield and is Malta’s largest local craft market.

Entrance to Ta’Qali craft market

We’ve taken many photo’s here – of the craftsmen at work on glass blowing, ceramics and wrought ironwork as well as the huge Malta Aviation Museum which is nearby.

“Where are those photo’s” you may ask … well, we have no idea 😳. Which mean, you dear blogger friends, will have to go there yourself to see all these beautiful products and experience the Aviation Museum.

We will conclude with two stock pile photo’s off the internet of the beautiful and famous coloured Mdina glassware.

Oh, and let me not forget … it was here in Rabat where we’ve had our first taste of Pastizzi, the traditional savoury pastry of Malta (usually filled with either ricotta cheese or curried peas) … ours were filled with ricotta and we’ve loved it!

Pastizzi – traditional savoury pastry of Malta

In our next post about our visits to Malta, we are going to the beach. We will show you the beautiful village of Mellieha Bay where we’ve stayed during our second visit. This is where you will find Malta’s largest beach … 600m in total (which is big for such a small island)! See you on the beach 🏖🏖.

We have done these trips in 2011 & 2013

Categories: Malta (2011 & 2013)

42 comments

  1. I loved the beautiful mosaics, and the Pastizzi look so delicious 🤤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We only saw the church in Rabat when we visited Mdina so thank you for the guided tour. The mosaics are beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We didn’t make it to the Roman ruins when passing through Malta towards Gozo and only really saw Valetta – kind of wish we’d done it now I’ve seen this post! Also, taking a caged bird out for a walk is the best ruse I’ve ever heard for going for a few beers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha 😅, that’s exactly what we’ve thought … and they already had a couple of beers when we’ve had our conversation with them! The Roman Villa is truly a special place to visit – you’re not too far from Malta to go there again … 😉.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a wonderful insight into the charm and beauty of Rabat, especially for someone like me who’s never been to Malta. St. Paul’s is gorgeous and so distinctive. And I love the shot of the local men with their animal friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, thanks Leighton 👍🏻. I’m glad you’ve found this post interesting – Rabat is so much different than its neighbour Mdina, but has its own charm and character. Yes, we’ve had a great time with the local men … a lot of laughing went into that conversations!
      Thanks for still continuing to read about our Malta trips – it’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It certainly doesn’t look like a city that should be missed. Those old streets have so much character, and St Paul’s church is gorgeous. Great post! Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So much wonderful history! I’m so glad you take us along with you on your stops.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Stunning and a great post, loved this share too🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I absolutely loved Rabat, it’s such a lovely place and was so quiet when we visited. Your photos are wonderful and you’ve brought to life the rich history 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment Hannah 😊. I’m glad you also had the chance to visit Rabat … amazing how our experiences are so different on one place (quiet when you visited and we on the other hand experienced it in an absolute festive mood – must have been because of the feast happening that day).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Lovely pictures. This looks like such a great museum to wander back in time and explore all the various Roman antiquities and artefacts. The Pastizzi look and sound amazing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t tell people enough how much we’ve enjoyed that Roman Villa 😁 … it was definitely one of our highlights during our visits to Malta! Ohh my goodness, that pastizzi was so delicious!
      Thank you so much for reading and your lovely comments 🌸.

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  10. What an interesting day! I love the Roman mosaics (especially the last incomplete one) and it’s great to see Rabat in festival mood 🙂

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  11. Now I know there is a Rabat other than in Morocco. I googled it and interesting to learn that the name stems from Arabic meaning fortification. Is there anything left from the time of Arab influence?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also only knew of Rabat in Morocco … until we got to Malta. One of the bloggers mentioned that some of the places in Malta reminds of North Africa and I’ve said it’s quite possible, because the distance between Malta and Tunisia (in North Africa) is only about 500km. So, it’s now wonder at all that there is bit of Arab influence visible in Malta.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Shoo, sounds so interesting. Definitely a place we will enjoy walking around.

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  13. What an amazing presentation of Rabat!! We lived there four month before we went to Cyprus but we lived in Sliema area for almost 20 years.
    I will certainly return to your site and read more from your trip to Malta. it’s always interesting to read about how others experience places you yourself have visited so often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading about our experience in Rabat … we’ve absolutely loved our time here (enjoyed the most delicious pastizzi while walking through the streets) and having great conversations with the locals!
      I agree with you – I also find it fascinating to see what other people think of our country … sometimes I forget to see the beauty foreigners write about!
      Thank you for following our blog – you will probably read a lot about South Africa now since we can’t travel, but hopefully you’ll find it interesting. I can’t wait to read and see more of Cyprus!

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  14. You make an excellent point here, Corna, it would be a shame to miss Rabat if you are heading to Mdina but I think many people do. The bus drops you off outside Mdina, you walk round in there (which is well worth doing) but people don’t look a short way down the hill and even notice Rabat, I suppose they much think it is just an uninteresting suburb but, as you rightly point out, it is an excellent place to visit, well worth a day by itself. The Roman villa itself is well worth a visit even if you go nowhere else there, although you really should.

    This is not an unusual situation. The Romans had taken and used the site long before the “Roman Empire” (218 BC to be precise) and the tradition was that a fort or fortified encampment became surrounded by the camp followers i.e. not the soldiers actually defending the ramparts / palissades or whatever. This would include the craftsmen, taverns and brothels for the soldiers, bakers, butchers and all the ancillaries necessary. This are was called a vicus and when the Roman V became a W in English we still have many such place names in the UK. Anywhere with wich or wych in the name was basically a vicus once, places like the city of Norwich, Ipswich and even Aldwych, now in central London but traditionally just West outside the Roman walls were all such places.

    I love your photography, you have captured the place brilliantly.

    Another little side story here about the guys taking their caged birds “for a walk”. Toonsarah, whose “second home” is Necastle-upon-Tyne, which is her second home and a place I played before the virus struck, will bear me out on this. In that city, the most famous brew is Newcastle Brown Ale which is, or at least was, known as dog because, if a guy wanted to go out for a drink with his mates he would tell the wife, “I’m just taking the dog for a walk” and walk the dog straight to the local pub!

    I’m looking forward to the next episode.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh, I had a good laugh now about Sarah’s second home and the clever dog walkers! I think you might get them everywhere – I’ve seen a couple of these “animal lovers” in Portugal as well with dogs on leashes in the street next to a bar 😄. Thanks for the info on the “wich/wych’ – that was quite interesting!
      And I’m glad you agree that Rabat is definitely worth a visit – we’ve enjoyed our time here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Trust me, you wouldn’t believe some of the people I have had crashing out in my place. I once had three young female Irish dancers staying here (I hasten to add I was living elsewhere with a then girlfriend) and I still have the iron scorch mark on the carpet to prove it (I hide it under a rug!).

        As for the wich / wych, that is a thing called toponomy in English or toponiem in Afrikaans (I had to look that up!) and it even helps to explain why I can understand a little Afrikaans, how different are those words?

        Toponymy is the study of place names and it utterly fascinates me, I have written about it several times on my blog. It is just one of my many interests and I sometimes think that I have too many interests to fit inside my not very large brain!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes, I know what a ‘toponiem’ is … had to dig deep in my Afrikaans subject at school now, but I do remember! Berto always says “you don’t necessarily have to have knowledge of everything, but it’s good to know a little bit of everything” … so there you go, put that into your “not very large brain” 😄.

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      • Without having ever met the man, I never thought that Berto was stupid, most of us that did what we did are not, if you are stupid people might visit your grave once a year and lay flowers if you’re lucky.

        I have met a few “gentlemen” from RSA in my professional career and they were no fools. Your husband talks a lot of sense.

        I’ll give you an example. My cousin, a lovely guy, is a brilliant scientist. He is now retired but was a research fellow (basically a clever guy) at Cambridge University where he worked on vaccines to combat global diseases. He is a bloody genius and I love him to death, he is a really good guy.

        However, if you asked him who wrote the play “Romeo and Juliet” (back to your lovely dogs) he would not have a clue. He just knew about what he knew about which was very specialised and complicated but that was it. I once heard it said that University teaches you more and more about less and less and I think it is true.

        I don’t know if Berto went to Uni or not but people like us were taught to think on a very wide plain, or should I say veldt? Very few of the guys I served with had degrees and yet they could all think. I feel that is something Governments could learn from.

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      • No, Berto did not went to University … he was just too happy to play rugby (and having parties) when he finished school and military 😁. But years later (when he was in his late 30’s), he decided to study LLB through the University of South Africa (UNISA) and he got his degree a few years later … that asked for some dedication, but he managed and I’m very proud of him!

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      • You should be. You should be immensely proud of your husband. With all your travels together and everything else, you were obviously meant to be where you are.

        Does Berto practice law or did he just want to prove he could do it?

        People have a serious misconception of people like us. A guy I knew and trained with years ago was a veteran of 21SAS, the Territorial (i.e. part-time reservist) SAS Unit. Having said that, they are trained to the same standards and have been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places with great effect.

        Apart from being one of the toughest men I ever met (I never saw anyone could do press-ups like him) he was so intelligent. OK, I’ll “out” him here although he has already outed himself. His name is Mike Asher and, last I heard, he was running safaris in Kenya. You really should read a book he wrote where he proves the despicable “Andy McNab (not his real name) and “Crhis Ryan” are both complete liars. It is called “the real Bravo 20” and if you don’t believe me, .look here.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bravo_Two_Zero

        Yes, I have been on the dark side and I have worked with some very hard characters. I am not going to tell you what unit I was in for my own protection but I hope this will offer some proof to you that I am not just shooting my mouth off. If you really want, I can send you an image of Mike and myself having a beer in 1977!

        I only mention this to prove I am not winding you up, I am for real. I am very real and, quite frankly, like most who have done what your husband and brother and I have done, we tend to get a little fragile at times. Certainly, we may not show it, we are trained not to show it but it is still there.

        Thanks for listening.

        Liked by 1 person

      • My pleasure (for listening) … I’m good at it! In my previous job, I basically had to listen to people for 11 years (hoping they would feel better afterwards).
        Oh, and let me just say this: I don’t doubt for a moment that you are who you say you are … I can see your stories are real and I have a lot of respect for someone who puts themselves out there.
        Returning to Berto’s studies – no, it was never his intention to become a lawyer (he said it is not in his DNA to defend someone guilty of an offence). He combines his degree with his IT background (of more than 20 years) and specialises in contract management. He’s currently doing online consultations … but as we’ve left the rat race, we’re taking things much slower than we used to 3 years ago. This means that when the urge grips us, we climb into our Suzuki Jimny to explore back roads or put on our hiking boots for a hike in the mountains!

        Liked by 1 person

      • That sounds like the ideal lifestyle and I have to admire Berto’s moral stance as I have never understood how lawyers can defend the obviously guilty. Just money I suppose.

        I’ll bet that in your professional career you were an excellent listener, it is a skill and, strangely enough, one taught to interrogators. There is an old saying which runs along the lines of, “Why do you think Nature gave you two ears and one mouth”? Because you should listen twice as much as you talk!

        The thing is that you are so lucky in the country of your birth. I know you both love travelling but, in the worst case scenario with the virus (it is unlikely) if you can never travel overseas again, you have so much to explore within your own borders. Having read and loved your blogs, I don’t think I’d ever get tired of RSA. I can’t wait for braai season to come round again, I want to read all about it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • So, if I understand you correctly … I could be an interrogator (Berto will agree 😅). And hold on – braai season is almost here!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very probably, people misunderstand interrogators completely, they think we use threats and physical violence, it is a much more technical skill than that and, strangely, your relatively small stature and gender would stand you in very good stead.

        In the unlikely event that we ever get to meet, I’ll show you a few tricks! Can’t wait for braai time, it just freaks me out how good that food looks. I think my favourites are the whole side of beef set up on it’s side beside the fire and the potjie (did I spell that right? I told you my Afrikaans is kak!).

        Liked by 1 person

      • No problem there with your spelling … it’s indeed a potjie 👏!

        Like

      • Just like our word pot. You see, languages are not so difficult if you just think about them a little.

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