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)

27 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 🌸.

      Liked by 1 person

  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 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  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.

      Like

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

    Liked by 1 person

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