time to explore with esplora
Spotlight on: Manikata
Spotlight on: Manikata
Manikata, translating literally to ‘Apple’s Spring’, is a quaint rural village to the North East of Malta. Bordering Mellieħa, Manikata is home to breathtaking beaches, an abundance of farm lands and remnants of a rich historical past that even goes back to prehistoric times.
One cannot mention Manikata without elaborating on the beauty that is Għajn Tuffieħa. Maltese for ‘Apple’s Eye’, Għajn Tuffieħa, also known as Riviera, lies posteriorly to Manikata, neighbouring Mgarr. To get to this beach, a 200 steps staircase must be used to descend and dive into the crystal blue sea. Famous for gorgeous sunsets, restful walks and striking hikes, Għajn Tuffieħa is a natural attraction that needs to be on every traveller’s to-do list.
Manikata was particularly popular in the Bronze Age and the Roman Era. Remains such as cart ruts still lace the surroundings of the village, with one lining covering the Miżieb area, all the way to the cliffs close to the Mejjiesa bay by passing through the parish church. The Roman era left its mark in Manikata, with its remains of Roman baths and Roman tombs.
Being a fruitful land full of farmlands and pasturelands, it is not surprising that Manikata was a key catalyst in the Middle Ages, accommodating hundreds of farmers for the cultivation of fruit trees, vegetables and other crops. Since there weren’t a lot of inhabitants living in Manikata, many of the fields were owned by land owners from the former capital city of Malta, Mdina and other populated towns such as Rabat.
The vast majority of this agricultural land was stripped off from the farmers to make way for a Royal Marines Centre back in the early 20th century when the British period ensued. A camp was built in Għajn Tuffieħa, hosting residential quarters for British soldiers and their families. The same camp was then shifted into a hospital during the first world war (1914-1917) to treat injured military soldiers. Residents from Manikata took the role of nurses to assist these soldiers in their recovery. Expectedly, Manikata fell victim to air-raids due to the placement of the Admiralty camp. The Roman tombs were often used to provide shelter during this turbulent era.
Since most of the inhabitants of Manikata were residents from other cities and towns such as Mellieħa and Rabat, there was no initial need for a church. Being that Roman Catholicism is the dominant and official religion of Malta, and as inhabitants started to move in to this minute village, the need for a church kept exponentially increasing. This is when Lazzru Grima, a local farmer, encouraged other villagers to construct a church in Manikata. As money was being collected, the Camilleri brothers took the role to plot the land. Dedicated to St Joseph, the church was built in a span of a year with the help of the master mason Spiru Grima. St Joseph is now celebrated on the last Sunday of every August. This chapel later became too small for the ever-growing population of Manikata, causing the construction of a bigger church in 1964.
Today, Manikata is transforming into a hotspot for Maltese residents due to its captivating scenery, calm ambience, serenity, and its relative close proximity to Malta’s sister island of Gozo. While not bountiful, numerous villagers still work as full-time farmers while others have taken on this role as a part-time basis or simply as a pastime. These fields encompass across areas like il-Wilġa ta’ Għajn Tuffieħa (Għajn Tuffieħa meadow) and ix-Xagħra l-Ħamra (The red garrigue).
Things to see and do in manikata
Ir-Ramla tal-Mixquqa, or as it’s most commonly referred to as Golden bay, is a picturesque sandy beach in the north western coast of Manikata. Bordered by natural dunes, high hills, and jagged cliffs, the sandy strip is also watched over by the 17th century tower which was established by the Knights of Malta. During the evening, the Golden Bay is also sought-after for its visually arresting sunsets, while some families also meet up at the beach for a relaxing barbeque, taking particular relish in enjoying the cool cosy nights. Bus 44 can take you directly from Valletta to this glorious beach, while you can catch bus 223 from Buggiba, Qawra and St.Paul’s bay as it also stops very close to Golden bay.
Pillboxes were pivotal fortified structure during the second world war fundamentally to adhere to the British anti-invasion provisions. The pillbox in Manikata is situated at the back of the Għajn Tuffieħa Camp. This particular rectangular pillbox was the last of its kind to be built in Mellieħa and also in Malta. The fortification of this pillbox was built by the Royal engineers in the early 1930s, right during the Abyssinian Crisis. Their slick camouflaged structure fits in with the layout of the landscape while also suiting its former role perfectly.
This pillbox’s current main purpose is now to serve as a remembrance of Malta’s past and affiliation in the second world war.
Għajn Tuffieħa tower
Built in 1637 by the order of Saint John on the cliffs looking out on Ghajn Tuffieha bay lies the Ghajn Tuffieha watchtower. It was one of seven towers constructed by Grand Master Lascaris during his reign. In line with the Lippija and Nadur Tower, the limestone tower was initially placed on the site of a medieval watch spot, equipped with a ½ – pounder gun and used as a military installation for troops to be stationed for defence. Designed by Vincenzo Maculani, the tower’s delineation was relatively alike the Lippija tower due to its square plan and two floors encased by a flat roof and a parapet. While the tower is being threatened by coastal erosion, it was renovated and reopened to the public back in 2013.
parish curch of st joseph
Dedicated to St Joseph, the Roman Catholic parish church is a modern and ingenious church, shedding off the traditional Baroque church designs and instilling a more critical regionalism style. Built between 1964 and 1974 and designed by Richard English in 1962, the Manikata church serves as a symbol of the rectification and reformations in the Catholic church. Taking inspiration from the Notre Dame du Haut chapel, the abstract exposition of the traditional girna, and the Megalithic Temples of Malta, England created the design with the creative intent to also incorporate the natural environment which encompasses the surroundings of the church.