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Spotlight on: Dingli

Spotlight on: Dingli

Instantly recognisable by its towering cliffs looking over the Mediterranean Sea, Dingli is not only sought-after by the thousands of tourists who flock to Malta every year but also with the locals around. This is due to the untamed nature, great food, and picturesque landscapes that encompass Dingli and its haunting surroundings. 

Dingli, or ‘Ħad-Dingli’, is a village situated in the northern region of Malta, with a population just under 4,000. The village of Dingli lies just about some 250 metres above sea level, watching over the uninhabited isle of Filfla and other scenic views of the adjacent Buskett Gardens and Verdala Palace. Dingli’s name is presumed to be derived from the English knight of the Order of St. John, Sir Thomas Dingley, who had multiple ownership of the lands in the neighbouring territories. 

Interestingly, Dingli’s rich history dates to the 14th and 15th century. Documents inscribed by the priest Alexander Bonnici which date to 1419, were recently discovered. These documents underline that the population of Dingli was roughly around 325, with just 40 of these being men. This is when the bordering hamlet ‘Ħal Tartarni’ was still in existence, somewhere in the middle of Buskett and what’s now widely recognised as Dingli. While the hamlet is now a fragment of Malta’s multifaceted past, a church built in 1669 dedicated to Saint Domenica still remains in force till this day. The inhabitants of Dingli were immensely devoted to their parish church dedicated to the Assumption of the Holy Virgin, declaring their inaugural parish priest back in 1678. These documents also suggest that the hamlet gradually expanded to what is now Dingli, while its proximity to Rabat was a great benefit since this town was regarded as the centre of Malta, in contrary to today’s Belt Valletta. 

Dingli, especially a couple of hundred years ago, was relatively minute in comparison to other towns and cities. This led to the village being closely knit to the neighbouring towns in terms of civil administration, representatives, majors, and even doctors.
Archaeologists located artefacts in Dingli from the Roman era and the time of the Carthaginians. Other historical treasures such as Roman baths were also unearthed along with historical documents discussing the former hamlet of Hal Tartani and what it used to be in relation to Dingli. Ancient tombs built specifically for the Carthaginians were taken over by the Romans when they reigned over Malta back to 218 B.C., portraying itself as an extremely strenuous task for historians to make a clear distinction between the two periods. 

While Dingli’s enormous cliffs look daunting, they were a great asset during battles as throughout the rule of the Order of Saint John, Dingli was regarded as being safe from corsair attacks since it was physically impossible for pirates to either land around the cliffs or try to climb the cliffs. This difficulty also assisted inhabitants of Dingli to find refuge when an enemy was sighted. 

The village of Dingli has seen massive change in the past few decades, particularly in terms of development of property and population as both have exponentially increased. Basic necessities which weren’t common in rural villages like Dingli such as telephone services and later internet cable were gradually introduced. Surprisingly, public transport to and from the village itself is also a relatively new concept as just a few decades ago, inhabitants had to stop at Rabat and find a way back home either by foot or by getting a lift.

Nowadays, Ħad-Dingli is a hearty yet peaceful village packed with staggering views and remnants of history crammed on every side of the place inhabitants are so fond of. Till this day, Dingli is still known as the island’s natural fortress and the village that offers the best food, by the friendliest of people!

dingli cliffs

Being the highest point on the island, Dingli Cliffs reaches a height of 253 meters above sea level, captivating visitors with its coastal views and vicious waves splashing against its cliffs. This western coast of the island offers tourists and locals an exclusive view of Filfa and the Mediterranean Sea. Dingli cliffs stretch over Dingli, reaching from Bahrija to the Munqar area above Blue Grotto. Dingli cliffs is also the perfect destination for a tranquil walk, a peaceful bike ride, or a venturesome hike.

dingli aviation radar

This was the first radar system installed in Malta by the British in 1939. By mid 1941, three other radars were installed around the Maltese archipelago, constructing a triangulation system, connecting Dingli Cliffs to Marsaxlokk and Fort Madliena in Swieqi. This assisted RAF fighters to impede on the enemy’s schemes. Now a major landmark of Dingli, the aviation radar’s function was to plot aircrafts in Dingli’s territory, particularly due to the island’s strategic role during war battles. Now with its iconic ‘golf ball’ visual look, the aviation radar takes care of air traffic passing through Malta’s flight information region.

St Mary Magdalene Chapel

The roman Catholic chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene is often denoted as the ‘chapel of the cliffs’ as it overlooks Dingli Cliffs. Built in 1646, the chapel is typical of Maltese wayside chapels and was primarily used by farmers who inhabited the surrounding areas. It is characterised by its rectangular structure and typical Maltese façade of a main circular window and a single doorway. The altar of the church is made of Maltese limestone while a piece portraying an encounter between Jesus and Mary Magdalene after his resurrection embellishes the altar. A minute parvis based right outside the church serves as a protection to the visitors from the steep fall off the cliffs.

dingli caves

The Dingli caves are a set of caves which encircle the tiny village, enticing spelunkers and hikers around to explore below ground level. The complex of caves in Dingli are collectively known as the ‘Ghar il-Kbir’ (literally translated to ‘the big cave’), and they are famously regarded for the curt ruts situated right next to them. Historians have done thorough research on the origin and historical significance of these caves, delineating that there’s a huge possibility that families of troglodytes lived in these caves well until 1835. Nowadays, these caves serve as an attraction for visitors, tourists, and also Dingli locals.