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Spotlight on: Marsascala

Spotlight on: Marsascala

Marsascala is a reposeful coastal town in Malta’s south-eastern region. It was once only a fishing village, but it has since grown into a popular tourist attraction as well as a permanent home for an ever-increasing population. The derivation of the world ‘Marsascala’ remains widely debated till this day. While it is widely accepted that ‘Marsa’ is an Arabic word that denotes to bay, Skala has a variety of meanings. One source states that since Marsaskala was visited by Sicilian fisherman, therefore it might have been derived from Sqalli (Sicilian). Contrarily, perhaps it was taken from the Sicilian ‘Piccola Cala,’ which means small inlet, or it was just a reference to so stairs along the water’s edge, as scala also means straight flight of steps.

Nonetheless, if you’re interested in visiting Marsascala, the locals will probably refer to it as ‘Wied il-Għajn’ because the bay and the former little settlement are surrounded by two valleys through which a freshwater spring used to pour down into the innermost bay. ‘Wied il- Għajn’ literally translates as “Valley of the Spring.”

60 Ottoman ships carrying 6000 troops arrived at Marsaskala in 1614 and started an attack on Malta’s south coast. Despite the fact that the fight was a clear Maltese triumph, it brought up memories of the Great Siege of Malta. The construction of Saint Thomas Tower in late 1565 lessened Marsaskala’s susceptibility to seaborne assaults. Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt sponsored the tower, which is one of a sequence of his towers. St. Thomas Tower was utilised for military reasons until the 19th century, after which it was repaired.
The tower cost him 12,000 skudi, a large sum at the time, and it is larger than previous Order of St John towers. The eighteen-meter-high tower contains four tiny bastions, one on each corner, and was named after a little church dedicated to St Thomas. The tower is surrounded by five-metre-thick walls and a broad dry ditch. A tiny window in the basement looks out over the front battery, which faced the sea and was mounted with guns.

Despite the archaeological remains of Roman dwellings found near Marsaskala, the region remained mainly unpopulated until recently. Historically, people were terrified of establishing in the region since the natural harbour was easily accessible to intruders. There were just a few houses in the neighbourhood about a century ago, and they were well fortified by their owners.
The population is estimated to be approximately 12,000 people, however, like Melliea, it is a popular summer destination for both residents with summer houses and tourists. However, due to its secluded location, is still rather peaceful at that time of year.
Marsascala, which is built around a tiny natural harbour, has been a famous fishing destination since antiquity and remains so now. Marsascala embodies the authentic Maltese spirits via its residents’ joie de vivre and passion for the sea and fresh air. However, Marsascala was not always the town that we see today. 

Although archaeologists have discovered evidence that man has been using the land surrounding Marsascala Creek for millennia, Marsascala as a town has only been around for a few decades. Consequently, while roaming around Marsascala, one should keep in mind the history that has shaped the way the seaside town encompasses the south-east part of Malta.

Here are some of the best things to see and do in Marsascala:

st.thomas bay

A rather secluded bay off the islands’ southern coast. The bay’s shallow waters make it ideal for the whole family to enjoy. Located in an underdeveloped region, this part-sandy part-rocky beach will for sure strike a chord with swimmers and snorkelers around. This bay offers a delightful walk along the Marsascala promenade while most eateries nearby provide fresh Maltese seafood and exquisite cocktails at affordable prices.

Zonqor Point Salt Pans

The Zonqor Point Salt Pans are some of the several salt pans in Malta. Salt pans are flat pools formed in soft limestone where salt is created from sea water. These rock salinas are one of Malta’s and Gozo’s most distinctive landscape features especially since they date back to Roman times. However, they require regular preservation, restoration, and conservation since they are threatened by the severity of the sea and the storms that clash with the Marsascala Coast.

st.thomas tower

Saint Thomas Tower is the largest watchtower in Malta. The third of six Wignacourt towers, the bastioned watchtower was completed in 1614. In the early 18th century, an artillery battery was erected to the tower. The tower features substantial walls and four pentagonal bastioned turrets on each corner that extend outwards. A vaulted gateway with a wooden drawbridge led to the tower’s entrance. The drawbridge is still largely intact, and it is Malta’s sole surviving drawbridge.

Village Feast of St.Anne

The village feast celebrates Marsascala’s patron saint, St Anne, and takes place on the final Sunday in July. The statue of St Anne was sculpted by artist Ferdinando Steuflesser, carved out of wood shortly after WWII. St Anne is shown with a miniature figure of Mary as a child. The local band club ‘Ghaqda Muzikali St Anna’ organises a series of events, including a band march through Marsascala’s streets. A fireworks show, as well as street decorations, add to the glitz and glitter of this feast.