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Report 2012: Five Days in Malta

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 23 of 24: Hagar Qim Temples

photo by MAW

Porthole doorway and decorated stones

Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples are on an isolated cliff side on the south coast of Malta. We caught a bus to Rabat and then picked up the bus which runs from Rabat south along the coast to the airport. This took us out through Dingli and then along the top of the cliffs. It is a good run with views of the cliffs. The road surface is very rough in places and it was a bouncy ride. The Chapel of St Mary Magdalene is a small rectangular building on the highest point of the cliffs built in the 17thC. Beyond is large quarry area to the left of the road and the surface becomes a lot better.

The bus does a detour through Siggiewi, a large and unexceptional settlement with a big square with a church and a few shops. Back on the coast road, we bounced along to Hagar Qim. There are some terraced fields but most had been harvested. There are a few stone buildings in the fields, bird shooting shelters perhaps. Around Hagar Qim, there is little agriculture and the fields are disused.

It is a five minute walk up the road from the bus stop to the Heritage Malta building with a separately run restaurant behind. It is a big new building with ticket office, small shop, cafe, toilets and five minute audiovisual which was high on visuals but the audio was just trendy music. It has a small and disappointing museum with trendy display boards which don’t say very much in Maltese and English. There are a few exhibits, mainly pottery and a replica of a fat lady. The best bit is the aerial models of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra temples.

It is a short walk to Hagar Qim, set in a commanding position overlooking the sea. This is surrounded by a large security fence with a small kiosk where tickets are checked. A very elegant mushroom structure now protects most of the temple ruins from the sun and rain.

The temple dates from 3500BC and was in use until 2500BC. The main temple is unusual as the central apse is replaced by a second doorway to the outside. There are also smaller apses in the walls which open to the outside. It seems as if the temple plan was modified and extended at different times. There is a walkway round the outside of the main temple but very restricted access to the inside with a short fenced off walkway through the main temple.

The south east doorway is restored with a standing trilithon. To the left is a porthole doorway and a replica of the carved altar with pit marks and parallel lines as well as a stone with a spiral motif. The originals are in the Archaeology Museum in Valletta. The floor of the temple is covered with flagstones. In the second apse on the right, the stone wall is made up of massive blocks of stones with smaller stones lying on top. Each layer juts out slightly over the layer below suggesting this was a corbelled roof.

One stone has a hole through it and at the summer solstice, the rays of the sun shine through this onto the back wall. On the left is a short corridor with what are described as ‘mushroom’ altars. A flat stone is placed on an upright stone which has two holes carved in it. Four more apses lead off this. The one on the far left is accessed from inside temple, the others have external entrances.

Some of the megaliths making up the external walls are massive. Between the two right hand apses of the main temple is an external niche with a central pillar and two oracle holes.

There are the remains of two smaller temples outside the dome. One is in very poor condition. The other is better preserved and has five small apses. There is no access into either of them.

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