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Report 2012: Five Days in Malta

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 24 of 24: Mnajdra Temples

photo by MAW

Mnajdra Temple with its protective dome

A paved walkway leads from Hagar Qim to the Mnajdra Temples. It is a 500m walk downhill across low, scrubby garrigue vegetation with fennel, spurge, thyme, wild carrot, wild onion. There are stone walls of disused fields and bird shooters hides. Two way marked paths are signed off the track. The longer one heads up the hillside. The shorter track heads down to Tal Hamrija watch tower. This makes a nice walk with views across to the small island of Filfa and north along the coast to Mnajdra Temples and the small new development on the coast beyond it.

There is another kiosk checking tickets at Mnajdra Temples. Security is taken very seriously and there is always someone patrolling the site keeping an eye on things after an incident of major vandalism.

Again the complex is covered by a mushroom, but you are unable to walk round the outside of the temples.

There are two large temples with the remains of a smaller one to the east with further bits of masonry scattered around. The temples stand along the curved side of a forecourt.

There is very restricted access to the temples. Steps lead up to the entrance of the East Temple, the smallest and the oldest temple. A lot of the walls have been reconstructed with limestone rubble. The uprights have a pitted decoration and are originals.

The Central Temple was the last to be built and is a simpler design. It sits on a raised dais as the ground levels are uneven. It has four apses with a large altar like structure at the far end. The doorway separating the far two apses has large chair like structures on either side. On the side of one of these is a carving of a small temple with a roof. In the second left side apse is a porthole slab leading to a small chamber built within the thickness of the walls.

The South Temple was built so that the doorway is aligned with the sunrise. At the spring and autumn equinoxes sunlight passes through the main doorway and hits the sides of two decorated slabs on either side of the entrance to the inner chamber. At the summer solstice the beam enters through the main door and hits the altar at the back of the temple.

There is a bench along the outside of the facade which extends beyond the temple walls along the edge of the forecourt. The entrance is a double trilithon structure. The front two apses are much larger than the back two and there is no access to these. The arrangement of the stones in the right apse suggest this had a corbelled roof. In the left apse is a porthole slab with pitted decoration leading to a small enclosed chamber.

These are two interesting temples in a beautiful site.

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