Tuesday, January 23, 2018
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Mgarr Harbour

The first impression one gets of the Mgarr Harbour today is one of bustling activity. The increase in the number of vessels using its facilities may be partly the reason fro this increasing activity. Most of all, however, it is the great development of the port facilities, presently taking place, which conveys the impression.

The harbour area remains one of great scenic beauty. Approaching Gozo from the sea, one is impressed by the beautiful verdant cliffs and valleys overlooking the harbour. Fort Chambray is conspicuous on the wooded hill overlooking the two quays. Between this hill and the cliffs on which Ghajnsielem stands, nestling on top an olive-lined hill, one's attention is captivated by the beautiful church of our Lady of Lourdes. This church built in a Gothic style is at the center of attraction.

The port is studded with stores, warehouses, garages and fisherman's shed. a broad square-like wharf has been built at the foot of 'Ras it-Tafal' on which Fort Chambray stands. A road extending from old wharf takes one to the small fisherman's jetty where all fishing boats unload their catches. The road finds it way around the bottom of the cliffs on which the Tower Garzes once stood, to Zewwieqa bay, a popular inlet where swimming is still possible.

The Port History

A regular ferry service from Mgarr to Malta was probably initiated after the twelfth century. The service, known in Maltese as id-dghajsa tal-moghodija, literally, the boat of the passage is first recorded in 1241. The name survives in a toponym at the lateen sails in Mgarr, sails that were to survive until the twentieth century. At that time, Mgarr was a shallow harbour affording anchorage to small craft only and quite exposed from the south west (lbic) to the south east (xlokk). It did not have a breakwater but only a small jetty used by passengers to board and descend from the boats, and by the fishermen to unload their catches. The jetty is still there just below the Gleneagles bar (see image below). This bar, once a landmark of the harbour recognisable with its unique sloping roof, was originally the harbour's barrakka, a cabin for the shelter of passengers waiting for the passage boats. It was raised next to a still standing osteria, a tavern, by Grandmaster Antonio Manuel de Vilhena in 1732.

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