(First published here, July 6 2012).
I woke up covered in sticky mix of sweat and dust. The dust sits in the air here, settling on the furniture and on your skin and setting your hayfever alight.
Two antihystamines and two Myprodol later and my allergy headache is finally dulled.
We are in Malta.
After a traumatic journey here, we have arrived safe and relatively sound. Mother has been to see a doctor here this morning, but last night she felt strong enough to join us for dinner. A beautiful meal on a terrace overlooking the water, a three minute walk from our flat in Sliema. To the left of where we sat, boats bobbed in the bay, backlit by the lights of St Julian, the next suburb over.
Malta is not what I expected and it’s perfect. I was imagining, having no experience with island holidays, fruity cocktails and palm trees.
Malta is brown. Very brown. The buildings are all made of beige stone and the natural escarpment is rocks and sand. Desert like. Now this observation seems ridiculously obvious given its close proximity to the North African coast, but I did not know this until we landed.
The architecture reminds me of what I imagine Morocco to look like. The buildings are beautiful and old and crumbling. They are made of brown stone, with wooden balcony boxes jutting out of the second floor. They appear to normally be brown or white or some other earthy, neutral colour. Sometimes they are brighter, like the doctor down the road who has chosen green, but without fail the box and the front door must be the same colour.
It is very built up, a stone jungle, with narrow roads that wind in and out of each other. Everything is old and not particularly well taken care of, but this only adds to the relaxed atmosphere that permeats life here. Inbetween, the few modern buildings are offensively out of place.
Our apartment is beautiful. Very, hypocritically, modern. But it offers a clean comfort that we are enjoying. And it is large, which is great for five adults to coexist in without stepping on each other. There is a rooftop ‘garden’ with fake green grass and fake sunflowers and a view that steals your breath. I took my book up there, stretching out on a recliner, but every few minutes the blue of the ocean below us distracted me again and I didnt read more than a chapter.
So we are here and we are happy. We are learning very quickly to avoid cars, as they drive with no regard for road rules or the lives of pedestrians. Or indeed, their own. We laughed last night at the odd layout of the tiny, cramped corner shop until we realised today that the bigger supermarket is equally cramped and oddly arranged. There is no evidence of wealth here but also none of poverty and fashion follows the influence of Jersey Shore.