Page 1

Nov/dec 2011

issue 2

The Oasi Foundation An oasis away from addiction

Thank you for the music An encounter with Maestro John Galea

Page 29

Christmas All Year Round

The art of crib-making

Character / Spirit / Foundations / Flavours / Calendar / Through the Keyhole

SSSSSS h... Stunning Gozo!

Small and beautiful as it is, Gozo cannot be seen in just one day. As a place to relax, ‘hang out’ and live the good life the island is unsurpassed. After you set foot on Gozo, you’ll know why you need more than just a day to savour it’s leisurely charms. The more you enjoy your visit to Gozo, the more likely you are to return, and to recommend the island to others. If you are intrigued by this beautiful island’s ability to create ‘Gozo fanatics’ like ourselves, then plan a visit. We always stay for more than just a day. It’s the secret hideaway of all Maltese. Which is why we would prefer to leave it undiscovered by you. But it’s in our nature to share the best we have with visitors.

Editor's note

Issue 2

heartfelt festive traditions Editor Coryse Borg Editorial Consultant Jo Caruana Publisher Gozo Tourism Association Advertising Gozo Tourism Association Art Director John Falzon Design Keen Limited Contributors Pia Zammit Diane Brincat Photography George Saguna Pre-Press & Printing Progress Press

We’re just weeks away from ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. Before we know it, the festive season will be upon us and we’ll be enveloped by umpteen events, parties and special occasions. We love it, of course, but we also crave the chance to get some much-needed time to ourselves, and with our close family. At this time of year, Gozo remains the obvious choice for a step away from the ordinary. It promises the chance to step back in time and to explore the traditions of yesteryear – from the religious ceremonies to the quaint village events, many of which still live on in reality on Gozo. For starters, Bethlehem in Ghajnsielem (pg 10) has become one of the most talked-about Christmas activities in the Mediterranean region, and it really is an experience to behold. Additionally, Pia Zammit visits Giovann Cassar (pg 29) to learn all about the very unique cribs that he crafts year on year. Of course there are loads of other Christmas-related activities to enjoy, so please turn to our Round The Corner calendar on pg 36, which details everything that will be going on across Gozo over the next few weeks. Also this issue, Jo Caruana spent time at the Oasi Foundation to go behind stories of addiction (pg 18). So, as you can see, this is another jam-packed issue of the magazine for you to enjoying leafing through. And, in the meantime, we hope you have a wonderful festive season and New Year! Let’s Gozo!

On the cover

Gozitan crib crafted by Giovann Cassar Photo by George Saguna

Let’s Gozo is published by the Gozo Tourism Association every two months on Sunday with an audited circulation of 39,500 copies distributed with the Sunday Times of Malta. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from the Publisher is prohibited. All rights reserved. Dates, information and prices quoted are believed to be correct at time of going to press but are subject to change and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omission. Neither the editor nor publisher accept responsibility for any material submitted, whether photographic or otherwise. While we endeavour to ensure that firms and organisations mentioned are reputable, the editor can give no guarantee that they will fulfil their obligations under all circumstances. This publication is supported by the Ministry for Gozo. 3

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November/December ‘11



Thank You for the Music


through the keyhole A look at the latest events to take Gozo by storm.


Maestro John Galea chats to Pia Zammit about dedication, family and making music that pleased the Pope.



The True Meaning of Christmas Coryse Borg meets the man once again spearheading Bethlehem in Ghajnsielem, to discover why the event brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Christmas cheer’.




There’s No Palace Like Home Palazzo Palina is good enough for the likes of Gary Neville, Billy Connolly and Vogue – so it’s good enough for us!



An Oasis Away from Addiction A life of addiction is hard to overcome, but a Gozitan foundation is helping sufferers to start a new life. Jo Caruana goes to Oasi to meet three people who have done just that.



Little Gem of Peace We visit the tiny chapel of St Publius to discover more about this charming and tranquil place of adoration.




The Greatest Story Ever Told


Christmas comes every day for crib-maker Giovann Cassar. Pia Zammit learns more about the local inspirations for his incredible passion.



Salted, Peppered or Plain Gbejniet, little cheeselets made from sheeps’ milk, are intrinsically linked to Gozo. We discover the history and processes behind this delicious delicacies.



Calendar of events:

Just round the corner Get your diaries out as we chart the must-attend events of Gozo’s upcoming calendar. 5

Mro John Galea is a very accomplished musician and composer, as well as a dedicated family man.

6 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011


Music Thank You for the

Pia Zammit has a musical encounter with Maestro John Galea, a man who was born into, married into, and lives for... music. Maestro John Galea is a very busy man. When he’s not heading the Department of Music Studies or lecturing at the University of Malta, he’s directing the Chorus Urbanus in Gozo, conducting the King’s Own Band Club in Malta or an opera at the Manoel Theatre, guest lecturing overseas, writing a book, playing with his grandchildren or composing a number of different pieces of music at the same time. He’s got so many projects and plans all on the boil at the same time

that I expected to meet a harried, stressed soul. But as I waited by the fountain in St Francis’ Square, a man with an ear-to-ear grin excitedly waved at me, called my name and introduced himself. “I looked you up on Facebook, that’s how I recognised you,” he giggled. This, calm, smiling and quick-to-laugh man is Mro Galea. John was born in Malta, to a Maltese mother and Gozitan father, and moved to Gozo when he was only a few months old. He started

piano lessons in Gozo when he was around seven, under the tutorship of Maria Zammit, and then, when he turned 12, would travel to Malta for lessons with Bice Bisazza. Even at that young age, he knew that music was to be his life and he demonstrated this commitment by travelling to Malta, alone, every Saturday morning. Once he attained his higher diplomas in piano performance, John started composition lessons with Charles Camilleri and eventually 7


Left: John's music was chosen to be played at the mass celebrated by Pope Benedict. Above: John's grandson is already showing musical prowess at a very young age.

followed a B.Mus degree in composition at Durham University, which he graduated with honours. In 1994 he was awarded an Italian government scholarship to pursue higher studies in musicology at the Universita Degli Studi di Pavia for three years. Then at the tender age of 15, he made his conducting debut at the Astra Theatre in his home town, Victoria, conducting excerpts from Oklahoma. By the time he was 18, he was appointed musical director of the Astra Theatre and had conducted various operettas including Lehar’s Merry Widow and Kalman’s Principessa delle Czardas. The former was then performed at the Manoel Theatre, where he was one of the youngest, if not the youngest,

“My elder grandson, who’s three-years-old, is very musical. He is already ‘play conducting’ with strands of raw spaghetti – I never taught him to do that.” person to conduct at the national theatre. “That was quite exciting,” he told me in hushed tones. “The Manoel Theatre’s aura was awe inspiring. I’d never experienced anything like that before.” He’s been back since, of course; both as a guest conductor, and to take on the role of the theatre’s resident conductor between 1996 and 1998. It was inevitable that music was 8 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011

going to be John’s path. He has been surrounded by it since birth. His father played the tuba, his mother and his aunt (Hilda Maria Tabone) were both sopranos, while his brother, Noel, sings bass and Miriam Gauci is his cousin. With a pedigree like that, he couldn’t help but marry into music too. When he conducted The Merry Widow, his mother played the leading role. There was a young singer by the name of Yvonne in the cast and she and John made friends, then started dating and eventually, when John turned 22, got married. A little later, John went on to conduct The Merry Widow the second time around – and this time Yvonne starred as the lead. Music wasn’t always his primary source of income, though. He was originally a bank clerk, before being promoted to supervisor; however he was eventually seconded to the Gozo School of Music where he helped set up the piano department. This led to a move to Malta to lecture within the University of Malta’s Music Department. He has now headed it for the past three years. It is one of his ambitions to have a full time Bachelor of Music course within the University curriculum. At present it is a Bachelor of Arts course with Music as one of the two main subjects studied. He is very pleased

that, this year, music is being offered at SEC level for the first time. Previously it was only offered at Intermediate or Advanced level. He hopes that this will entice more people to consider music as a viable career choice and that it will attract more students to the university course. At present they have around eight or nine applicants a year, however, John proudly tells me that the University’s music department has one of the highest percentages of students going on to post graduate studies. But it isn’t all work with John, he spends plenty of time with his family too. He has two children – Hilda and George – and is the proud grandfather of two. Almost impossibly young to be a granddad, at 51, he is nonetheless besotted with his grandchildren. “You love your children, of course you do, they are your life. However the love you have for your grandkids is something unbelievably special,” he tells me, almost welling up. The music legacy seems likely to continue too. “My elder grandson, who’s three-years-old, is very musical. He is already ‘play conducting’ with strands of raw spaghetti – I never taught him to do that. He has a great ear for music – I’ll play a piece for him once and he’ll be able to sing it. Would you believe that he also went up to my piano, said ‘Granddad listen’, and then played a basic scale. I certainly never taught him to do that. I didn’t tutor my own children in music – I believe they’re more likely to be disciplined if they’re being taught by someone other than their own father – however, I really want to tutor my grandkids now.” What is he proudest of in his career, I wonder? “One of my greatest moments was when my Mass, In Fractione Panis, was chosen to be


the mass celebrated on the granaries by Pope Benedict. I submitted it, as there was a call for expression of interest. The Curia then sent the applications to Rome and mine was chosen. This is a seal of approval on artistic content and liturgical appropriateness too.” That is not all though; in conversation with Monsignor Alfred Xuereb – (second personal assistant to the Pope), Pope Benedict told him how much he enjoyed John’s music and that his brother, Georg Ratzinger, also praised the music and said that it helped in the enhancement of the rite. Mons Xuereb reported the Pope as saying “sai quanto e severo nella critica mio fratello” (you know what a harsh critic my brother is). “I sent a full score to the Pope as a memento,” John proudly tells me. Back to the present moment and our interview, John runs out of the room and returns clutching a large photo frame. “This is my prized possession,” he says excitedly. “In 1992 I was in Rome, judging a composing competition, and I managed to get a private audience with the Pope (then John Paul II). I presented

One of the tools of Mro John Galea's trade.

him with a composition of my own (which went on to be chosen for the Malta International Choir Festival), as well as a photo of the choir performing at Sala Nervi (in the Vatican) two years prior. And the Pope... signed it. He signed it! I was flabbergasted. It’s almost like he gave me an autograph.” As he proudly hangs the frame back on the wall he tells me that if music wasn’t in his life, he’d have loved to be a pilot. “I really enjoy being airborne

and I love to travel. Especially to Italy,” he says. Rather fortuitously his next teaching assignment with Erasmus takes him to Venice, where he will also premiere a new work of his. Enthralled by his enthusiasm and inspired by his success, we wrap things up. It’s the perfect moment to wish him the best of luck in all of his future endeavours – and I leave looking forward to hopefully one day listening to one of his works conducted by his adored grandson. 9


The True Meaning of

Coryse Borg meets up with the man leading the team behind an extraordinary project called ‘Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem’, which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Christmas cheer’.

10 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011

Photo: Joseph Sultana/Chris Azzopardi


Photo: Joseph Sultana/Chris Azzopardi


Photo: Joseph Sultana/Chris Azzopardi

Hard at work: Bethlehem f'Ghajnsielem is run like a traditional village with all the hands on deck to make the experience as authentic as possible. 11


Franco Ciangura leads the passionate team behind Bethlehem f'Ghajnsielem – one of the highlights of the Gozitan festive calendar.


t is a cold and blustery day when I meet Franco Ciangura outside the St Joseph Band Club in Ghajnsielem. Inside, hordes of people are gearing up to watch a football game in the warmth. But we are destined to remain outside as Franco is about to show me around a site that will soon be transformed into something really special. Franco, you see, is the brains behind the ‘Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem’ event - a nativity village in the heart of this typical Gozitan town. On the day when I meet him, in mid-October, construction on the village has just started (Franco explains that every year, for the past four years, he and his team of hard-working volunteers have built the village from scratch and torn it down in January). As Franco speaks, I cannot but be impressed by the utter passion that this man has for this project, and it is evidently very close to heart. Clearly, ‘Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem’ is a dream come true for him. But just how did that dream come into fruition? Although Franco readily admits that he was obsessed with Christmas when he was very young, his journey really started in 2000 when he crafted a presepju haj or live crib in the Ghajnsielem parish church square. And herein lies a 12 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011

very sweet story – the child playing the infant Jesus was his own! His second child (a boy) had been born just two months before. Since the day he was born, he had spent time with the woman who was to play Mary, so he got used to her presence and didn't cry or fuss during the live crib. Franco tells me that his son is still close to the woman who played his mother, 11 years later. It wasn’t before October 2008 when dozens of volunteers, together with the support of local NGOs and the financial backing of the Għajnsielem Local Council, decided to take on what turned out to be another very ambitious and complex project. Today it is hard to believe that, up to three years ago, the Ta’Passi fields – the area where the Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem event is held – was an eyesore, uncultivated and abandoned, and accumulating refuse. In the space of a few weeks, they cleaned up the area and converted it into a Nativity Village, which attracted tens of thousands of visitors. Subsequently, the ‘Fondazzjoni Bethlehem f’Għajnsielem’ was established to take on the responsibility of organising the event, which is still fully sponsored by the Għajnsielem Local Council today, in collaboration with the central government and a number of partners. Since the first edition held four years ago, the Nativity Village has gone from strength to strength. Last year an estimated 65,000 people visited the site over the span of a month. Some of them came from as far away as Poland and Norway. One family flew in from California after they read about it on the internet. Many of them will be coming back this year or next. In the meantime, the local council has applied for the devolution of Ta’ Passi fields and filed a MEPA application to turn into an all-year-round family park with the Christmas Village buildings incorporated into it (so they will not have to be pulled down every year). Back to the present moment and it was now time for me to actually explore what will eventually become ‘Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem’.

We are joined by one of Franco’s right hand men, Elvin Tabone, and set off to see the buildings that were being constructed right before my very eyes – fascinating. Franco stresses that each and every person involved in the project – from the builders, to the 150 actors, and the farmers who care for the small crop fields to the ushers – are volunteers; not one of them gets paid and they all do it because they love it. Since the hours are long, whole families usually get involved. In fact, the volunteers range in age from the very young to OAPs. Meanwhile, since this is the year dedicated to voluntary work, the Fondazzjoni Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem is calling on any NGOs who would like to contribute to this project in any way to contact them. It is worth mentioning that the foundation is also supported by several official entities and sponsors including the Ghajnsielem Local Council, Ministry for Gozo, Parliamentary Secretary for Consumers, Fair Competition, Local Councils and Public Dialogue and Eco-Gozo, among others. Another thing that Franco emphasises is the care and attention taken to ensure the project is as environmentally-friendly as possible. The buildings are constructed from recycled wood that is donated to them by a number of companies. And, whereas before, the roofs used to be made of plastic, they are now


Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem – this year’s highlights

Bethlehem Inn – this is a twostorey hotel available for rent. Guests may opt to spend one-night there or a couple of nights at the Grand Hotel with one of the nights spent at the inn. Each room sleeps four and has a terrace with amazing views of Mgarr Harbour and Fort Chambray, and there is also a communal dining area. During the day, the residents may opt to dress up in period costumes or do chores such as feeding the animals.


built using a more environmentallyfriendly material. The water in the water feature is obtained from a natural underground reservoir. There are waste-separation bins dotting the site, while the use of public transport is encouraged when visiting the event. In relation to all this, and for its efforts, the Fondazzjoni Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem was awarded ISO 14001:2004 certification from the Malta Standards Authority. Health and safety are other considerations; with people trained in first-aid on site all the time, as well as an ambulance on stand-by during weekends in collaboration with the Emergency Response and Rescue Corps (ERRC). The fourth edition of ‘Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem’ is expected to open

on 11 December and will remain open until 8 January, when actors dressed up as the three Magi (and their horses) will travel from Malta to Gozo on the ferry and then travel to the nativity village from the main streets of Ghajnsielem. Visitors can choose to leave their car at the Cirkewwa Terminal and take a five-minute walk up to the crib from Mgarr Harbour, or park their car in the Ghajnsielem parish square. Parking is also available in the main square and Ghajnsielem FC football ground. Entrance to Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem is free but donations are welcomed. For more information, and to learn about the opening hours, please visit bethlehem.

The Farm – a hit, especially with the children... with donkeys, goats, chickens and ducks. Alternatively, check out the sheep in the Shepherds’ Cave.


The Carpenter and Blacksmith’s Houses – these will be manned by a real carpenter and blacksmith, together with their families. Visitors will also be able to try their hand at these trades themselves (under supervision, of course).


The Food Stalls and Buildings – including the bakery where fresh bread and ftajjar will be sold, as well as a market selling fruits, fresh fish and vegetables. There will also be stalls selling pottery-works, plus an area with people showcasing local crafts, like lace-making.


The Tavern – a great place for mum and dad to have some time to relax while the kids play some traditional games, such as passju and bocci nearby (a novelty this year).

Photo: Joseph Sultana/Chris Azzopardi


The Grotto with Mary, Joseph and Jesus – with a real baby (who is changed approximately every hour – referred to as ‘the baby shift’!)

Above: Structures built on site in the Ta' Passi fields outside Ghajnsielem. left: The three magi (wise men) arrive on horse back. 13

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There’s No Palace Like Home Pia Zammit dons a tiara and tours a palace. After all, if it’s good enough for knights in shining armour and Gary Neville, then it’s good enough for her. 15


No female in her right

mind can resist visiting a palace. Thus, channelling all the images of fairytale princesses I could muster, I excitedly tottered round the remote grounds of the Hotel Ta’ Cenc estate; entranced by the gardens, the tranquillity and the oh-so-amazing views. Nestled in the middle of the fragrant gardens of this Natura 2000 150-acre estate is the delightful Palazzo Palina. Its myriad rooms surround an enchanting courtyard and several patios, and the palazzo is enveloped by luscious gardens. “There aren’t many hotels that can boast a 17th century palazzo within their grounds,” my guide proudly tells me. A number of the rooms have been accurately and sensitively restored to their former glory and are now used as venues for special events, conferences and weddings. There are several other rooms and rambling halls which are still awaiting conversion. My favourite is at the top of the building which was used as the birthing room. The view from up there is outstanding, but why the poor, probably rather heavily pregnant, women would be made to climb three flights to stairs to give birth, defies logic! Well on second thought, the view is THAT good. It probably made the climb worthwhile. Historians estimate that the Palazzo was built by the Knights of St John during their stay on Gozo – between 1697 and 1720, during the rule of the Grand Master Ramon Perellos Y Roccaful. While restoring the palace they found a coat of arms on the premises which confirms this. The little palace was probably originally used as a hunting lodge and one lucky Knight was possibly stationed there to look after the Ta’ Cenc territory. During restoration they also uncovered a unique graffito specimen – a drawing of a galley ship. There is no indication as to who drew it and why – however it just adds to the mysterious aura of the place. In fact, the whole area of Ta’ Cenc exudes a feeling of

remoteness and tranquillity. The buildings blend seamlessly with the vast gardens. Time seems to stand still. My guide describes the estate as ‘an island within an island’. Its importance in our island’s history is not to be overlooked. The name ‘Ta’ Cenc’ itself, is thought to be a corrupted version of the Maltese word cens – which means ‘lease’. It is believed that the Maltese Falcon given to Charles V of Spain as lease owed by the knights, was caught at Ta’ Cenc. There is certainly a barumbara (bird loft) on the grounds, close to the palazzo, which lends evidence to falconry. During World War II many families took temporary refuge in the palace, and, at some point in its past, Palazzo Palina was used as a nunnery. Legend has it that the ghost of a nun roams the building. Unfortunately no one I spoke to had ever seen her, and she didn’t feel fit to make an appearance during my visit. This private oasis boasts 160 hectares of vast rural wilderness – on which ancient dolmens, cart ruts and a temple have been found. It is also very important ecologically – 25 rare and endangered species of flora and fauna have been identified on the estate. All vegetables, fruit and herbs grown onsite are done so organically and are offered on the hotel restaurant’s menu. The estate’s full time farmers strive to ensure that Ta’ Cenc is as self sustaining as possible. They also produce their own olive oil and wine, from olives and grapes grown on the grounds. In short – this is one historically-important magical place. The elements all add up – the aura, the view, the timelessness, the fragrant scent of the trees and flowers and the understated magnificence of Palazzo Palina – all this makes me feel rather regal. Like I should have staff and an entourage and possibly a white horse. Well, the Palace was certainly appealing enough to attract the filming of the soap Coronation Street. If soap operas aren’t fabulous enough for you – get this - the

Historians estimate that the Palazzo was built by the Knights of St John during their stay on Gozo.

16 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011


The buildings blend seamlessly with the vast gardens, and several of the rooms have been sensitively restored.

leading fashion magazine Vogue staged a fashion shoot in the Palazzo too. Not yet impressed? Billy Connolly chose to be interviewed while on the palace grounds. And Gary Neville got engaged in the palace. How romantic is that? Impressed now?

Palazzo Palina completely lends itself to that – it has an unbeatable mix of a soft romantic aura, a solid manly stately building, beautiful fragrant gardens, staggeringly awesome views and the remote possibility of a ghost. If I had a wedding to plan, I’d be in seventh heaven.

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An Oasis Away from Addiction

Sex, drugs, alcohol. A life of addiction is far from our glamorous perceptions of rock legends and movie stars. Jo Caruana is invited into Oasi, where she explores the debilitating reality of addiction, and meets three people who’ve put their terrifying pasts behind them. 18 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011

Addiction. It’s a word that instils fear in the

hearts of many because, these days, who hasn’t struggled to help a friend or relative through some form of addiction? Be it drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, sex or a particular relationship, it’s hard to accept the reality that one simply cannot stop by themselves – they need help, and lots of it. “That’s exactly what we are here to offer,” explains Fr Emmanuel Cordina, founder of the Oasi Foundation and a member of its board of directors. “There’s so much that needs to be done, from the education of the general public on the prevention of addiction, to providing primary care to those whose lives have already been ripped apart by it. In this way we don’t target the substance as such, but the person, so we can help them no matter what their addiction is.” The Oasi Foundation was founded in 1991, and this year marked its 20th anniversary. “It was actually a personal experience that led me to want to set this up,” a clearly dedicated Fr Cordina explains. “Back in the late 80s a friend of mine was terminally sick with cancer,


“There has long been a problem. Today, though, I believe that addiction has reached pandemic proportions. There are issues around it that need to be addressed constantly.” Fr Emmanuel Cordina

Those seeking help at Oasi work hard to overcome their addiction.

and he asked me to care for his family once he was gone. I agreed, of course, but had no idea what a burdensome promise that would turn out to be, given that I didn’t yet know his teenage son was abusing drugs. “Nevertheless I wanted to keep my word and approached Dr Maria Sciberras, who, back then, was in charge of the Detox Unit within St Luke’s Hospital, and together we sought to find a solution. I have never looked back and definitely believe this to be my vocation.” While the Foundation is mostly focused on Gozo, its remit also extends to Malta. It helps around 80 people per year, some of whom attend as outpatients, and others as fulltime residents. “There has long been a problem. Today, though, I believe that addiction has reached pandemic proportions. There are issues surrounding it that need to be addressed constantly. “Most of our clients are referred to us by word of mouth – through the fantastic work of Narcotics Anonymous (NA), other self-help groups, friends, family, lawyers and employers. “People come to us at various stages of their addiction.

We aim to involve their family from the start, bearing in mind how vital they will be to our client’s recovery, as well as how important it is for them to witness and understand the results of the whole process.” Oasi runs a very intensive programme, easily the most intensive in the country. “We take our clients through the various stages – from the early instability and denial, to the acceptance of their condition and the teaching of skills that will help to transform their lives. “It is an international programme, based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is ideal for people who want to get back to their lives as soon as possible. We believe we can always find a solution, as long as our clients accept the basic principal of total abstinence when it comes to any mood-altering substance, be it alcohol, drugs or whatever.” As a result, the course of the programme involves everything from group therapy sessions to morning meditation. “It is intriguing but demanding,” continues Fr Cordina, “It is not an imposed recovery and our clients can leave at any time – but, usually, they don’t. By the time they reach us, they want to be here, and treatment lasts for around six weeks on average.” And to help the team to enhance their clients’ experiences, the specialised new wing of the Oasi Foundation opened earlier this year, marking the 20th anniversary with a bang. Purpose built, it has enabled them to offer a better service to those utilising the centre, as well as to provide a more comfortable living space conducive to a smooth recovery process. “I know we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg,” adds Fr Cordina. “So many of society’s problems are kept secret and I have seen and learnt so much through my 30 years of pastoral work, both in this field and out. “It doesn’t stop here; in fact it’s only just beginning. I continue to be spurred on by the rewards that come from truly helping a person to transform their life for the better, and will continue to do so.” 19


Matthew*, 26, was just 16 when he found himself on the heartbreakingly slippery slope towards drug addiction. A decade later, his determination to get clean, as well as his time at Oasi, helped to save his life. “I always knew I was different. I couldn’t relate to others very well and felt I was living on the fringes of society. It may be partly because I am an only child, and didn’t have kids my own age to play with when I was growing up. Plus, as a family, we weren’t very close to our extended relatives, so I guess I had always been a bit isolated, sheltered and over-protected. “Moreover, I was never very good at dealing with my feelings – positive or negative. I had very low “My parents were aware of some self-esteem, and I thought I was of what was going on but, to begin stupid and ugly. I hated my whole with, I managed to convince them being and completely despised that it was OK. You get very good at myself. I literally lived in my imagmanipulating when you’re using. I ination and would fantasise about got myself in trouble with the law how much life could be different. too – once for stealing money, and I guess my tendency to want to another couple of times for posescape helped to lead me down the sessing drugs. Matthew path towards drugs. “I can’t pinpoint a specific turn“I smoked my first joint when ing point, but I know I started I was 16 and at sixth form. In that moment something feeling desperate. By now I had been taking drugs for just clicked and felt good; I felt as though I’d found a six years and I knew I had to stop. The only thing I can purpose. Before then I’d never had an opinion, a hobby compare it to is being in a failing relationship – you know or a real interest in anything – I was just hooked on you have to leave, but at the same time you want to be video games and would spend hours playing them. with the person. You love and hate it at the same time, “Suddenly weed became my purpose, and I made it and the psychological, spiritual and emotional needs my goal to get as wasted as I possibly could. It became that it provides for permeate your entire being. Before my reason to get up in the morning. From that very first you go to bed you swear to yourself that tomorrow will be time I was a 24/7 smoker, unable to stop at one or two different and that you’ll never use again, but by morning joints. My perception of reality changed completely your body is crying out for it and it’s impossible to ignore. and I only felt ‘normal’ when I was wasted. If the effect It feels as though you have a terrible cold and fever; your wore off, which it did after a couple of hours, I would do body aches and your skin feels so foreign that you want to anything I could to get it back. tear it right off. You’re vomiting and have diarrhoea too, “Life worked this way for two years. I still functioned so all in all you feel extremely low and would do anything and went to school, and I convinced my parents that ev- to stop the symptoms, but you just can’t. erything was OK, and that weed was a perfectly accept“By that time I was also severely underweight and able hobby. But then things started to progress – I tried rarely ate. I was using around eight times a day and could experimenting with ecstasy, speed and coke. Ecstasy only function if I was wasted. All my energy went into became my second drug of choice and I was quickly working out where I was going to get my next hit from. I hooked. Before I knew it I was on it four or five times would use, feel better, start to feel the withdrawals and a week, all the while taking money from my parents to symptoms, and then start the cycle all over again. purchase pills. “At some stage in all of this I knew I needed help. I had “I always wanted to try everything I could – every tried to stop by myself so many times, but it was imposnew drug I discovered became a challenge. Then, while sible. I would do everything in my power – I would lock hanging out with a particular crowd, I found myself myself in my room, or try to hide my credit card, but I trying heroin. I spent a few months smoking it, and not always found a way. feeling addicted, until it suddenly wasn’t enough. That’s “A possible turning point was when I came home when I started injecting. I still can’t work out how I to find my mother, father and a doctor in our kitchen, knew what to do, but I did. And just like that, I was ad- waiting for me. After examining me, the doctor signed dicted to heroin. a consent form to have me taken into Mount Carmel

“ I still can’t work out how I knew what to do, but I did. And just like that, I was addicted to heroin.”

20 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011


The environment at Oasi is very condusive to the recovery process, with space to think.

where I spent two nights in complete seclusion. When you’re there you have no idea when you’re getting out, and I ended up staying for two-and-a-half months. “After that I came to Oasi for the first time, but I wasn’t ready yet and relapsed after three weeks. Finally, after

a month using and another month in Mount Carmel, I came back here, and that was it. I’ve now been clean for four-and-a-half years. “Since then I’ve discovered a lot about myself, including the fact that I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which may well have influenced the course of my addiction. Now I live a life of total abstinence, knowing that addiction isn’t something you ever get over. To this day I don’t put myself in risky situations, like having a sip of a glass of wine or hanging out with people who smoke weed. Instead I stay within my support group by attending regular NA meetings, talking to my sponsor and staying in constant contact with the team at Oasi. I know I’m only ever one step away from drugs, so I steer clear of them completely. “Now I am so grateful to have a normal life. I go to university, hit the gym and enjoy social activities; my life is no longer burdened with the need to use. My life is spiritually full now, and I have understood the incredible value of being healthy.” 21


The majority of Mandy’s* life was completely marred by her heroin addiction, including the birth of her four children. Now, at 42, she is finally clean of the turmoil it has brought.

Above: Fr. Emmanuel Cordina has made Oasi his life's work, helping countless addicts over the year. Below: In their time at Oasi, clients take part in activities to help with their recovery.

22 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011

“I was 15 when I got in with the wrong crowd and started smoking weed. It hadn’t been an easy time. My grandparents had raised me since birth, as my parents didn’t have the means to look after me. Sadly both my grandfather and grandmother died when I was in my early teens, and I had to return to my parents’ house, where I never felt comfortable. “Things only got worse after my father’s death a couple of years later, as I had just about started to develop a relationship with him. Now, with just my mother around, I rebelled by going out to smoke and drink, and was often aggressive. I felt so misunderstood; after all, everyone I’d ever loved had left me. “It was then I met my future husband, a drugs dealer. To begin with he made me feel safe, but that feeling didn’t last long. I was 17 when I smoked heroin for the first time, and recall the sense of relief it gave me. It wasn’t long before I started injecting it and I was addicted before I knew it. “Things moved fast between my husband and I. Soon after we got together I felt pregnant and we ran away together – I remember hiding from the police and helicopters that were looking for us. We hid for months, during which time our first child was born. I used heroin the whole time, and we both ended up in prison at one point – him for dealing, and me for refusing to co-operate with the police. Back then I would have done anything for him as I loved him so much. “I had two other children in quick succession, but they were all taken away from me, as was the first one. It was heartbreaking, but I didn’t know what to do. I was completely under my husband’s influence, closed off from the rest of the world and very vulnerable. I look back on that time and I can’t believe the lows I stooped too, even selling my body to raise funds for us to buy drugs. “Today I look back and don’t know how I survived. Thankfully, I did have the courage to leave my ex-husband, and later met my current partner. Nevertheless I was arrogant and wanted to keep using. “It was around then that I fell pregnant again. This time I didn’t even tell my doctor what was going on, but kept things secret as possible. When my daughter was eventually born she was sick, and had to be weaned off the drug herself. Appogg took her away too, and that was the point when I finally knew I had to ask for help. That’s when I came to Oasi and took the opportunity to really cut off from the rest of the world and find myself again. Today I have been clean for just over a year and have no words to describe how wonderful that feels. For the first time in my life I feel still and calm. That doesn’t mean there are no hardships, but I live each day as it comes and am so grateful to be free of the clutches of heroin. I believe I have been saved, and hope to help others in the same position. Now I can start putting my family back together, and hold down a job that enables me to support myself. My life is full again, and I will never stop appreciating everything that has been done for me.”


Daniel, 38, first experienced drugs in his early teens. His rocky road towards recovery, aided by the team at Oasi, finally helped him come clean just over a year ago. “I guess it all started because I wanted to try something new. Until I turned 14 I had always been very quiet and reserved, but suddenly my friends started experimenting, so I did too. We would meet regularly to smoke weed and it became quite a habit through my mid-teens. “I progressed from weed to downer pills and then LSD by the time I was 18. At that point I managed to stop for a while because I was in a relationship, but within a couple of years that had ended and I was back to using. “Before I knew it the same patterns were emerging. I was into party organisation back then and it was the very beginning of the house music era, when ecstasy came onto the scene. That became cocaine and, before I knew it, by the time I turned 23, I was on heroin. I was pretty hooked from the beginning and it fast took over my life. “I became so good at manipulating those around me into thinking everything was OK. I had my own business and managed to keep working, so I was never financially affected; I could buy drugs whenever I wanted to. “Things got steadily worse after around 10 years. By then I was depressed, lonely and paranoid. I was argumentative and had no respect, not even for my son or my mother. When I found out I was going to be a dad I had hoped it would help, but it didn’t; I just kept on using. But I never stopped trying to stop – I would take all the money out of my credit cards so I couldn’t buy drugs, or would go on holiday to break the habit, but I always came back to the same routine. “Discovering NA was a turning point because I met other people like me. They inspired me and I learnt a lot. It was definitely a start, but it wasn’t enough and I still kept using. Finally, after four years of attending meetings, I realised I couldn’t go it alone any further. The team at NA suggested Oasi and I moved in. From Day One it worked, and the 12-step programme changed my life. I guess my history with NA stood me in good stead, because I was already on the road to recovery, but being here made all the difference. “I spent four months here and four months in a halfway house before going home. It wasn’t easy to deal with so many years of emotions, but I am so glad I did. It feels amazing to be clean. Today I live in complete abstinence, which has dramatically improved my quality of life and relationship with my family, including my little son. “Looking back I know how lucky I have been; my family stood by me and I managed to keep my business going. Everyone makes mistakes, but I am going to do my best to always move forward and stay clean. I owe it to myself, those around me, my community and the programme itself. NA really is incredible, it has helped millions of people around the world just like me, and it really works. My advice to others would be to never try drugs in the first place – you never know where a terrible addiction could take you.”

Above: The Oasi magazine spread the Foundation's message to the public. Below: The building's new wing was inaugurated earlier this year.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved. 23


Peace A Little Gem of

Coryse Borg visits the tiny chapel of St Publius and is struck by the beauty and tranquillity of this place of adoration.

24 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011


A number of paintings adorn the chapel, including one of St Publius dressed in Bishop's robes and others dedicated to Our Lady. There are also a number of bas reliefs.

The chapel is surrounded by a very peaceful and serene area.

The enormous muftieh used to open the front door of the chapel.

Following in the footsteps Saint Publius (San Publiju in Maltese) is traditionally considered to be the first Bishop of Malta. Publius' conversion led to the island being the first Christian nation in the West, and one of the first in the world. As described in the Acts of the Apostles, it was Publius who received the Apostle Paul during his shipwreck on the island where he miraculously cured Publius' father of dysentery after praying and laying his hands on him. Afterwards, the rest of the sick on the island were also cured by St Paul. Saint Publius was martyred in c. 125, during the persecution of Emperor Hadrian. He is the patron saint of the town of Floriana and his feast is celebrated on 22 January.

The interior of St Publius Chapel constructed by 1852. The marble altar and floor were added in 1928. 25



veryone who knows me is aware of the fact that I am not blessed with a good sense of direction. I tend to get lost. A lot. So it is just as well that I meet my guide, Mons Joseph Sultana, the parish priest of Gharb, at a wellknown location – Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary – before we drive the three minutes it takes us to get to the St Publius Chapel, which is situated in a lane off Ghammar Street – a small side road that I would have most certainly missed had I tried to get there by myself. As soon as we get out of the car, I am struck by how peaceful the area surrounding the chapel is. In fact, for the hour or so we are there, I don’t think I hear even one car pass by; just an elderly man on his bike. It’s like the place is in a kind of time-warp. The idea that we have stepped back into the past is further increased when Mons Sultana absents himself for a minute and returns with a massive, antique-looking key to open the front door. He explains that the key (he calls it a muftieh rather than a cavetta) is kept by a woman just up the road and that he picks it up whenever he needs it. We enter the chapel, and my knowledgeable guide fills me in on some history of the building. The chapel was actually built on the spot where another chapel used to stand - the chapel of St Leonard, which had been deconsecrated in 1644. The foundation stone of St Publius Chapel was laid on 26 July 1850. It took just over two years to complete its construction. It was blessed on 26 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011

Left: One of the Stations of the Cross found in the interior of the chapel. Above: Unfortunately the chapel has seen better days and is not frequented as much as it was in times gone by.

10 October 1852 by the Archpriest of Gharb, Rev Fr Salv Mizzi. The chapel was paid for by a certain Dun Guzeppe Cassar, who is actually buried below the chapel and whose name adorns the street next to it. In 1928 the marble floor was put in, together with the marble altar (replacing a wooden one). In 1960 the chapel was included in the centenary of the shipwreck of St Paul who was shipwrecked in Malta in 60 AD. Apart from the marble altar, there is a small statue of the Madonna, as well as a few paintings – one of them depicting St Publius himself – and the Stations of the Cross. The two bells of this chapel are called Publiju (Publius) and Pawlu (Paul). Mons Sultana explains that, in times gone by, mass was celebrated every day in the chapel as there was a large community which lived in its vicinity. However, nowadays, there are only a few families left there, so mass is only celebrated on special occasions, as well as during the feast of St Publius celebrated on the third Sunday in January, when it is also adorned for the occasion. This chapel is situated close to one of the main landmarks of the village of Ghasri – a lighthouse on a hill called Ta’ Gurdan (Gordan Hill). The lighthouse is the first to ever be built on the island. It really is a great place to explore, especially as you can look down at views of Gozitan

hills, valleys and scenery. Meanwhile, this chapel is overshadowed by the another attraction – the Ghammar Hill, which also offers wonderful views. This spot is also home to a set of life-size marble statues designed by Alfred Camilleri Cauchi. These statues represent the Way of the Cross and are a much visited site by pilgrims, especially during Holy Week. St Publius Chapel is one of the few old chapels in Malta and Gozo that has retained its rustic style and atmosphere. However, as Mons Sultana tells me, it cries out for restoration (in fact, I see that some parts of the walls certainly need repairing). However, since there aren't many people around – and the few who live there tend to look to Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary for their spiritual needs – there are no funds available for this. Meanwhile, another problem lies in figuring out who is actually responsible for the chapel, as it is technically under the jurisdiction of the Ghasri local council but forms part of the Gharb parish. As I turn to leave the chapel, I take one last look inside and think to myself what a pity it would be to let this peaceful place go to rack and ruin. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t, as it would be tantamount to destroying a truly darling piece of history. Anyone wishing to view St Publius Chapel may do so by contacting Mons Sultana at the Gharb Parish.

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Story Ever Told In the run up to Christmas, Pia Zammit meets a man for whom it is Christmas everyday. And no – it’s not Santa Claus. 29


When I picture Christmas,

I always think of a roaring fire, a tall green Christmas tree, all the family gathered together round a foodladen table, and bizarrely, of an outdoor Christmas market typical of small villages in Germany. (I’ve only ever been to one in my life – and yet it’s the image on so many Christmas greeting cards). And in a corner of the picture in my mind, sits a little crib, which my mother would set up every December and adorn with poinsettias. It’s rather different at Giovann Cassar’s house in Victoria, Gozo. For Giovann, the crib is the centre of all activity. It is the very reason for Christmas. “The whole message of Christmas is in the crib,” he says to me, as I sit in his living room surrounded by miniature cribs from all over the word. “The nativity scene is the focal point of all celebrations. After all, if Jesus hadn’t been born, there would be no Christmas.” John M Cassar – known to everyone as Giovann – is an ex-policeman and now a flag maker by profession. However he was born into the crib-making life. His father used to construct elaborate cribs out of papiermâché for the family’s home Christmas decorations and Giovann would help him. Eventually, he and his brother started experimenting with different materials and enjoyed building cribs out of Gagazza stone. When he was an altar boy, he was fortunate enough to be allowed to shadow a priest, Fr Viktor Buhagiar OFM Kappucin, who was an excellent crib maker. This gave Giovann inspiration for different types of design, and the confidence to start developing his own style. In 1984, he decided to spread his wings and start competing locally with cribs made out of gagazza stone. In 1985, a very important event in the Gozitan crib-making world took place – the Ghaqda Hbieb tal-Presepji Ghawdex, Malta (Friends of Cribs Group – Gozo, Malta) was formed. Now all crib-making enthusiasts could meet like minded people and exchange ideas, tips and stories. Giovann is full of enthusiasm for the Group and cannot help but continually stress how important it is for the future of crib-making and to ensure that the tradition doesn’t die. The Group certainly hasn’t been idle. They have represented the Maltese Islands at several international congresses. Giovann himself has attended seven since 1986 – including those held in Genoa, Prague, Munich, Napoli and Madrid. The Group has also been seminal in increasing awareness about the hobby/talent/passion. They hold lectures and seminars about crib and figuring making, the history of cribs, and also about local folklore. There has been such great interest in these lectures that the Group has even been touring schools and giving talks. They also meet regularly, and as Giovann says with a giggle: “It’s Christmas all year round for us!” Meanwhile, the Group’s ultimate aim is that each home will house a crib at Christmas time – they would like to see more cribs than Christmas trees as they be30 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011

lieve that commercialisation is threatening to take over and cribs need a revival. Over the course of his crib-making career, Giovann’s style did undergo a change – he switched from making cribs out of stone to papier-mâché because the latter is more malleable and makes it easier to get details right. He is extremely grateful to Frank Mizzi and the late Amleto Mompalao, both accomplished crib-makers, who have been of great inspiration to him and offered him advice whenever he asked for it. Through his travels, Giovann began to admire the fact that different countries have their own style of crib-making, and that the materials they use reflect the country they are made in. He realised that he wanted to create cribs that were truly Gozitan – reflecting the aura, atmosphere and culture of Gozo. This is a dream he achieved around a decade ago, and almost every year since he has built and opened to the public a moving crib with lights, sound and even water. Over the last ten years he has staged the nativity in mock-ups of the Citadel, Xlendi, tax-Xwieni, Lunzjata and even Dwejra (this one in particular featured lots of water and many majestic ships). Giovann takes me downstairs to his workshop and display area – a space he excavated under his house, from where he also operates his flag making business. He shows me a dedicated area for his yearly crib, where I spy a wonderful Christmas scene in a very familiar location. His 2010 nativity is set in Fontana near the Ghajn tal-Hasselin (Fountain of the Washer Women), and includes a detailed and accurate papier-mâché depiction of the road leading up to Victoria, overlooked by the church and the silhouette of the Citadel. The pasturi (figurines) were made by Pierre Bugeja. The whole construction took him an astounding ten days of solid work. This fact floored me! This is a massive nine-by-17 foot moving crib with sound and a lights display. It’s a beautiful work of art. “He never leaves this place from morning to night,” his wife tells me. Thankfully, though, crib-making at Casa Cassar is a family affair. His daughter Marita, a pianist, chooses the music every year. His son, Paul, an artist, has just graduated in History of Art and is now sitting for his Masters degree. He helps his father with the lighting and is a sounding board for Giovann’s many thoughts and ideas. His wife, Frances, was also born into a cribmaking family; so it’s in her blood. Her dad and brother were both crib makers and would enter competitions. She not only supports her husband’s passion but understands the amount of work involved. During frantic crib making time, she is on hand to purchase emergency supplies, as well as on critical tea making duty. Every year, Giovann has to think of a new location for his crib. He doesn’t like modern scenes with high rise flats or many electricity poles. He draws inspiration from traditional views of Gozo. Once he’s scouted out a


place, he takes photos and adapts the landscape so that the grotto (nativity scene) is central and given the most importance. “The atmosphere has to be right and is all-important. I always shine the brightest light on the manger – it’s all about Jesus,” he says with a grin. A week before Christmas, he opens his crib up to the general public. Locals can visit from 5 till 9pm, and

coach-loads of people (tourists and Maltese) visit in the mornings. As I leave he sets to work and starts to dismantle his Christmas 2010 masterpiece. I can hardly bear to look. He seems unperturbed; “I can’t wait to get started on the next one,” he tells me excitedly. “The best part of my hobby is always having a crib at home”.

Top: Giovann's stunning scenes always depict part of Gozo. Left: Christmas lasts all year for Giovann, whose family is also very involved in the process. 31

Cared for and looked after: The perfect gbejniet are made from fresh sheep's milk.

32 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011


Salted, Peppered or Plain – a Gozitan Love Affair

Gozo has a complete culture related to gbejniet – the small, round cheeselets made from sheep’s milk and served salted, peppered or plain. Here, Jo Caruana ventures behind the tradition to discover more about the ingredients, process and history that go into making this tasty delicacy so amazingly delicious. 33


Story Snippets

They’re not just tasty... Gbejniet can be recordbreaking too! Just like the one made in Gharb, as part of a 2010 folk festival, which weighed in at a whopping 35 kilos and clinched the title of the largest Gbejna ever produced on the Maltese Islands.

On a recent trip to Gozo, our first port

of call was mapped out well in advance – a pit stop to pick up some seriously fresh gbejniet for breakfast the following morning. Delighted at the prospect, we drove up to a Victoria farm and purchased a little taste of heaven. Now, we really were ready for the weekend ahead. You see, there is something about Gozo that is intrinsically linked to these little cheeselets. And, as I begin my research on the topic, it’s easy to see why – gbejna-making in these parts can literally be traced back hundreds of years, with recipes being handed down from generation to generation, staying within the families who have produced them for as long as they can remember. One such family is the Hilis, whose farm just outside Zebbug is adjacent to their welcoming home. As we sit around their kitchen table, talk quickly turns to the way gbejniet are made. “Gbejniet-making is part of my heritage,” explains Georgia, whose husband Joe and children are now largely responsible for ensuring the job gets done properly. “I know that it was two of my relatives who started things off,” she says, “But it goes back too far for me to really remember! All I know is that the recipe was taught to us when we were little, and we just continued the family tradition.” Now the Hilis run a farm with around 100 working sheep, all of whom are well cared for. “This is the only life we know, so we are very accustomed to the routines of making gbejniet,” says Joe. “The process is quite simple, and it is one that we complete pretty much every day of the year. That said, there aren’t many farms still using the exact same procedure we do; we like to go back to our roots and to use the methods we know best.” The process is relatively uncomplicated, but

34 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011

carefully timed and pretty labourious. “First we milk the animals and warm the milk,” explains Joe. “It has to be heated up to 72 degrees to ensure it is pasteurised, and then cooled to 35 degrees. After that you add rennet – a digestive enzyme produced by mammals – and pour the mixture into containers to set. These are known locally as qwieleb (qaleb in singular) and were traditionally made from reeds. “The cheeses are then transferred to a cold room where they spend around two days, unless they are being sold soft and very fresh (known as gbejniet friski, and usually served with crunchy Maltese bread). Most get aged and are then sold plain (dried for around two to three days and called moxxi), salt cured (mahsula) or peppered (tal-bzar) to add extra flavour.” The business side of things is also handled in-house, with all hands on deck to ensure things run smoothly. “We all have a role to play in getting the cheese made, from looking after the sheep and feeding them, to ensuring all hygiene standards are met every step of the way,” says Joe. “Then one of our sons travels to Malta every day or so to distribute the latest products, and, after that, the whole process starts again!” The Hilis explain that production is pretty low around this time of year, as many of the sheep still have lambs to feed. “At maximum capacity we can produce around 1,200 cheeselets per day,” continues Georgia, who is a big fan of the cheese herself. “Of course, we use it a lot,” she smiles. “I put it into all kinds of dishes for the family, including pastizzi (savoury cheese cakes), soppa talarmla (widow’s soup – a simple, healthy broth made from vegetables and beans), and various stuffed meat dishes. “It’s so versatile and, like most Gozitan families, we absolutely love using it!”


Way Back When… Gbejniet production can be traced back for centuries on Gozo. As Gbejniet are quite easy to make, it is thought that they have been an integral part of the local diet for a very long time. In fact, it is believed that cheese has been made on the island since prehistoric times. As the years went on, it was very commonly produced – usually by farmers’ wives, who would effortlessly rustle up the cheese in a corner of their kitchen. In rare cases, farmers could afford to build a dairy, and the cheese would be manufactured there. 35

Calendar of Events

Just round the corner Winter is just around the corner, but Gozo still has loads to offer its visitors, from exhibitions and art openings, to theatrical and musical spectacles. As always, there really is something for everyone.

Carols by Candlelight 2011

Attard, has been rehearsing for months. The concert will include popular melodies such as O Holy Night, Silent Night and Adeste Fidelis, as well as pieces by ‘Christmas composer’, John Rutter. Meanwhile, the foyer will host another exhibition, this time by established young artist Paul Stellini. Finally, after the concert, audiences will be encouraged to enjoy the rest of their evening over a mouthwatering meal, with complimentary wine, in the Monastery’s Renaissance Cloister. A definite must for the festive season! For more information visit

St. Augustine’s Friary, Victoria, 9 & 10 December, 7.30pm


or the ninth consecutive year, Schola Cantorum Jubilate will present one of Gozo’s main Christmas events, Carols by Candlelight. The choir, under the direction of Marouska

C Commemoration | D Dance | E Event | M Music/Concert | O Opera | P Procession | R Religious Event | S Showcase/Exhibition | T Theatre

November 2011:


The honouring of distinguished citizens from the village of Xewkija.


26 27

St Ursula’s Hall, Cittadella Centre for Culture and Arts, Victoria, 10am - 3pm

St John’s Hall, Cittadella Centre for Culture and Arts, Victoria, 7.30pm

S Paintings by Henry Alamango

R Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

Paintings by John Dimech

Banca Giuratale Foyer, Independence Square, Victoria, 8am - 3pm (weekdays) / 9am- 12pm (weekends)

4 -31 Nov


Paintings & sculptures by Rachele Bianchi S

St John’s Hall, Citadella Centre for Culture and Arts, Victoria



Spring Awakening

Church Square & main streets, Fontana

December 2011:

1 C

Jum il-Fontana

Fontana Council Hall, 7pm

8 -4 Dec



Aurora Opera Theatre, 8pm

This live nativity is spread across 20,000sqm of land, with over 100 particpants bringing the story of Jesus’ birth to life. Open on weekends and public holidays.


Gieh ix-Xewkija

Rosa Magro Primary School Hall, Xewkija


Ta Passi Fields (adjacent to the main square), Ghajnsielem

36 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011

D Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

St John’s Hall, Cittadella Centre for Culture and Arts, Victoria, 6pm Ballet on the big screen!


E Nadur Christmas Market

Main Square, Nadur


Il-Presepju talBanca E

Bethlehem f'Ghajnsielem 2011

Festival: Bla Kondixin 2011


Banca Giuratale, Independence Square, Victoria, 8am - 3pm (weekdays) / 9am - 12pm (wekkends) Inauguration of the annual Christmas Crib.


R Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception Church and adjacent streets, Qala

R Feast of the Immaculate Conception

St Frances Square and adjacent streets, Victoria

10 T

Mixja fid-Dlam

Cittadella Centre for Culture and Arts, 7pm A contemporary play, presented by Talenti (Malta).

D Alice’s Adventures Underground

Aurora Opera House, Victoria, 7pm

A contemporary dance interpretation by the Naupaca Dance Academy (pictured right).

10&11 R

Feast of Saint Lucy

Santa Luċija Square and adjacent streets, Santa Luċija


M Gozo International Celebration (Christmas Edition)

Qala Parish Church, 6.30pm

Calendar of events

9 10 &


Excerpts from renowned operas interpreted by Italian opera singers, produced by Fiesole Productions.


Leone Grand Christmas Concert M

Aurora Opera House, Victoria, 7pm




C Jum ir-Republika (Republic Day)

Ministry for Gozo Hall, St Francis Square, Victoria, 6.30pm A musical and literary concert presided by the President of the Republic.


Assaggi dell Opera

Kempinski, San Lawrenz, 7.30pm

With the participation of various acts, including the Leone Band, under the direction of Colin Attard.


Annual Christmas Crib Exhibition S

Exhibition Hall, Ministry for Gozo, Victoria, 9am - 4pm (weekdays)


E Gozo’s Yesteryear Christmas

Cittadella Centre for Culture and the Arts, 4pm - 8pm Celebrating past Christmas traditions from the island of Gozo

M 2011 Christmas Concert

Sacred Heart Parish Church, Fontana, 7pm Concert by Chorus Urbanus and Urbanus Festival Brass, with musical direction by John Galea.

18 19 &

M A Christmas Carol – yesterday, today, tomorrow

Don Bosco Hall, St. Augustine's Square, Victoria, 7pm

Musical Theatre by Pieds Dansant.

21 M

Sounds of Christmas

Independence Square, Victoria, 7.30pm

24 T

Christmas Pageant

Main Square and streets, San Lawrenz, 8.30pm

A traditional pageant relating the story of the salvation from Adam and Eve to the birth of Jesus Christ.

P Procession with Baby Jesus

Qala, 7pm


P Procession with Baby Jesus

Dun Gorg Preca Street to Xaghra Basilica, 7pm

Concert by Chorus Urbanus and Urbanus Festival Brass, with musical direction by John Galea.

M Christmas Day Concert by Harpeggios Trio

P Purcissjoni talBambin



Main streets, Zebbug, 7pm (Procession with Baby Jesus)

Bethlehem f'Ghajnsielem, Ghajnsielem, 6pm

M Kuncert ta’ l-Aħħar tas-Sena

Visitation of Our Lady Basilica, Gharb 37

Calendar of Events

6 M

Epiphany Joys

San Lawrenz Parish Church, 7.30pm

Photo: Martin Attard

End of the festive season concert by the Gaulitanus Choir.


Sab Triqtu Meta Ntilef T

Oratory Don Bosco, 7pm

A musical produced by the M.U.S.E.U.M, Nadur (pictured above).

The Arrival of the Three Wise Men E

Basilica of the Nativity of Our Lady and main streets of Xaghra, 9am A reenactment of the arrival of the three wise men to pay homage to Baby Jesus.





E ‘Is-siegħa tal-Paġġi ż-Żgħar’

Church Square and streets of Ghasri, 5pm

Exclusive prayers and chants recited by the children of the village.

Feast of the Holy Eucharist (tal‘Kwaranturi’)

San Lawrenz Parish Church, 9am

Check our Christmas and New Year menus on our website. We also cater for staff parties!

P Feast of the Holy Eucharist (tal‘Kwaranturi’)

San Lawrenz Square and main streets, 5pm & Zebbug Square and main streets, 5pm


S The Art of Survival – An Identity trough Culture

Banca Giuratale Foyer, Independence Square, Victoria, 8am to 3pm (weekdays) / 9am to noon (weekends) An ethnographic collection presented by Brumalia Events.


R Feast of Saint Anthony the Abbot

Saint Anthony Square and main streets of Xagħra

Pay 3 get 4! Hotel Calypso is pleased to inform you about the special offer for the months of November and December 2011. Clients who book a three night stay will get an EXTRA FREE NIGHT. This offer is valid for the period between 1st November to 29th December throughout weekdays and weekends. The 4th free night includes breakfast.

Sunday Buffet Lunch

Get away from it all… Indulge in a relaxing break in Gozo at Hotel Calypso right on the water’s edge.

Hotel Calypso, Marsalforn Bay, Island of Gozo, Malta Tel: (+356) 21562000 E-mail:

38 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011

Eat all you can from an array of Antipasti, Salads, Pasta, Cold Cuts, Fish and tempting desserts for only €23.00 per person. Kids buffet menus are available at half the price.

Join our facebook page today!

Bedrooms Tiles Bathrooms TV Units Coffee tables Sofas


Showroom: Pope John Paul II Str, Victoria, Gozo. T: 2156 3966 M: 9942 5536 E:

MGARR - GOZO: 2210 9000 / 2156 1622 / 2155 6016 39



Increased renewable energy produced in Gozo, considered by many as the garden of the Maltese archipelago, is slowly Gozo but steadily

Tuning In To Eco Gozo transforming itself into an eco island as per the country’s vision for a sustainable island.

Fostered the creation of support groups for vulnerable persons

By the year 2020, Gozo will excel in its green

credentials with projects that took off two years ago and others that are planned for the months and years to come. The Eco Gozo vision found the Government’s political will and financial backing. It thrives on the support of the Gozitan people who are tuning in to the various opportunities for the implementation of projects that offer sustainable solutions to daily life challenges and traditional practices. During the past two years of implementation, more than half of the 80 short-term initiatives launched by the Ministry for Gozo, have taken off with many of them reaching completion. With the backing of the prestigious HSBC Foundation works on an afforestation programme at the Mgarr Harbour where around 2,300 new shrubs and trees have already been planted. Other similar projects will be completed in the new Marsalforn Garden, soon to be inaugurated for all Gozitans to enjoy. A programme that includes the cleaning of valleys, maintenance and the professional up-keep of water catchment areas in order to increase rainwater harvesting was also kick-started, with impressive results achieved in the first year. Last year’s works resulted in an increase of more than 18,500m3 of rainwater and works are proceeding this year with the cleaning of other valleys, including that which leads to Ramla Bay, and the catchments found in Ghasri and next to the Capuchins’ Friary in Victoria. Another vast and ambitious project involves the rebuilding of kilometres of rubble walls that have started to enhance several rural areas and will also result in the conservation of soil. Other projects include sustainable water harvesting, such as the building of reservoirs, energy-saving measures in public buildings and streets, the creation of a child care centre, investment in the promotion of Gozo as an ICT services hub and several healthy lifestyle related campaigns and actions. Another important restructuring process is taking place at the government farm, which will be turned into a Centre for Research and Innovation for Agricultural Development with the collaboration of the University of Malta. This project, by itself, involves an investment of €1.5m and includes an environmental outreach programme for children led by the Hands-on-Farming Programme. Various educational campaigns that include

o flo

Funded a large number of ecoGozo projects by Local Councils good agricultural practices, healthy eating, good environand NGO’s mental practices for school children, eco-friendly solu-

tions to lower emissions and ways on how to make good use of environmental-friendly technologies such as the generation of solar energy, waste separation and water conservation are taking place on a regular basis. Most of the projects happening under the Eco Gozo remit aim to create a better lifestyle for Gozitans. Many Cleaned schemes are in-keeping with what is happening in other beaches regions withinand the EU. For example, Gozo is participating in the SIMBIOTIC (Sicily-Malta BIOgeographical sea beds Transboundary Insular Connectivity) Project that aims to strengthen the ecological connection between Sicily and Gozo through the rehabilitation of natural environments and better management of protected sites. This project has been allocated €1.16m from ERDF funds which amount to 85 per cent of its total commitment. Another scheme aimed at enhancing Gozo’s cultural identity is the Public Art in Gozo Scheme, which drew the Reduced COin2 submission of 120 works of art by artists who reside Malta and Gozo. A number of these works will be chosen emissions from to embellish projects and sites around Gozo. These are a few of the initiatives already taking place in the roads Gozo under the eco-island remit. The number of projects aimed at transforming Gozo into an eco-island are many, and each will play an important role in the sustainable future of the island.

and this is only a fraction of

40 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011

Should you wish to join those Gozitans who are already giving their support to the Eco Gozo projects, just log onto or find us on facebook.


Diamond Jubilee Bar Diamond Jubilee in Victory Square Xaghra, has been renovated from a traditional wine bar into more than the local meeting place. This Xaghra landmark has been revamped to a contemporary posh but welcoming style by blending the old with the new. Apart from the decor, one can find the bustling young staff who serve the best coffee, wine and drinks. Snacks and local food are dished out attractively and consumed heartily by locals and tourists alike. The Diamond Jubilee is the hub of the busy Xaghra Centre and not to be missed! Diamond Jubilee Bar, Victory Square, Xaghra, Gozo. t: 2156 9009 | m: 79094392 | e:

Dolphin pools ltd Now is the time to plan on investing in a better and more enjoyable lifestyle for all the family, whilst enhancing and adding value to your property. Dolphin Pools, our Island's leading swimming pool company, can offer professional guidance, advice and assistance in making your dream come true. Whether you want to install a garden pool, indoor or rooftop pool, which are increasing in popularity, we are there to help you make the right choice at a surprisingly affordable price. Dolphin Pools – for all your pool, spas and sauna requirements, Dolphin Pools Gozo. t: 2156 6990, Malta: 2123 0855 | w:

Il-Kartell Restaurant Since 1973, Il-Kartell Restaurant has become the venue where friends meet to enjoy fine food and wine. We offer an extensive Mediterranean and Gozitan menu at a reasonable price. Il-Kartell Restaurant, Marina Street, Marsalforn Bay, Gozo. t: 2155 6918 | m: 7900 1965 e: | w:

Latini Restaurant Latini is a family-run restaurant offering a contemporary menu with a wide selection of dishes, all served in stylishly, modern and warm surroundings. Particular attention is paid to the quality and origin of ingredients. Organic produce is used whenever possible in keeping with the commitment of the Chefs to use the finest fresh, natural food. All dishes can be complemented by the extensive and well-chosen wine list which reflects the light, modern and unpretentious cuisine. Latini Restaurant, Il-Menqa, Marsalforn, Gozo. t: 2155 0950 | e: | w:

Mariblu Bed & Breakfast Family run with 3 StarHotel Standards. All Rooms with balcony, ensuite showers, kitchenette, Fridge, TV & Air Condition. With Two Swimming Pools and large sundeck with Sunbeds. Our restaurant, bar and pizzeria are open all day serving local specialities as well as a la carte menu both in our airconditioned restaurant or al fresco by the pool. We also offer farmhouses, millhouses and villas with pool, as well as boat charters. Mariblu Bed & Breakfast, Mgarr Road, Xewkija, Gozo. t: 21551315 | m: 9949 7757 e: | w:, 41


ON THE ISLANDS but don’t take our word for it

Published on July 30, 2011

42 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011


Official launch of the 3a Gozo Offices A firm of accountants, auditors and business advisors have recently launched their Gozo operations and will be manned entirely by Gozitan professionals, led by Ms Pauliana Said and will also act as a satellite office of MISCO. 3a signifies the firm core competencies, Accountancy, Assurance and Advisory. This stems from their focus on two objectives namely, that of assisting their customers in realising their business potential through their advisory directorate, and that of accounting and auditing their achieved results so as to ensure seamless compliance with regulatory frameworks. 3a, 50, Santa Dminka Street, Victoria, Gozo. t: 2015 5001 | e:

Pebbles Restaurant Situated in the heart of the popular resort of Marsalforn, the Pebbles Restaurant offers a truly authentic experience in dining al fresco right on the water’s edge. Our sensitive appreciation for local cuisine and awareness of the contemporary kitchen enables us to offer a variety of food which satisfy the appetite of our most discerning clientele. Our a la carte menu offers a delicious and mouth watering selection of dishes served daily, both lunch and dinner, in a friendly atmosphere. Pebbles Restaurant, Misrah Mikelang Refalo Marsalforn Gozo. t: 2155 6151 | e:

Pulena Restaurant Pulena is a long established family run restaurant situated right on the Marsalforn seafront. We pride ourselves on serving quality authentic food at a reasonable price, with friendly and efficient service. Pulena offers a wide variety of dishes, including our delicious home-made pasta and an extensive choice of pizza; in addition we specialise in fish and meat dishes. We use only the freshest ingredients, sourced directly from the island wherever possible. Pulena Restaurant, Marina Street (il-Menqa), Marsalforn, Gozo t: 2155 9777 | m: 9942 0881

Qbajjar Restaurant Tucked quietly, overlooking the beautiful Qbajjar Bay on the island of Gozo, lies this exquisite seafront restaurant. With a well-prepared family-priced menu, an abundance of fresh fish dishes and expertly cooked Mediterranean recipes, this is a place not to miss for a truly unique dining experience. Serving fresh fish, fresh pasta, meat & poultry, salads, soups, risottos, pizza and children's menu. Qbajjar Restaurant, Qbajjar Seafront, Qbajjar Bay, Gozo. t: 2155 1124 | m: 99849136 e: | w:

RABOKK SNACK BAR AND PIZZERIA Situated in the main square shadowed by the dominant Nadur Basilica, this family run Snack Bar and Pizzeria offers a warm atmosphere and homily place to savour your choice of pizza and other specialities exquisitely prepared by Maria. At Rabokk Snack Bar and Pizzeria you can enjoy a unique dining experience in a friendly environment complimented with a Gozitan village touch. Rabokk Snack Bar and Pizzeria, Pjazza San Pietru u San Pawl, Nadur, Gozo. t: 2155 8337 | m: 9980 2491 / 9947 8629 43


RE/MAX Gozo Office RE/MAX, the global real estate network, has grown from strength to strength and is currently present in 80 countries with over 115,000 agents worldwide. The Gozo office, situated in the heart of Victoria (Pjazza It-Tokk), is renowned for having the largest selection of farmhouses and apartments both for sale and letting. Should you be interested in viewing some properties, our professional and friendly staff will be more than pleased to assist you. Our agents will carry out all negotiations to obtain the best price and the most favourable conditions, agreeable to both vendors and purchasers. To view our latest properties please visit our website on or call 2156 6284.

Rubble Bar Experience the scrumptious selection of antipasti, salads, pasta, steaks and fresh fish at Rubble Bar in the heart of Xaghra square, where exotic local ingredients and mouth watering sauces come together in a symphony of flavours. We warmly welcome you to join us for a casual lunch or dinner where you will devour genuine food, good prices and stand out service. Or come along and simply chill out and relax with some friends over a few drinks or refreshing cocktails in a warm and cosy ambience. Rubble Bar is open daily (except Thursdays) between 9am to 3.30pm and from 6pm till late. Rubble Bar, 26 Victory Square, Xaghra, Gozo. t: 2156 3758 | m: 9984 4568

Ta’ Salvina Restaurant Tucked away in quaint village of Gharb our Restaurant is renowned for our local and Mediterranean cuisine. Whether you prefer dining indoor or al fresco by the pool, in an authentic rustic environment, at Ta' Salvina we offer you a special dining experience both for lunch or dinner, away from it all, enjoying our fresh food and friendly staff. Opening hrs: Mornings from 11.00hrs till 15.00hrs and evenings from 18.00hrs till 23.00hrs daily. Ta' Salvina Restaurant, 21 Frenc tal-Gharb Street, Gharb, Gozo. (behind Gharb Church) t: 21552505 | m: 9942 2510 e: | w:

The Boat House Restaurant Located in the picturesque bay of Xlendi, our restaurant takes local and Mediterranean dining to a new level of satisfaction, serving fresh fish, seafood specialities, pasta & aromatic meat dishes. The Boat House Restaurant, Xatt ix-Xlendi, Xlendi Bay, Gozo. t: 2156 9153 | m: 9947 7207 e: | w:

Missed an issue of Let's Gozo or looking for more information about the magazine? Head straight to where you can browse past editions, leave comments for the team and find out when the next magazine will be out. In the meantime, should you have any comments or suggestions we would love to hear them! Email the editorial team on 44 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011


Baked Sea Bream with a Rucola & Sundried Tomato Crust

Here is a nice fish bake using rucola which is now growing in abundance m on Gozo. The fresh o .c olicious z o local rucola on the mar.g w ww ket has big, crunchy leaves and a strong peppery taste. Ingredients (Yield: 4) 4 Sea Bream Fillets, 2 cups of Maltese Loaf (hbejza), cubed 2 cups of Fresh Rucola 1/4 cup of Sundried Tomatoes 1 Garlic Clove Extra Virgin Olive Oil Sea Salt Method Brine the fish fillets in salted water for about 20 minutes. Make the bread crumbs by toasting the bread and then break it down in a food processor. Set aside. In the food processor place the rucola, sundried tomatoes and garlic. Blend, drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture becomes a smooth paste. Remove the fish fillets from the water and pat dry with a paper towel. Place in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Then, using a tablespoon to spread the rucola and sundried tomato paste on each fish fillet. Top with the breadcrumbs. Cook in an oven at 180°C for 20 minutes and serve immediately. Brought to you by

Mons Luigi Vella Street, Victoria, Gozo For reservations please call 9901 9270 or 2701 9270.

Photo: Armand Sciberras

Please ur be to o subscri e blog nlin o ve our to recei ipes: c latest re


Issue out with the sunday times on 15 January

Once the myriad of Christmas festivities have been enjoyed, we look forward to the next milestone of the Gozitan calendar – Carnival! Join us next issue as we discover the intricacies, and nuances, of this very local occasion.

Through the keyhole

It has been a busy few weeks in Gozo, with umpteen events that have included operas, concerts and celebrations of local folklore. Let's Gozo takes a look through the keyhole of some of our favourites.


Independence Day Commemoration Concert: Featuring the AFM Band, Rosabelle Pavia and Rosabelle Bianchi.



Gieh Ghawdex Award: Award Winners Mr Joe W Psaila, Mrs Consiglia Azzopardi and Chev Paul Camilleri Cauchi with Circolo Gozitano Executives.


Festubru: A Gozitan Lady keeping alive lace making during the Festubru festival.


President visits the small village of San Lawrenz: H.E. Dr. George Abela President of Malta and Mrs Abela accompanied by Mayor Mr Noel Formosa touring a lace making display by the locals.


Tosca Opera: Aurora Pro Matthew Sultana with Soprano Michelle Crider prior to the performance of the Opera Tosca staged at the Aurora Opera House.

Photo: Reno Rapa


Photo: Anthony Grech


Photo: Anthony M. Bajada





Norma Opera: Tenor Antonino Interisano and Oana Andra, in a scene from the Lyric opera Norma staged at the Astra Theatre. 46 Let’s Gozo November & December 2011



Photo: Joe Attard

European Charter: Representatives from the Charter of European communities visiting Savina Creations.

§ ve E s ’ r a e Y New

y t i C e In Th with

s d o o M r e Wint

Independence Square & St. George’s Square 10PM Christmas


25- 26- 27 November 2011 St. George’s Square Christmas


21st December 2011 7.30PM - Independence Square w it h 2156 3344 | 2156 1653

Chorus Urbanus



23 December 2011 6PM - Historic Quarters of Victoria


A big event for the kids & family!





Christmas Kids Festival 8 - 13 December 2011

More info to fo llow... Arkadia Commercial Centre, Fortunato Mizzi Street, Victoria, Gozo | T: 2210 3000 | W:

Let's Gozo issue 2  

This is the second issue of the Let's Gozo magazine published with The Sunday Times on the 20th November 2011.

Let's Gozo issue 2  

This is the second issue of the Let's Gozo magazine published with The Sunday Times on the 20th November 2011.