Tourists perusing brochures and magazines with the idea of visiting Gozo, Malta’s sister island, still encounter beautiful photos of the picturesque Azure Window, which used to dominate the ambience at Dwejra. The 28-meter tall natural rock arch had been in fact, one of Gozo’s main punch lines and most popular tourist attractions, representing the island’s enduring raw natural beauty for years. This icon however, found its end last year, in March 2017, when it collapsed following a major storm after a century of suffering from slow erosion by the elements.

The arch, which consisted of a rock pillar rising to join the cliff with a horizontal slab, had been probably created naturally with the collapse of a sea-cave during the 19th century. Its earliest known depiction dates back to 1824 and it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the last 30 or 40 years, it was noted that the erosion rate of the arch was increasing significantly, as this continued to widen at an impressive rate, further increasing the size of the ‘window’. The authorities started discouraging people from walking on the top, and even fishermen avoided going near it with their boats, however this couldn’t stop its inevitable demise. In the end, the pillar gave way, causing the top part of the arch to collapse with it, and shattering into large chunks of rock.

The Azure Window featured in a number of well-known films, including Clash of the Titans (1981), The Count of Monte Christo (2002), the television series The Odyssey (1997), as well as the notorious HBO series Game of Thrones (2011).

Following the collapse, the locals literally mourned this lost wonder. Social media was crammed with people’s photographs depicting the last time they had visited the site, their selfies at Dwejra, not to mention new selfies depicting the emptiness which now existed, where the Azure Window used to be.

After this ‘mourning period’, a new spate of amazing photographs, showing the now underwater remains of the Azure windows and taken by a number of scuba diving enthusiasts, started to permeate the internet. This was followed with a number of suggestions on how the Azure Window could be ‘rebuilt’, some of which bordered on the ridiculous, since the most amazing thing about this formation had been its total natural evolution, which could not be replicated by any structured man-made construction.

Nothing could replace the lost Azure Window, however tourists, visitors, and even locals who were not aware of its existence, were pleased to discover the less-known, yet still enchanting natural ‘window’ situated in Wied il-Mielaħ at the limits of Għarb. The Wied il-Mielaħ Arch is perhaps less accessible than the Azure Window had been, however this only serves to accentuate its unspoilt beauty more. Preceded by a walk in the Gozitan countryside, one spies the arch after walking along a narrow passage around the cliff. The setting is picturesque and amazing, even though perhaps, not for the faint-hearted, especially in windy weather.

Today, more than a year has passed since the Azure Window disappeared forever. Future generations will never admire it, except as a past relic in their parents’ photographs, that is, unless they practice scuba diving, and decide to brave the chilly blue waters of Dwejra to actually see the lost icon first-hand. An adventure well-worth their time for sure –