The Village of Qala in Gozo
Qala, found in the eastern-most extremity of Gozo, is the village which is farthest away from the capital city of Victoria, and yet it is the one inhabiting the nearest point to Malta in Gozo. The name ‘Qala’ in Arabic means sheltered bay or haven.
Taking its name from the small port present in the 15th century at the Bay of Ħondoq ir-Rummien, the development of the present settlement actually began during the 17th century. Anyone visiting Qala will surely enjoy breathtaking scenery and a luscious rural and coastal panorama, since Qala offers an unobstructed view of the islands of Comino and Malta.
The village Parish Church is dedicated to Saint Joseph, and it first became an official parish in 1872, although at the time, it was dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Today, the parish feast of Saint Joseph is celebrated yearly on the first Sunday of August.
At one point, Qala was well-known for its quarries, since here one can find some of the best stone to be quarried on the Maltese Islands. One can in fact see the remains of a very old quarry near Ħondoq ir-Rummien Bay.
Apart from the beautiful landscape, Qala offers a number of attractions worth visiting. One of these is undoubtedly Saint Anthony’s Battery, which is one of the largest batteries in Gozo, and is also known as the Qala Point Battery. This fortification was built between 1731 – 32 at the expense of Grand Master Antoine Manuel de Vilhena of the Order of the Knights of Saint John, who put the engineer Charles Francoise Mondion in charge of its construction. As a fortification, the battery is made up of a platform on a demi-hexagonal plan with large musketry walls. Records show that it was well equipped with three 8-pdr guns with 427 rounds of round sot and 75 rounds of grapeshot, eight 6-pdr guns with 127 rounds of round shot, and 45 rounds of grapeshot. In 2008, Saint Anthony’s Battery was restored after many years of neglect. This project was carried out by the Non-profit Organisation ‘Din l-Art Ħelwa’ together with Qala Local Council and MEPA Environment Fund.
Saint Anthony’s Battery is not accessible by car, and one has to walk some distance to reach it, however this is a very good way of enjoying the beautiful countryside and seaviews prevalent in Qala.
Another site within Qala which is definitely worth visiting is surely Ħondoq ir-Rummien Bay, which lies opposite the Isle of Comino. ‘Ħondoq’ is a pebbled bay, and it is one of the most popular beaches in Gozo, especially with the locals and with people from Malta. Ħondoq is a wonderful attraction for divers as well, especially for beginners. It can be easily reached from the village of Qala along Immaculate Conception Street, and there is ample parking near the bay itself.
Each September, the Qala Local Council together with the Menhir Qala Folk Group, organise the Qala International Folk Festival, which is a 4-day festival of song and dance. This usually also plays host to a number of artistic performances, live entertainment, as well as a vast array of local artisan traditions including lace making, knitting, wood-carving, stained glass making, pottery making, and others. It also organises a ‘Traditional Maltese Wedding’ whereby actors and locals re-enact the ceremony as it used to take place in medieval times, including all the pomp, rituals, processions, dancing and singing which acted as foil for this occasion.
Such events ensure that these traditions are kept alive, which is why it is important for the local community to expose today’s society to such old practices and folkloristic activities.