Written by Juan Dingli
Keeping with the theme of quaint and sleepy villages, this time round we’ll be heading down to Qrendi (ǝ-ren-dee). Located in the southern part of Malta, Qrendi is a good example of a town that is still rooted in tradition and the old way of life; a place where time stood still despite the fast rate of modernization that is being experienced all over the country. This notion is also shared with Qrendi’s neighbors; Mqabba, Zurrieq and Siggiewi. Qrendi occupies quite a good chunk of land with an area of 4.9km2 and is populated by around 2,800 inhabitants who live comfortably in this low density village. Agriculture and fishing are both an important aspect of this village and even help shape the Qrendi of today. In fact, fields used for crops make up more than half of the land area of Qrendi.
A walk through this village is always a pleasant one. One would easily notice that this Qrendi is also quite similar in certain aspects to the village of Hal Lija from last week’s article; postcard worthy narrow roads, old houses, band club houses and a profound dedication to the village feast. Qrendi is no exception when it comes to churches and chapels. The grandiose parish church of Qrendi is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and another six chapels are scattered around the town, all worth visiting for their unique architectural character. Whilst walking around Qrendi expect to see various architectural gems from town houses to defensive structures such as the post-medieval Cavalier tower and the Guarena palace which is also unique in itself. This square shaped fortress has also been rented for a while by none other than Angelina Jolie, the world famous actress.
During the month of August, specifically on the 15th, Qrendi celebrates the Assumption of Mary along with half a dozen other towns around Malta and Gozo. This is highlighted by a superb nation-wide fireworks display. On the first Sunday of July, Qrendi celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes which is organized by a completely different team of enthusiasts. Both teams compete heavily with each other and the neighboring localities for bragging rights when it comes to fireworks. Despite the several fatal accidents clouding Qrendi’s fireworks history, the enthusiasts still regale visitors and feast goers with a unique show every year. Just like in other towns around Malta, the fireworks show would be synchronized with music.
Parting away from the quiet village core, I always head off to the direction of the chapel of St Matthew, my reasons are not religious though. Even though this particular chapel is a historical gem, I always come here to admire the sinkhole located very close to the chapel. This is known locally as “Il-Maqluba” (il- ma-ǝ-loo-ba). Access is only possible through a foot path and stairway leading down to an opening overlooking the actual sinkhole. This particular spot is quite magical if you ask me. Imagine this; the breeze teasing the leaves of the carob trees, the warmth of the Mediterranean sun and the sound of birds in the distance compounded by the smell of nature makes for a truly serene experience. Some even come here to read a book in silence or just to ponder their thoughts away. I highly suggest visiting this natural marvel and spending some time with nature. Thanks to the on-going efforts of the council to up keep the area, a lot of refurbishment and maintenance has been done here. The chapel, the open square in front and the path leading down to the Maqluba sinkhole are all highly maintained.
Ironically enough, Wied iz-Zurrieq (Wiid-iz-Zoo-ri-ǝ) which translates to “the valley of Zurrieq” is actually part of Qrendi and not Zurrieq itself despite being a stone’s throw away. At the bottom of the valley is a tiny collection of restaurants and fishermen huts which are still in use to this day. Here one can admire some of the most picturesque views and sunsets and enjoy some excellent fresh seafood that would have been caught the same day from the same place. Parking is sometimes scarce so think ahead. One can also access Wied iz-Zurrieq via the public transportation system. Once you’re down there, make sure you take a boat ride around the impressive cliffs and the renowned Blue Grotto. This particular area is full of stone formations, sea caves and other interesting features which are worth seeing. Here’s a bonus for diving enthusiasts, Wied iz-Zurrieq makes for an excellent diving spot due to the many natural underwater features. Close by is also the wreck of the Libyan tanker Um El-Faroud which was laid to rest in this area for the enjoyment of divers and to act as an artificial reef. The small island of Filfla can be best appreciated from this area due to its proximity. Filfla was once used as a target by the British army during their occupancy of Malta. Due to this, unexploded ordnance can still be found around this little island; do not worry though, as most has been cleared up already. Access to this island is heavily restricted due to the island being rich in interesting flora and fauna, some of which are endemic to Filfla. Despite this, Filfla always makes for a good holiday photo from the distance whilst the sun is setting. Also located close by are two coastal defense towers dating back to the 17th century.
When people think of Qrendi the first thing that would normally pop up in any Maltese person’s mind would be the highly anticipated village feast. What most people do not realize, or yet know, is that Qrendi is also home to two of the world’s oldest free standing megalithic temples. I had given the temple of Hagar Qim (Ha-jar- ǝeem) and Mnajdra (Mm-nai-dra) a quick mention in my first every Island Explorer article. If you’ve just had lunch at one of the restaurants at Wied iz-Zurrieq, these temples are a panoramic promenade away. Hagar Qim and Mnajdra are dated to the period around 3600 – 3200 BC, which makes them quite ancient. As I had mentioned, the pyramids were constructed hundreds of years later. What’s special about these temples is the fact that they were highly connected to the constellations and astrology. The Mnajdra temple for example is connected to both equinoxes and solstices that happen throughout the year, an event which is still attended by astrology enthusiasts and the spiritual folk. Hagar Qim is also connected to the summer solstice. Both are definitely worth visiting attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world every year. Make sure to keep a lookout for any events held in Mnajdra during the next equinox of March. Also, if you’re ever in the area see if you can find the Congreve Memorial of Sir Walter Norris Congreve who was buried at sea between this area and Filfla.
I hope this article served to entice you into spending a day or two exploring this lovely village in the south of Malta. Qrendi also has a lot to offer and more. Have you yourself already been to Qrendi? If so share your experience with the fellow readers. Kindly feel free to leave any feedback below and share with your friends who would also be interested to visit Qrendi.