Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bir Mula Museum

A few weeks ago I was blessed with one of those surprises of travel. I visited a small house museum in Bormla that the owners/curators want to develop into a social history museum.
The museum is called Bir Mula (

I met the couple at a (great!) wedding back in the Fall. They asked if I would like to see the museum and I had said yes. After Christmas I got email inviting me.

The town of Bormla (also called Cospicua for its courage during the great seige) is possibly the oldest more or less continuously inhabited spot on the island. It has (or maybe had, given all the construction) a great view of the harbor and is still the site for ship yards. Not far from here are Taxien temples and the Hypogeum, both of which date to before the pyramids. The house they bought had been around quite a while and they started uncovering its history, slowly clearing paint and sometimes additions, clearing out debris and so forth. The main house was apparently a farmhouse from the Arab period (see picture of an Arabic style stove) and had further additions 1200 AD. As they continue to pursue what's in their "basement" they have found remains from the Punic period (the Carthaginians, 750 BC-218 AD), a bronze age artifacts, and bits of worked chert from the very ancient times. The house survived the Great Siege of 1565 and may even have been a place where the Knights attempted to negotiate at times with the Turks. People over time carved pictures of ships and the like on the walls, so you get a quick picture of what people say on any given day. It's quite a house, with old arches, the ghosts of windows and doors and the like.

After the tour, my hosts invited me to stay for some tea. It was just lovely on the roof and nice to be with the little family (they have a young daughter). Then they said they were going for their Sunday walk and would I care to go. Well, he was the local historian for the town and I was simply enjoying their company, so I said yes. We walked by the St. Margerita fortification lines and also took a quick look at the British Verdala fort. But the bulk of the walk was on and along the Cottonera Lines of fortifications built in 1670 (and now hosting many uses that would be inconceivable in the United States where anything that dated from that period would be a near icon of preservation--well, anything Euro-American, sometimes Native American sites are not as cared for, though this is changing). While on that walk he showed me an incline that was for bringing in major supplies, but not a main gate. It was littered with pottery pieces from all kinds of times, so it was a revelation to me as he'd bend down and pick something up and say, Knights, Punic... At the end of this utterly lovely and fascinating day, my hosts even gave me a ride all the way home to St. Paul's Bay.

Photos from the top: Arab cooking area, my hosts on the Cottonera Lines, inside a more modern part of the house, a chicken coop against the fortifications, door of the Bir Mula Museum.

Email ahead if you want to visit. They are working on a shoestring, so feel free to make a donation (I did). They have regular hours, but I forgot to write them down.

No comments: