Kunene and the King at Fugard Theatre Cape Town

Last night’s production of Kunene and the King was masterful! Two seasoned actors presented powerful performances capturing the audience’s full attention. John Kani’s new play presents the deep pent-up emotions of South Africans before and after the end of apartheid 25 years ago. It gets to the heart of things with no holds barred.

Fugard Theatre – Cape Town Magazine

My first visit to South Africa was in 1987 – before the end of apartheid. Since then, I’ve returned often and noted many changes. In reflection, Kani’s play seems a racial and political catharsis. At the end, the sold-out house seemed almost stunned. Some had tears in their eyes in reaction to the honest emotions so vividly portrayed – anger, hatred, fear, compassion, hope….

John Kani and Antony Sher Kunene and the King – Ellie Kurtz


Kunene and the King premiered during April in England at The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. The performance last night was a co-production between The Fugard Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company. The play reunites “the powerhouse team of director Janice Honeyman, writer, actor, activist, playwright John Kani, and world-renowned classical actor Sir Antony Sher“.


Kunene and the King “beautifully captures the complex divides of race, class, and politics in a remarkable, moving new play”. Michael Billington, The Guardian


Janice Honeyman Director – Media Update


Kani’s play is a “fitting tribute to mark the anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections after apartheid”. In the play Kani and Sher play two elderly men “from contrasting walks of life thrust together to reflect on a quarter century of change”. In Kani’s words – “Their relationship examines the very foundation on which our democracy is built.”

Lungiswa Plaatjies Musician, Singer, Composer – Sarafina Magazine

John Kani is Lunga Kunene, “a headstrong African male nurse contracted to care for cantankerous white actor Jack Morris, Antony Sher”. Jack is coping with terminal liver cancer and determined to play King Lear before he dies. To pass time, Lunga helps Jack practice lines for his role in Shakespeare’s play. During their crass and edgy interactions, they mellow, get to know each other, and develop an unlikely friendship.

Kunene and the King – Royal Shakespeare Company


Kunene only knows Julius Caesar from his school days, because “it’s about a failed conspiracy, and at the time one play was considered enough Shakespeare for a native child”.


King Lear – Bookrepublic

As Kunene learns the plot, he shares his disappointment that King Lear failed to “consult ancestors” – something an African would do. Kunene compares the characteristics of King Lear’s three daughters Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia to South African Presidents Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and Jacob Zuma. True to form, Jack snaps back reminding him that King Lear is an English play, not African.

Fugard Theatre – Jesse Kate Kramer Photography

Talented actors, directors, designers, and managers all contributed to the unforgettable production. Lungiswa Plaatjies‘ on-stage singing in isiXhosa is glorious.

Kunene and the King – facebook

Kani and Sher

John Kani and Anthony Sher share a love of Shakespeare. Like the characters they play, the have vastly different backgrounds. Kani grew up in the Eastern Cape while Sher, the child of an affluent Jewish family, is from Sea Point.

Accomplished Kani began acting in high school. He met fellow activist, actor, playwright, and director Athol Fugard in the 1960s. After touring, teaching, and performing in the US and Australia, Kani returned to South Africa in the 1970s. At that time during the Black Consciousness Movement, he experienced the brutal injustices of apartheid and had a rocky relationship with South African police.

Kunene and the King Antony Sher – rsc.org


“Kunene and Jack need to shake their habit of treating the other as a specimen: one of ‘you people’, white or black. This isn’t always easy.” TheatreCat Libby Purves


Sir Anthony Sher Actor – BBC

Kani has received recognition and awards for his work, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Cape Town and a South African Film and Television Lifetime Achievement Award. Today, he’s executive trustee of the Market Theatre Foundation, director of the Market Theatre Laboratory, and Chairman of the National Arts Council of South Africa.

Athol Fugard Playwright, Novelist, Actor, and Director – Richard Corman Photography

At 19, Antony Sher left South Africa and moved to London to begin an acting career. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1982. Three years later he won the Laurence Olivier Best Actor award for his performance in the title role of Richard III. In 1997, Sher won a second Olivier for his portrayal of Stanley Spencer in Stanley.

Fugard Theatre Foyer – TravelGround.com

Sher became a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000. He met his partner, Gregory Doran, in London. Doran is Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

John Kani Playwright, Activist, Actor – The South African / Image Zalebs


“Kani’s writing remains deeply incisive, full of both anger and understanding…” Dave Fargnoli, The Stage


Kunene and the King John Kani and Antony Sher – The New York Times

I’m privileged to have attended Kunene and the King – there’s much to learn from the play. It was a magnificent performance and memorable evening.

Cape Town Comedy Club

The Pumphouse – capetowncomedy.com

During my time in Cape Town, I’m hiking easy to moderate Table Mountain trails and enjoying the Mother City’s talented performing arts community. There are a variety of live performances available – each unique and outstanding.

Last night was my first visit to the Cape Town Comedy Club – the city’s “dedicated comedy venue”. I had no idea what to expect, but knew the club was popular. I got lost trying to find it. In daylight it would be easy, at night the V&A Waterfront’s maze of parking garages and roundabouts was confusing. I didn’t have a specific street address – the GPS got muddled and so did I. Now I know the club is simply across the street from Cape Town Ferris Wheel with its spectacular 360-degree views of Table Bay!

Glen Biderman-Pam Comedian – Cape Town Comedy Club

I arrived embarrassingly late to what appeared to be a full house. I was expecting a performance by Goliath and Goliath – an award-winning South African comedy group. Instead, four hilarious comedians performed:

Charles Tertiens Comedian – Cape Town Comedy Club

Their characterizations of Americans were relentlessly scathing. I laughed hoping I didn’t share too many of the shameless traits they portrayed. With an extended visa I’ve traveled to South Africa frequently for several years. The few Americans encountered were subdued, if not shy. Today, it’s tricky being American. My accent has become a little skewed – something that can happen when traveling out of your home country for extended periods of time. People have asked if I’m Australian (?) or British.

Mel Jones Comedian – Cape Town Comedy Club

The comedians weren’t the least bit stingy with their interpretations. Their witty plays – Germans, Americans, Canadians, Dutch, Jews, fellow South African comedian Trevor Noah, whites in general, South African whites in particular, and South African cities, neighborhoods, and townships – were side-splitting. Some South African nuances were above my head, but having recently spent three months in Berlin – the comedic characterizations of Germans were especially funny :).

Kristel Zweers Comedian – Cape Town Comedy Club

The audience was mostly South African with a few foreigners / tourists. I was one of two solo tables in the audience – something I’ve gotten used to in my travels that doesn’t stop me from attending performances on my own.

Goliaths – Nicholas, Jason, Donovan

Cape Town Comedy Club is part of the Pumphouse Restaurant & Bar. It’s in the historic Pumphouse Building with “soaring ceilings, original stone walls, and cozy tables spread out around a generous stage”. The building is where the “first dynamo was installed to illuminate Table Bay Harbour”.

The Pumphouse V&A Waterfront


“The Pumphouse dates back to 1892 and is so named because it was used to pump water from Robinson Dry Dock.”


Cape Town Comedy Club – People Magazine

Traveller.com voted Cape Town Comedy Club “one of the ten best comedy clubs in the world”. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening!

Fugard Theatre – Wikimedia Commons

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to attending another favorite Cape Town venue – Fugard Theatre. Their production of John Kani’s Kunene and The King, a “two men in one show about 25 years of SA democracy”, plays through May 25.

Kunene and the King – Twitter

More later…

I Capuleti E I Montecchi at Artscape Theatre Cape Town

Artscape Theatre – Mail and Guardian

Artscape Theatre is a favorite venue in Cape Town and last night I attended a performance of I Capuleti e i Montecchi – The Capulets and Montagues. In this creative production, Cape Town Opera (CTO) collaborates with the University of Cape Town (UCT) Opera School to present Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini’s work. It’s based on Shakespeare’s classic play and Luigi Scevola’s tragedy Giulietta e Romeo.

I Capuleti E I Montecchi – Tirana Times

Vincenzo Bellini wrote I Capuleti E I Montecchi for the 1830 Carnival Season at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. It was an enormous success and later appeared at King’s Theater in London, the Paris Opera, and on the Swedish stage.

Jeremy Silver Director UCT Opera School – iono.fm


I Capuleti has “endlessly long, melancholy vocal lines. In the first act finale Romeo and Juliet sing a long unison melody with only brief pauses for breath.”


Steven Stead Director – Kickstart Theatre

Marvin Kernelle Chorus Master CTO – Cape Town Opera

Bellini cast the star-crossed lovers as a soprano and mezzo-soprano featuring his “trademark sensuous duets”. The libretto by Felice Romani is a “reworking of Romeo and Juliet” with a simplified story line. The five soloists are Romeo, Juliet, Juliet’s father Capelio, Lorenzo a physician, and Juliet’s betrothed Tebaldo. As the opera opens, Romeo and Juliet have already met and fallen in love.

Artscape Theatre – town.co.za


“With his melancholy melodies, Bellini aims straight for our hearts, giving us not a moment’s doubt of the young lovers’ feelings for one another.”


Vincenzo Bellini Composer – Primephonic

The opera features a “youthful cast from UCT Opera School and CTO’s Young Artist Programme“. Jeremy Silver, Director of the UCT Opera School, conducts the UCT Symphony Orchestra. Steven Stead directs the performance and Marvin Kernelle is CTO Chorus Master. Michael Mitchell designed the set and costumes, while stage lighting is by Kobus Rossouw.

Cape Town Opera Chorus

Cape Town Opera Youth Development and Education (YDE) Department

The story of Romeo and Juliet inspired hundreds of operas. Shakespeare used life in the Renaissance Period to develop the plot for his play. Bellini’s opera applies “bel canto elegiac styleis” to emphasize the “poignancy of the love story”.

Kobus Rossouw Lighting Design – kobusrossouw.net

I Capuleti e i Montecchi – OVS Arts of Italy


“Bellini’s opera spins out extended threads of wistful, longing song in passages that are among the best of the bel canto elegiac style.”



UCT Symphony Orchestra – Baxter Theatre Centre

Michael Mitchell Set and Costume Designer – Getty Images

The highly emotional two-act performance – with more than one person shedding a tear – was a total delight, BIG smile!

Apple Face at Alexander Theatre Cape Town

Brett Williams, Juliette Pauling, Pierre Malherbe – Alexander Theatre

“That which is seen, cannot be unseen; unless that which is seen was never seen in the first place. Or maybe it was seen, but not quite in the way it happened. If it even happened at all.”

Apple Face – Alexander Theatre


Last night I saw Apple Face, a witty, avant-garde comedy written by Pierre Malherbe, directed by Adrian Collins, and performed by Malherbe and two other talented actors – Juliette Pauling and Brett Williams. The story unravels during an outdoor music festival where plans for a “40th birthday celebration turn sour when somebody witnesses something disturbing” – or did they?


A WeekendSpecial review by Megan Furniss – Cape Town “improviser, performer, writer, and playwright” – describes the play as “layers of completely confusing, mind altering, drug swirling, but totally hilarious weird shit”. I admit that as an American – but frequent visitor to Cape Town – considerably older than most of the audience, finer points of the play’s South African slang and humor escaped me.

Brett Williams – ERM Stars

Regardless, it was still a hilarious, enjoyable performance. I’ve been on the road since October 2018 and feeling a bit dizzy with many new places and experiences to absorb. Being back in Cape Town is a treat, and I’m always up for a provocative, entertaining evening at Alexander Theatre!

Pierre Malherbe – Twitter

Pierre Malherbe Writer and Actor

Apple Face is Pierre Malherbe’s “first self-penned show”. He plays Phil who is with Ryan at a music festival. Furniss describes Ryan and Phil as “hapless friends who are a combination of loser, Allenesque whiner (reminiscent of Woody Allen), naïve chump, drug-fueled paranoid, and completely-too-old-for-the-joll wankers”.

Malherbe has 20 years of theater experience. He’s written and performed multiple stand-up comedy and one-man shows. Performances include Louis Viljoen plays, David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity In Chicago, and Brent Palmers The Visit. His camera credits include Black Sails, Roots, Troy: Fall of a City, and the SAFTA award winning short film Armed Response.

Juliette Pauling Actress – View Artist APM Artistes Personal Management

Juliette Pauling Actor

Juliette Pauling presents a brilliant portrayal of three-in-one character – Chelsea, Sarah, and Jennifer – the “young party girl/girlfriend/serial killer/manipulator” who messes with Phil’s “fragile and hallucination-prone mind”.

Apple Face – Alexander Theatre

Pauling received a BA in drama from Rhodes University and performed at the South African National Arts Festival. She appeared in YouTubeZA’s Suzelle DIY, the TV series Tali’s Wedding Diary, and now Apple Face.

Brett Williams Actor

Brett Williams plays Phil’s friend Ryan. He’s a seasoned actor and sometimes described as a “reluctant entrepreneur with a penchant for karaoke”.

Adrian Collins – Alexander Theatre

Adrian Collins Director

Adrian Collins directs Apple Face with “delight and a deep understanding of how to get the actors to play the funniness”. A successful actor himself, Collins made his directing début in 2016 with A Steady Rain at the Fugard Theatre. In that production he and Nicholas Pauling portray the tormented lives of two Chicago police officers, Joey and Denny. Their efforts resulted in Collins and Palmer being nominated for Fleur du Cap awards for Best New Director and Best Actor.

Silkworm at Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre Cape Town


Taryn Bennett Actress – twitter

Silkworm is a one-person, award-winning theatrical performance exploring the “ordinary things that make life extraordinary”. Artists who can captivate their audience non-stop for a solid hour are amazing! Taryn Bennett does that in her portrayal of Georgina, a “gregarious and socially awkward” young woman “about to have the single most important day of her life” – revealed in the final moments of the show.

Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre Cape Town – Alexander Bar

During her performance, Bennett interacts with the audience. She uses “storytelling and clowning techniques borrowed from Florence Italy’s Helikos School of Theatre Creation”. The “whimsical” performance combines humor with stark reality and leaves a deep impact.

Jenine Collocott Director – ABOUT Contagious


“Did you know that silkworms only live for about a week? I think…. You can check that on Google.”  Georgina


Jenine Collocott Director

Silkworm – a Contagious Theatre production – is “conceived and directed by Jenine Collocott with additional dramaturgy by Nick Warren”. Based in Johannesburg and Cape Town, Contagious combines the talents of several “critically acclaimed theatre makers with long-time Fringe producers”.

Nick Warren – djnickwarren

“Jenine studied theatre creation at Helikos in Florence. Her production Making Mandela won the 2016 Naledi for Best Youth Production and was most recently selected as part of the Assitej World Congress Main Programme. Much of Collocott’s work has travelled internationally.”

Taryn Bennett – contagioustheatre.co.za


“Contagious produces independent fringe theatre that brings the creative freedom, simplicity, and energy of the festival circuit to mainstream audiences.”


Taryn Bennett – ABOUT Contagious

Taryn Bennett Actress

Taryn studied theatre at Rhodes University and has performed for TV, on stage, and at the National Arts Festival. Her critically acclaimed Silkworm performance won a 2018 Ovation Award. Recently Taryn’s performance in The Old Man and the Sea was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 2018 Naledi Theatre Awards.

Making Mandela – Contagious Theatre


“Clowning is about spotting, understanding, and surpassing individual and/or collective difficulties with the help of clown resources and theatre interactivity”. Les aventures de Zippo le clown



Silkworm is “described as a dollop of humor and a touch of whimsy”. The theatrical production uses “clowning storytelling techniques”.

Taryn Bennett – alexanderbar.co.za

In Silkworm “the clown is influenced by the audience”. Members of the audience determine parts of the show and “no two shows are the same”. For the clown, “the audience is really there”. “There’s no fourth wall.”

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre Cape Town – PlacesMap.net

Theatre Clowning is essentially an intuitive style of storytelling that’s quite naive yet super sophisticated. If a person is able to access the child within themselves, they will be taken on the journey with the clown.”

The Snow Goose – Knysna Arts Festival Contagious Theatre

Silkworm is a brilliant theater performance! It was a memorable evening!

Cape Town 2019

Waterfront Cape Town – The South African

It’s fantastic being back in Cape Town! A location that stole my heart during the first visit in 1987. The beautiful coastal city is surrounded by incomparable Table Mountain.

View of Table Mountain from My Gardens Apartment

I arrived on May 2nd after a series of flights beginning in Catania Sicily and passing through Rome and Addis Ababa Ethiopia – including two plane and terminal changes more tiring than the thirteen-hour flight.

Cape Town at Night – wpblink.com

During the flight from Addis Ababa to Cape Town naughty Indian children commandeered the aircraft running wild through the aisles disrupting everything. A passenger complained in a loud way and the children were forced to sit down and behave themselves. Upon arrival in Cape Town, they continued wreaking havoc in the immigration hall, running races through cordoned off lines, clearly undaunted by their reprimand on the airplane. Their parents seemed amused.

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Cape Town – Rhino Africa

After Berlin, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Sarajevo, Belgrade, and Sicily, passengers on Ethiopian Airlines were more diverse than any of the places visited, except maybe Berlin. I’m still processing the time spent in Europe and the Balkans – a valuable learning experience with priceless memories!

Table Mountain from Melkbos – Discover Africa Safaris

When returning to Cape Town I always notice changes – some subtle, others not. I’ll be here through mid-June and then on to Hermanus, Onrus Beach, and Walker Bay.

Cape Town – Independent.ie

My apartment in Gardens neighborhood is in a high-rise building with retail and parking garages on the lower levels and residential above. I’m on the 17th floor and look out at Table Mountain. It’s thrilling to watch the mountain constantly changing depending on weather, wind, and sky. It almost seems close enough to touch!

Pink in Cape Town’s Sky that Artists Try to Capture

The building is secure and comfortable. Everything is within walking distance including a great choice of restaurants.

Walker Bay Sunset – Unsplash

I have a rental car for day trips and places further away. After seven months without driving, it’s nice to be mobile again – even though South Africans drive on the wrong side of the road :)…

Table Cloth of Fog Over Table Mountain

Today the wind is howling – yesterday it was calm. Earlier the Table Mountain Table Cloth was visible as fog gently spewed over the flat-topped mountain. It’s mesmerizing watching sunrises and sunsets and spectacular scenery changes from foggy to clear and back again. Hiking on the mountain is part of my agenda.

Walker Bay Grootbos Nature Reserve – Robert Harding

The drought crisis is over but water and energy conservation are everyday concerns in Cape Town. Hopefully winter will bring significant rainfall. May temperatures are mild in the 60s and 70s but forecast to reach the 80s next week.

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway – springbokatlas.com

South Africa’s General Election is May 8 with another ANC (African National Congress) victory predicted. Elections are always exciting. South Africa’s economy and social inequalities create an emotional, volatile atmosphere with protests for change.

The Company’s Gardens Cape Town – The Heritage Portal

There’s considerable voter apathy in South Africa, especially among young voters. The ANC disappointed and is under pressure to improve the failing economy, address unemployment, provide better services (especially power), improve infrastructure, and curb crime, violence, and government corruption. All are complicated issues with unemployment, the economy, and a looming energy crisis heading the list.

Views Onrus Beach and Hermanus Bay – Pinterest

One thing I’d forgotten about (almost) is the Hadeda Ibis – known as the “loudest bird in Africa“. With Hadedas nearby, you don’t need an alarm clock!

More later…

Exploring Malta

Valletta Malta Skyline – orangeviaggi

Malta is an extraordinary country with many hidden treasures! Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, the Maltese Archipelago is a world of its own – south of Sicily, east of Tunisia, east of the Strait of Gibraltar, and north of Alexandria Egypt! The three main islands are Malta, Gozo, and Comino. They’re rich in culture and nature with Neolithic archeological sites, Baroque architecture, historical museums, art galleries, ancient forts, forests, water sports, lighthouses, windmills, and beaches.

Xarolla Windmill – mymalata.com

Wednesday I took a ferry to Valletta. The weather was warm, hazy, and windy with piercing sun. After a long trip my photography skills are waning and processing photos with slow local WiFi is painful. To help communicate Malta’s beauty, I’ve used some media shots in this post.

Mediterranean Sea

Overlooking Malta Grand Harbor

Catamaran Ferry

Getting to Malta was more complicated than I imagined. Weather permitting, there are daily ferries from Pozzallo to Valletta and back. The huge catamaran has gambling – slot machines – shops, food, and is clean and comfortable. I booked my ticket online – the date changed several times due to heavy wind and stormy seas.

Garden Grand Master’s Palace

It’s amazing that it can be clear when boarding the ferry and 30 minutes into the 1.5-hour trip to Malta you run into Mediterranean squalls. Many passengers got sea-sick and no matter how sure-footed you were, walking around the boat was difficult – bumping off walls and seats. The captain asked everyone to remain seated.

Triton Fountain Valletta – Images George Rex

A few days before departure, I received notification that the return trip was departing Valletta two hours later. That was fine with me and would allow more time to explore. I asked if the Pozzallo departure was also changed and the reply was it would leave as scheduled – ha

Nativity of Our Lady Chapel Birkirkara – Trip-Suggest

I gave myself time to walk to the ferry – about 30 minutes along the coast. I could see the ferry approaching as I got near the port and quickened my pace thinking I might miss it – ha, ha, ha. The ferry departed almost two hours late!

Yacht Blue Lagoon Comino Island – Photo Malta Tourism

Auberge de Castille Valletta

The security check was quick but the boarding area packed. Upon arrival, trucks and autos exit the ferry first – before passengers are allowed to disembark. This doesn’t make sense but there must be logic behind it? The tedious process made everyone antsy and seemed to take forever.

I ran into familiar faces from Pozzallo and chatted with passengers. Easter is a major Italian holiday followed by Independence Day on April 25, when many families visit. Malta’s ferry was more chaotic than those for other archipelagos and isolated islands experienced – Azores, Seychelles, Zanzibar, Mozambique, Greek and Turkish Islands.

St John Cathedral Clock Tower

History and Geography

The History of the Maltese Islands dates back 7,000 years to 5200 B.C., when Stone Age farmers settled along the shores. Normans, Arabs, Romans, Byzantines, Phoenicians, Swabians, Angevins, Aragonese, and Castilians invaded the archipelago.

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel – cagliariturismo

Malta gained independence in 1964, changed from a Commonwealth to a Republic in 1974, and joined the European Union in 2004. It’s the smallest country in the EU by area and population, but the most densely populated. The Maltese archipelago has seven Mediterranean islands – only three are inhabited.

Mosaic Domus Romana Ruin Gozo Island – heritagemalta.org

Valletta City Gate

Malta is the largest island. The capital is Valletta with Birkirkara the most populated city. Malta has a series of small towns forming one Larger Urban Zone (LUZ) with a total population of around 450,000. Maltese is the national language, but there are two official languages – Maltese and English.

Valletta Malta – LandLopers

Locals appear to think of their towns almost as separate countries. During the day I got disorientated when my offline maps didn’t work and no one could help me find the ferry departure point in Valletta. I had strayed into another town where they disavowed all knowledge of Valletta.

Ft. St. Angelo

It’s easy to see why the Maltese Archipelago is an important Mediterranean maritime hub. It has three large natural harbors – Marsamxett, Marsaxlokk, and Grand. The fourth harbor – Ċirkewwa – is manmade.

Church Our Lady of Mount Carmel – commons.wikimedia.org

Locals often assume you’re a cruise ship passenger – there were several massive ships in Grand Harbor… After circling the waterfront a few times, I finally found the right departure point. The stress of finding the ferry location on time was unnecessary since there was another departure delay.

Unknown Buildings Near Valletta Port

Accommodation, Transportation, and Tours

Malta accommodation is expensive. I wanted to stay there but opted for day trips from Pozzallo – before realizing the hassle of getting back and forth via ferry. I planned to book a tour in advance, but am glad I didn’t. With the delay in ferry departure it would have been impossible to join a tour group on time.

Swatar Birkirkara – Wikipedia

I did research to find points of interest and guide myself. It was slightly overwhelming. It’s impossible to explore Malta in one day – you need more time to see and understand even basic cultural and historic attractions. Captivated by Malta’s beauty and mystery, I plan a return visit and extended stay.

Church of St Catherine of Alexandria

Known as Europe’s “culture capital,” Malta is one of the most beautiful places in the world! A new art gallery – Muża – opened in 2018. The name stands for Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Arti. In Maltese it means “muse or inspiration”. Renovated 15th-century Auberge d’Italie combines the art collection of Malta’s former National Museum of Fine Arts and recent Muża acquisitions.

Grandmaster’s Palace Valletta

Automobiles and motorcycles run the perimeter of the island. In central Valletta old town, you can walk, take a horse-drawn carriage, or ride a small motorized vehicle for children and those less mobile. Exploring the island on foot is by far the best.

MUZA – Valletta 2018

Valletta Piazzas

Valletta has several main squares:

  • Republic Square – known for cafés
  • St. George’s Square – home of the Grandmaster
  • St. John’s Square – home of St. Johns Cathedral
  • Triton Square – near Valletta City Gate
  • Freedom Square – reminiscent of the 1970s Communist period
  • Castille Square – overlooking the Grand Harbour and Auberge de Castille
  • Independence Square – beautiful terraces and traditional Maltese houses

Malta has an extensive local bus system. Knowing I had limited time, I waited in line to learn about buses and buy a pass. The lines were long and included migrant refugees – mostly from Africa. I waited behind a young man who was very calm and patient. When he got to the front of the line, he was told that he had to provide a paper copy of his travel permit. After obtaining the copy, he had to come back and wait all over again. I felt sorry for him. He handled it gracefully.

Grand Harbor View from Upper Barrakka Gardens

The best advice was from a concierge at the Phoenician Hotel who recommended touring on foot and pointed out the most accessible attractions in Central Valletta. Every street was fascinating! Many look down on the harbor, and like in San Francisco, sea and Bay vistas from the hills are breathtaking. I stopped for lunch at an outdoor café and then continued to St. Johns Co-Cathedral.

Valletta Malta Festa Facade – Photo Juliet Rix

St. Johns Co-Cathedral

St. Johns Co-Cathedral is a “shrine and sacred place of worship” and “gem of Baroque art and architecture”. It was the church of the Knights of St. John who ruled Malta for over 250 years from 1530 to 1798. The Grand Masters and knights donated art and made contributions to embellish the church”.

Sacra Infermeria – Hektoen International

The noble Knights protected Malta. Their origins were of peace and caring for the sick. A tour of Sacra Infermeria (Holy Infirmary) reveals their past.

Archaeological Sites

Malta has ten magnificent archaeological sites – three listed with UNESCO. Megalithic temples on Malta and Gozo are the oldest freestanding structures in the world.

Malta Map – CIMBA Italy

Archaeological areas include burial sites, temples, and catacombs:

The Sleeping Lady Neolithic Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum Temple – Jimdo

National Museum of Archaeology

Malta’s National Museum of Archaeology is an introduction to the pre and early history of the Maltese Islands. Upon entry a “figure of the Sleeping Lady flashes before you on a limestone screen”. The mysterious Sleeping Lady is 5,000 years old!

Malta – Daily Express

Her famous image from the Neolithic Period “honors one of the first cultures to leave a mark on Malta”. The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum Temple, a “sanctuary and necropolis,” is one of the best-preserved examples of Maltese temple building culture. Archeologists have documented the remains of over 7,000 individuals.

Interior St Johns Cathedral Valletta – Photo Juliet Rix

Artefacts date back to the Neolithic Period (5000 BC) up to the Phoenician Period (400 BC). Highlights include medieval palazzo doorways and bronze daggers from the Tarxien Temples.

Birkirkara St. Helena Basilica – maltaphotos

Grand Master’s Palace and Armoury

The Grand Master’s Palace and Armoury is the most “grandiose” palace in Malta. Today it’s the office of Malta’s President, George Vella. Some say the palace is haunted!

Sliema Malta – bayviewmaltacom

The armoury has the “world’s largest collections of knightly arms and armor”. Façade improvements were the efforts of Grand Master Pinto de Fonseca.

Hotels Birkirkara – Reserving.com

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Roman Catholic Parish Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a neo-gothic church in Balluta Bay, the town of St Julian’s Malta. The church is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site including Valletta. It’s a small but special church.

Triton Fountain

Built in 1580 and damaged during WWII, Our Lady of Mount Carmel was rebuilt in the 1950s in Pisan Romanesque style. The church has spectacular mosaics representing Carmel’s story.

Museum of Archaeology Grandmaster’s Palace – corinthia.com

The marble altar is magnificent as is the bell tower “surmounted by a bronze statue of the Madonna”. The central chapel dates back to the eleventh century and has a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. I took a break and sat inside admiring the art and dome.

Armor Grand Master’s Palace – Heritage Malta

I thoroughly enjoyed my limited time in Malta but hope to return and explore other islands, archaeological sites, and natural wonders like the blue grotto. “Malta” comes from a Greek word meaning “honey” – it’s an appropriate name.

Valletta City Gate


Valletta Waterfront at Dawn – Photograph Alamy