On the 8th of March Malta normally joins the international community to celebrate International Women’s Day but this year an unlucky diversion took away the spotlight abruptly off the fairer sex.
At around 9.30am on the day news started trickling in that the famed Azure Window at Dwejra had completely collapsed into the sea following a stormy night of gale force winds. Met initially with disbelief, the local media were soon showing pictures of Dwejra without the iconic window and looking pretty much like any other piece of coastline. Maltese social media was soon flooded with posts on the subject and the reactions started coming in – ranging from utter disbelief to a deep sense of loss and, needless to say, humorous takes on the subject.
More was to come. The day after the incident the Prime Minister of Malta cryptically announced that an ‘international initiative’ would be sought on Dwejra – an announcement met with some scepticism by environmentalists. This was later clarified by the government saying it would be seeking options and advice on the future of the site; with the options ranging from leaving the site as it is, recuperating some of the arch’s rock pieces from the sea and exhibiting them, creating an ‘augmented reality’ (don’t ask – I don’t know either) to commissioning an artistic installation at the site.
Personally from where I stand behind my keyboard I think the reaction has been slightly over the top. True enough the Azure Window was a top visitor draw and is very probably Gozo’s most loved landmark. But in recent years the deterioration has been rapid and visible and the window’s ultimate collapse (partial, or as it turned out, complete) was only a question of time. The arch braved millennia of beatings from the very same weather which created it – the same natural forces which ultimately led to its demise.
Is Dwejra less of a place to visit now? I would definitely say no to that. Granted that the Azure Window was the site’s wow effect standard bearer, the site remains a magical one for more than enough reasons. The so- called Inland Sea is still there and the massive wall of rock that separates it from the deep sea outside is not about to fall any time soon. The equally iconic Fungus Rock is also still there – majestically aloof and dominating the much less visited (though surprisingly near and easy to reach) Dwejra Bay – the latter ringed by another mighty wall of steep cliffs. For the visitor who wants to avoid the crowds and explore further there is a whole coastline to discover, grand vistas to take in, a very varied flora which includes one species that grows wild only in this small corner of Gozo, and the silence – the delicious silence in which to take in this incredibly beautiful natural heritage site.
The iconic window will be missed but it’s also a timely reminder of the powerful forces of nature – the very same forces which shaped and sculpted this area into what it is today …and what it might not be tomorrow.
Author: Steve Bonello
Day after photo courtesy Daniel Cilia