My favorite part of moving to a new expat home is exploring and learning about my new host country. One of the first things I do is check out upcoming calendars for festivals, annual events, and anything else noteworthy so I can try to catch them all. The first one that popped up for our new home in Malta was the Mdina Medieval Festival. While I may not be the type to don centuries-old garb and act a part, I can certainly appreciate the revelry and importance of these traditions!
In a country like Malta where history is layered countless levels thick, you can bet that historical reenactments and interpretations will be common. That’s why this annual Mdina Medieval Festival is so popular amongst both residents and tourists – the appreciation for that history runs deep here.
Mdina Medieval Festival in Malta
The weekend-long Mdina Medieval Festival invites everyone into the fortified city of Mdina. Resting regally atop a hill in central Malta, Mdina was the original capital city decided upon by the Phonecians in the 8th century.
Since that early start, these grounds have played host to many landlords and residents. Today, only about 300 people actually reside inside the city walls and only minimal vehicle traffic is permitted, which is why Mdina is known as the “Silent City.” Come nightfall, after the tourists recede, hardly a soul walks the labyrinthine streets as lanterns cast their eerie glow.
But during the Mdina Medieval Festival, the city is vibrant and alive! I headed there early Saturday afternoon for several hours of wandering and enjoying the atmosphere. From the moment I walked through the city gate, I was greeted by people in full Renaissance dress playing their part.
Jesters entertained on street corners just like today’s buskers and street performers. Artisans plied their crafts on passersby just like today’s jewelers and caricature artists. While archery may not be a typical sidewalk sport today, it was a popular stop for kids and adults alike at the festival!
Every once in a while, a drumming could be heard approaching from a winding lane. The drummer boy led two clearly upper-class couples as they greeted their admirers with smiles and small nods of approval.
Sudden dance performances popped up in open spaces, with the upper-class soberly performing their measured steps while the others (my people!) joined hands and danced in circles with joyous abandon.
Everyone in full dress happily obliged the masses for photos and small talk. Flags waved and banners flew as Mdina looked as it might have once looked centuries ago: a bustling town filled with all levels of society.
I do appreciate, however, today’s distinct lack of sewage in the streets that certainly would have been a reality at that time.
About Mdina, The Silent City
Mdina itself is stunning to wander around. If you’ve been following my Instagram, you’ve undoubtedly seen plenty of photos from this fortified city. I’ve visited a few times already in the short time we’ve been in Malta.
I just adore the colorful balconies and front doors adorned with intricate doorknockers. I love the old lanterns overhead as you walk along a narrow lane with the sun streaming into pockets of buildings.
I love the views over the north wall across the island toward my own neighborhood. And I love the feeling of every generation who has resided here still leaving its mark – you can feel it in the very walls of this ancient town.
From the Baroque architecture to the serpentine layout of the city, you can walk amidst centuries of history and feel as if you’re in another era.
Restaurants and shops still line the streets, offering their services and wares to passersby as they would have centuries ago. The artistry remains with traditional Mdina glass and hand-woven lace for sale in specialized shops.
The churches’ bells still toll the time and the gorgeous limestone structures are pockmarked like coral, showing the damage of centuries since hands first stacked these stones atop each other.
Mdina is a city stalled in time in the best way possible – not in abandonment or disrepair, but in honor of history and culture. It’s a city not to be missed on a visit to Malta.
We recently moved to Malta as the latest stop in our expat adventure. You can read more about Malta here, about our expat lives in Roatan here, or about our other expat adventures in Scotland and Ireland.
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