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CITY SPOTLIGHT: Venture Into Ħaż-Żebbuġ’s Valleys, Eateries, And Rich History

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Few villages and towns in Malta are as underrated as Ħaż-Żebbuġ. Having been governed over by a plethora of international rulers, Ħaż-Żebbuġ has accumulated its fair share of architectural icons – and whilst this town has seen its fair share of development in past years, its historic centre remains pretty much unmarred.

From locally-renowned fireworks shows to downright delicious food, here’s what Ħaż-Żebbuġ has to offer.

The History

 

Getting its name from the large olive groves that once stood in the area around its church, Ħaż-Żebbuġ is one of the oldest towns in Malta.

This iconic town has its roots way back in the 14th century when a church dedicated to St Philip of Agira was built in what was then referred to as ‘Casal Zebugi’. Presently, however, Ħaż-Żebbuġ hosts well over 12,000 locals.

Credits: alchetron.com

Credits: alchetron.com

Before it became the town that it is today, Ħaż-Żebbuġ was made up of a number of communities which had come to be during Malta’s Arab occupation. These include Ħal-Dwin, Ħal-Muxi, and Ħal-Mula. Whilst these communities are no more, you’ll find that some locals still refer to certain areas of Ħaż-Żebbuġ by these names.

In 1777, Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc gave Ħaż-Żebbuġ the honourable title of ‘Citta Rohan’, essentially establishing its status as a town. To commemorate this, Ħaż-Żebbuġ’s residents came together and built an archway, known as the De Rohan Arch or Il-Bieb il-Ġdid. This key piece of architectural heritage still stands to this day.

When Malta was governed over by the sovereign Order of St John, Ħaż-Żebbuġ, alongside Valletta and Mdina, played a key role in the country’s running. This was due to the fact that the town’s contribution to the cotton industry saw it attract a large presence of leading corsairs.

Throughout the years, Ħaż-Żebbuġ hosted a number of key figures in Malta’s cultural history – these include national poet Dun Karm Psaila, sculptor Antonio Sciortino, and Mikel Anton Vassalli, widely regarded as the father of the written Maltese language.

The Feast

 

Ħaż-Żebbuġ celebrates two feasts – one dedicated to its patron saint St Philip of Agira, and another dedicated to St Joseph. The former is regarded as the town’s primary feast.

The feast dedicated to St Philip is celebrated on two separate days. On 12th May, the liturgical feast takes place, whilst on the second Sunday of June, the parish feast takes place. The feast of St Joseph takes place on 26th July.

Ħaż-Żebbuġ’s parish church, dedicated to St Philip of Agira, was finalised in 1729, however, prior to its construction, a much smaller church stood in its place. The town’s original church was constructed back in 1412, however, after the Great Siege of Malta, Ħaż-Żebbuġ residents required a far larger structure.

Designed by architect Vittorio Cassar, the parish church is also home to a number of priceless works of art. The titular statue of the town’s patron saint, for starters, is made entirely of silver. In 1860, the residents of Ħaż-Żebbuġ collected money in a bid to commission the statue, however, the collection was so great that it was decided to build the statue in silver instead of wood.

Credits: Steve Zammit Lupi

Credits: Steve Zammit Lupi

The church also exhibits a number of murals painted by Francesco Zahra and Luca Garnier.

Presently, there are three band clubs in Ħaż-Żebbuġ; De Rohan Band Club, established in 1860, St Philip’s Band Club, established in 1851, and the 12th May Band and Social Club, established in 1961. All three band clubs have their respective fireworks factories.

The St Philip’s Band Club organises a ‘Pyro Rhapsody’ every year between the 7th and 14th June. This event sees fireworks being let off in sync with music. Both tourists and locals flock to Ħaż-Żebbuġ every year to witness this event.

The Trails

 

Not only is Wied Qirda home to countless species of local flora and fauna, but it’s also a perfect location for a pleasant Sunday morning trek.

Wied Qirda touches upon Ħaż-Żebbuġ, Ħal-Qorim, Siġġiewi, and Mqabba. The valley can be easily accessed through an opening at Triq is-Siġġiewi in Żebbuġ.

Credits: emanazzopardi.com

Credits: emanazzopardi.com

Upon entering the valley, you’ll be welcomed by a 15th-century chapel dedicated to Our Lady’s Visitation to St Elisabeth as well as an inscription of Dun Karm Psaila’s poem ‘Wied Qirda’, dedicated to this valley.

As you walk through Wied Qirda you might come across a cut-out tomb, around 10 metres up the cliffside. This is known as ‘Il-Qabar tal-Ingliża’, or ‘Tomb of the English Lady’. Legend has it that the 19th-century tomb was dug out to bury an Englishwoman who had fallen off horseback and died in the very same valley.

Credits: emanazzopardi.com

Credits: emanazzopardi.com

A lesser-known valley in Ħaż-Żebbuġ is Wied Baqqiegħa. Situated close to Wied Qirda, this natural gem offers hikers a plethora of unadulterated views

The Food

 

Literally steps away from Ħaż-Żebbuġ’s parish church, you can find the quaint Lokomotif Cafe. This place attracts all kinds of crowds – from hip couples looking for a quirky coffee spot, to middle-aged locals craving an early Sunday morning breakfast.

Serving up anything from homemade desserts to mouthwatering pasta dishes, Lokomotif Cafe brings delicious grub to the heart of Ħaż-Żebbuġ.

If you’re looking for something, quick, crispy, and on-the-go, take a walk to the De Rohan Gate and check out Ħaż-Żebbuġ’s iconic fried chicken joint – Hunters Fried Chicken.

This spot is pretty much any chicken-lovers dream and it’s all at a very affordable price. Hunters Fried Chicken is the place you wish you could visit after every big night out.

If you’re really broke or just want some inexplicably oily food, there’s always a Sphinx Pastizzeria a couple of roads down from the church. You can’t every go wrong with a couple of pastizzi.

BONUS: The Accommodation

Bet you didn’t expect to find a cute little bed and breakfast in the heart of Ħaż-Żebbuġ. De Rohan B&B is equal parts vintage and innovative, and its gorgeous decor is a perfect testament to that.

This hotel’s situated in the old part of Ħaż-Żebbuġ, an area best appreciated on a short evening walk. It’s also got its very own pool deck and swimming pool – both of which are open 24/7. Late night swims have never felt so cultured.

Which Maltese town should we focus on next? Let us know in the comment section!

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