Five Facts about St Julian’s/Sliema/Gzira area
#1 The meaning behind the names
‘Sliema’ means peace, tranquillity in Maltese, ‘Gżira’ means island, named after Manoel Island, and St Julian’s is the patron saint of the area and of hunters who enjoyed the open hunting grounds, typically for hunting wild rabbit.
#2 A Summer getaway for nobles
Several noble families who relocated to Valletta when it became ‘the’ city, chose Sliema for a summer getaway. It was an open expanse of virgin land sloping down into the sea with unparalleled sea views and the occasional palazzo. Much has changed since, but Sliema remains a favourite location.
#3 A British settlement
The British made Sliema their de facto home, because by the time they arrived, it was well-populated, and proved to be central—close to the sea, the city and the harbours. Most old photographs of Sliema hark back to the British colonial era and some beautiful old houses still stand intact.
#4 Għar Ħarq il-Ħamiem Cave
There is an obscure cave in St Julian’s called Għar Ħarq il-Ħamiem, the only known submerged terrestrial cavern in Malta. It is a wonderful example of the geographical diversity of Malta. Whilst Ħamiem translates to pigeons, the original name was probably Ħammiem, which is Arabic and obsolete Maltese for ‘bath’.
#5 Manoel Island
Manoel Island, a part of Gzira, was originally called Bishop’s Island and Malta’s first quarantine hospital (Lazzareto) was located thereon. This is quite literally an island inside the northern harbour, despite the bridge and its close proximity to Malta.
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