Hagar Qim Temples
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Had you been knocking around in the times when men dressed in furs and went out to spear something tasty for their fur-bikini-clad woman to lob onto the fire back at the cave for dinner, then Malta may have surprised you. You see back in that prehistoric era, this tiny island was incredibly advanced in terms of buildings and temples and this is perhaps the most famous example.
The Hagar Qim Temples were first excavated in the mid 19th century and are examples of what has come to be known on the Maltese islands as the Ggantija phase. This name has been taken from another set of temples on Gozo – the Ggantija (giant) Temples, reputed to be the oldest standing structure in the world.
There are several other examples of advanced prehistoric life, and some are older than this one, which was initially thought to have been from around 3600 to 3200BC. That initial guess has since been backed up by carbon dating, which placed the structure at being created in roughly 3300BC.
The temple stands proudly on a hilltop on the southern edge of the island. The nearest settlement to it today is Qrendi, which is about two kilometres to the northeast.
Hagar Qim is perched on some serious cliffs and overlooks the spooky islet of Filfla. This small island, protected and surrounded by sheer cliffs, is now a nature reserve as well as being a no-go zone for humans with one-mile exclusion zone around it.
That’s because it was a favourite venue for target practice for the British armed forces and now has extremely restricted access for fear of visitors happening across any old mines, unexploded bombs or other deadly devices that have a tendency to go bang! Any keen bird-watchers can visit but you’ll need special Government permission and you’ll also need to negotiate the very steep 60m tall cliffs to get to the central limestone plateau.
Meanwhile, back at Hagar Qim, you can take a walk through its geometric passageways and other rooms marked by the massive stones of the temples. And while you’re doing that, take a moment to think that these and all the many other ancient structures on Malta and Gozo pre-date the Pyramids in Egypt and England’s Stonehenge.
Next to Hagar Qim, further towards the sea, there’s another of these remarkable ancient temple sites, called Mnajdra. This whole surrounding area, which is typical of a type of Mediterranean scrubland called garrigue, is spectacularly stark and isolated, and it has been declared a Heritage Park. The two sets of ruins attract nearly a million visitors each year.
The temples were recently given a bubble-like cover to protect them from the elements in place of the vaulted stone roof that perhaps once provided cover. It was a controversial move and cost €4.7million. It’s hardly in keeping with the ancient feel of the site but provided the great sail doesn’t blow away, it will ensure the temples’ survival to be enjoyed by and to intrigue future generations of visitors.
If you are a fan of intriguing ancient history, then a visit to this duo of ancient sites is an absolute must. They never fail to intrigue those who come here, who are invariably unable to comprehend just how old these buildings are.
If you want to visit, then Hagar Qim is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission is €9 for adults, €6.50 for students and OAPs and €4.50 for children aged six to 11-years-old. To get there by car you should be fine if you have a decent map and head for Qrendi but it’s also possible to catch buses to the site.
Address: Qrendi, Malta
Phone: +356 2142 4231
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