The Fishing Village of Marsaxlokk
Marsaxlokk is a traditional fishing village located in the south-eastern part of Malta, with a population of 3,205 people (Nov 2005). The village's name comes from marsa, which means "port" and xlokk, which is the local name for south east. The word is related to the name for the dry sirocco wind that blows from the Sahara, comparable to the equivalent Catalan word, "xaloc". Marsaxlokk is the foremost fishing village and, perhaps, the most picturesque seaside locality in Malta. Fishing nets are often spread on the quay to dry in the sun and, quite often, sturdy fishermen can be seen mending these nets. These activities, together with the modest houses by the quayside, lend the place charm and serenity.
Most of Malta's fish supplies are caught by fishermen coming from this port. Swordfish, tuna, and the popular 'lampuki' are caught in abundance between spring and late autumn. On weekdays, the catch is taken to the fish-market in Valletta, but on Sundays fish is retailed by fishermen in the open on the quay.
Fish restaurants have opened to meet the ever-increasing demand. The tourist influx to Marsaxlokk has also attracted many hawkers and souvenir vendors.
Overlooking the northern arm of Marsaxlokk Bay is the hill of Tas-Silg. This archaeological site contains remains of megalithic temples of the Tarxien phase, with later alterations resembling the Hagar Qim model. Bronze Age material was also found scattered around the area.
The site's most important period, however, is considered to be from the end of the 6th century BC to the 1st century AD, with most of the extant structures belonging to the latter part of this span. Again the hill was used as a religious site, this time as a temple dedicated to Astarte/Hera. A number of dedications to both goddesses, or to the one goddess, under both the Phoenician and Greek names, have been found.
The Tas-Silg site was used again for religious purposes sometime in the 4th century AD, when it was adapted to a new religion, Christianity, and possibly used as a monastery.
The contemporary population of Marsaxlokk is around 4,000. In the past, a great percentage of the population worked as full-time fishermen. The number of working fishermen has decreased, in part because people from other localities have moved to the village.
Marsaxlokk is about 35 minutes from Valletta by public bus. The bay is memorable for the many decorative "eyed" boats, called luzzus. The painted eyes on these luzzus are believed to protect the boats from the evil eye.
It is in this "bay of the sirocco" (Xlokk) that the first Phoenicians landed and set up trading posts on Malta, during the ninth century BC. During the Great Siege, Marsaxlokk harbor was also used as an anchorage by the Turkish fleet.
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