Wednesday, September 27, 2006

This Broad, Abroad.

I’m profoundly lucky. The nice Saudi’s over at Citibank decided to let me charge up some plane tickets to join my mom in Gozo, Malta. Where in the huh?, you ask. Southeast of Sicily and just north of Tunisia, these little limestone rocks pop out of the Mediterranean. There are 3 main islands: Malta, Comino, and Gozo. Carved out of the rocks are churches and armories, bridges and houses, drawn from a bland palette of sand, beige, taupe, buff, camel... a soothing mosaic of uniformity separates the cerulean sky and the azure sea.

I’ve come to dive while my mom takes swim lessons from Steven Shaw. The fish life is pretty limited, the coral seems to be a mere memory covered in algae, yet the limestone makes these incredible structures – caves and archways and tunnels – and with the light pouring through these structures, it is stunningly beautiful. And I do see some pretty amazing things: cuttlefish, octopus, sea horses, huge amberjacks hunting.

Walking around the island, one is stuck by a funny paradox. The population on Gozo is tiny. And yet, every three blocks, there is an enormous church.

The history is one of invasions and oppression...which turns out to be the perfect fertilizer mix for growing religiosity. Saint Paul, on his way to trial in Rome was shipwrecked here. And the story goes he performed miracles and was bitten by a snake and yet did not fall ill. Then he went to Rome for his beheading. What follows next are about a thousand years of being taken as slaves and ruled in turns by Arabs, Normans, Castilians, and finally Turks. But then, these guys show up, clad in steel, boot the Turks off the island and take over. They were knights. An order of medieval crusaders called the Sovereign and Military Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem, to be specific. And here’s the weird part: they never left. To this day, the Knights are around. What’s more, they are a nation unto themselves. They mint their own currency. They have diplomatic relations with over 70 nations. I’ve no idea how you’d spot them, I suppose they’ve updated to gortex armor by now.

Care to see a few photos?.


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