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Qala
Qala {pronounced Aala in English} is a village on Gozo Island, Malta, with a population of 1,609 people (Nov 2005). Nearby is Hondoq ir-Rummien, a coastline with salt pans and caves popular with snorkellers.

Qala is first referred to in a fifteenth century portolan preserved at the Vatican library has taken its name from the qala or port of Hondoq ir-Rummien.  It is the easternmost village of Gozo and has been inhabited since early times.  The development of the present settlement began in the second half of the seventeenth century.  It is a pleasant and rural place with many natural and historic attractions.

Though Qala is the farthest village from Gozo's capital, Victoria, it is the closest to the rest of the Maltese archipelago, and the rocky hillsides of Qala enjoy an unobstructed view of the islands of Malta and Comino.

Breath taking scenes can be enjoyed, among other places, from the Qala Belvedere and from the small courtyard in front of the church known as Il-Madonna tal-Blat (Saint Mary of the Rocks).  This church faces Comino and legend has it that it was built so that the people of that island could follow Holy Mass from across the straits when rough weather precluded a priest from crossing there.

Except for a few sheltered inlets, like the popular Hondoq Ir-Rummien.  Qala's coastline is a rocky trek to which nature and history both have contributed a great deal.  Natural gifts include several caves, the prettiest of which is Ghar Minka, which is accessible only by boat.

Qala is the eastern-most point of Gozo, and the village furthest from the capital Victoria.  Its name is both Arabic and Maltese for sheltered haven or bay, and this is reflected in its coat of arms - a Gozo boat sailing on rough seas.  The village parish church is dedicated to Saint Joseph, and was built by Dun Guzepp Diacono, between 1882 and 1889.  Its style is baroque as in many other churches on the island.  Qala became a parish on 3 February 1872, and until 1889 the parish church was that of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.  The foundation stone of the parish of Saint Joseph was laid on 19 March 1882 and the church consecrated on 8 May 1904.

The coastline around Qala is largely rocky, but offering some really excellent walks, as well as wonderful views of Malta and Comino.  There are a few sheltered inlets, one being the secluded bathing spot at Hondoq ir-Rummien.  There are many sites of historical interest here, such as the salt pans, the islands best preserved windmill and prehistoric remains. One can find examples of cart ruts, (parallel tracks cut into the rock) which extend over 180 metres and are some of the longest on Gozo.




Bus Route

The bus route for Qala is number 303



Places of Interest

St.Joseph Parish Church

The village parish church is dedicated to St Joseph.  It was built by the same architect-priest who built the church of Ghasri, Dun Guzepp Diacono, between 1882 and 1889, when he was serving as parish priest of Qala.  It is built in baroque, for many churches on the island, whether built in the seventeenth or in the latter half of the twentieth century, were constructed in this style.

Qala became a parish on 3 February 1872, the first to be established after the establishment of the Diocese of Gozo. Until 1889, the seat of the parish church was the church of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.  The foundation stone of the parish of Saint Joseph was laid on 19 March 1882 and the church was consecrated on 8 May 1904.  The parish became Archipresbyteral on 21 April 1965.  The village feast to St. Joseph is celebrated yearly in early August.



Immaculate Conception Chapel

This Chapel which is situated in Qala on your way to Hondaq ir-Rummien, is one of the earliest Marian shrines on the island and dates back to 1575.  It is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.  The feast is celebrated on the 8th December and the statue was sculptured in Marseilles by Gallard et Fils in 1887.

In the early 1650s, the chapel was enlarged and on 28 April 1688, it became the parish church of the eastern part of Gozo, Qala, Nadur and Ghajnsielem and remained so for about 12 years.  It served again as a parish church of Qala from February 1872 to February 1889.  It was consecrated on the 21st May 1950.

Between 1982 and 1988 the inside was gilded and refurbished.  The main attraction is the altarpiece, attributed to Federico Barocci di Urbino.  It shows God extending his special protection to the Immaculate Conception.  The Virgin Mary was crowned on 1 August 1954.



St.Anthony's Battery

St.Anthony's Battery also known as Ras il-Qala (Qala Point) Battery was built between 1731 and 1732.  Its design is attributed to Charles Francois Mondion.  It was intended to guard the mouth of the channel between Gozo and Comino.

The work was originally designed with a semi-circular gun platform and two blockhouses at the rear, however, it was eventually built with a semi-hexagonal front.  Consequently the landward defences incorporated a free-standing redan trace with thick walls and numerous musketry loopholes, which were shielded by two flanking traverses.  The land front itself was protected by a shallow ditch.  A solid blockhouse with battered walls occupied the centre of the enclosure.  In 1770, St. Anthony's Battery had an armament of three 8-pdr guns with 427 rounds of roundshot and 75 rounds of grapeshot; and eight 6-pdr guns with 127 rounds of roundshot and 45 rounds of grapeshot.

Although most of the landward part of St.Anthony's Battery was in a precarious state of neglect with part of the wall and the entire blockhouse in complete ruins, Din l-Art Helwa (a non-profit making organisation) are at present carrying out renovation and reconstruction works on the Block house and the entrance.


Hondoq Ir-Rummien
Beach

The bay can be acceded to from the village of Qala and lies opposite to the isle of Comino.  The small sandy beach and its crystalline water makes Hondoq Bay very popular amongst the local population especially in summer.

Apart from an ideal swimming zone, the bay is also renowned for diving, especially for beginners.  During summer evenings a number of local families stay late in Hondoq to relax by their smoking barbecues enjoying the cool summer breeze.




Voluntary Groups in Qala

Radio Lehen il-Qala

Radio Lehen il-Qala was set up way back in 1996.  It was the 25th of July of that year when for the first time a local voice was heard on our radio sets.  A voice that echoed into our homes and which is still echoing today in wider and stronger dimensions.

The mind behind the whole idea was that of Canon Karm Refalo who was archpriest of Qala at the time.  Helped along by a group of young people all fired with dynamic energy and enthusiasm they succeeded in transmitting the first schedule of programmes on the occasion of the feast of St. Joseph, patron saint of Qala.  It was a totally new idea for Qala and even for Gozo, but which took root and is now spread all over the Maltese islands in a considerable number of community radio stations.  One may ask, was it opportune that such a radio station should be set up? The answer is definitely yes.  

Otherwise how could the station be still functioning thirteen years after it started.  The station serves many purposes. In the first place it is a valuable means of transmission.  Besides, it forms a link with Maltese emigrants scattered in so many countries overseas; it is a means for spiritual and social teaching; it is also a means of support and consolation to so many lonely old or sick people who listening to the voice reaching them from the small town in the east of Gozo, can follow all that is happening in the world outside their rooms and feel that they are still a part of that world.

The beginning was difficult.  Resources were limited. None of those involved were experts in the field of transmission. It all started from nothing in a small room on top of the church sacristy.  Yet it was from there that the voice which today still echoes first emerged.  The first schedule of programmes spread over a few days was successfully completed and all felt happy and proud of the achievement. On the days following the village feast, many were asking “Why did you stop transmitting?”  It was evident that the idea of a local station had been well received in the town and that the community of Qala was in favour that it should be explored further.  The enthusiasm of the pioneering group was strong enough not to let the idea die out but instead to make it grow and develop.  And that is exactly what happened.  From then onwards the schedule of programmes continued to grow in quantity and quality.

Originally Radio Lehen il-Qala transmitted on frequency 106.5FM.  But when consequently a national radio started transmissions on a frequency quite close, it caused a hindrance to our community radio.  People were complaining that the voice of the local radio was no longer clear and they were experiencing difficulty in following the programmes.  This was a further proof of the value of the radio.  It was a confirmation that it was a good and modern means of bringing the Christian message to the whole community.  An official request was therefore made to the Broadcasting Authority and Radio Lehen il-Qala was given a new frequency – 106.3FM.

Who could have thought that Radio Lehen il-Qala would start a new page in the field of national broadcasting?  Yet that is exactly what happened.  Once more the radio took the front lead among community radios in the finals for best programmes in the Maltese islands.  Saturday, 16th November 2002 is a date that will be forever remembered and which will be written in gold in the history of the radio and in that of broadcasting in Malta.  Not only was the radio among the finalists but also won first place with the programme ‘L’edukazzjoni ta’Wliedna’ (The Education of our Children).  Many just could not believe.  They queried how a community radio could compete with national stations. Yet it could.  Following its success, the radio figured prominently in the local media when it sought to go further. There were more surprises in the pipeline.  The station once more reached the finals in the Awards for the best programmes set by the Broadcasting Authority.  In November 2003 Radio Lehen il-Qala won third place out of eighteen nominations in the edition Gharfien Nazzjonali Zghazagh fis-Socjeta’ 2003 (National Recognition of Youth in Society 2003).

Since its beginning, Radio Lehen il-Qala has changed its transmission studio more than once, always with one aim, to give better service.  Unfortunately this did not always turn out to be the truth, but one can only learn through mistakes.  Today, Radio Lehen il-Qala has new studios, better equipped, more comfortable, which after all suit the high image the radio enjoys.  These studios have been inaugurated in July 2008.  They are under the direction of the present archpriest Canon Dr. Joe Zammit and they are committed to grow better and stronger thus laying the way for the future.



The Qala Fireworks Group

The Qala Fireworks Group, formed back in 1956, is made up of very dedicated volunteer people who work all year round to collect funds and put up one of the greatest aerial and ground fireworks show on Gozo.  Qala has always been renewed for having high quality fireworks and this is what the group strive to achieve year after year.  The group heavily depends on the generosity of the village people, whom with their donations finance a large part of the total outlay.  As soon as a feast is over, the group looks back at all the work done and then starts its preparations for the following year's show.

A thing which this group is famous for and which withdraws people from all corners of Malta and Gozo is without doubt the ground fireworks, where only in this feast one can see such a nice and huge display in Gozo.  It all started in 1999, when some Qala fireworks enthusiasts came up with the idea of making 2 new structures (armaturi).  And the story continued from there.  At that time they managed to make 2 structures, which left everyone amazed by their huge size, technicality and the great performance they gave.  And from there, year after year the group continued to produce new structures and thanks to this, we proudly say that no where else in Gozo can one see such an amazing show which is held annually on Saturday evening.

Apart from being famous for the ground fireworks show, the same can be said as regards the aerial display put on every year.  Believing in quality and not much in quantity, the group offers one of the best aerial displays in Gozo especially the Sunday night show.  The show starts with the 'Dahna Kulur' and continue with a nice spectacle of 'Msilet, loghob u Hsejjes' from a variety of fireworks factories from around Malta and Gozo...



Ghaqda Briju San Guzepp

Ghaqda Briju San Guzepp was formed back in July 2007 when a number of enthusiastic youths decided to put their energies together with the main aims being of:

  • Getting together the village youths by organising activities all year round related particularly to them.
  • Improving the external celebrations relating to the Saint Joseph Feast celebrated in our village.
  • Working on new feast decorations.

Once the committee was formed on the 1st of July 2007, work started immediately for the feast which was due to be celebrated at the beginning of the following month.  In this relatively short period, the group managed to organize with big success two BBQ Fests at Hondoq ir-Rummien with the aim of raising funds to finance the projects which the committee had agreed to work on.

After the 2007 feast was over, the committee prepared a program of activities for the whole year.  In fact the group organised transport for the Notte Bianca event in October, a Christmas concert with the collaboration of the Qala Local Council, as well as helped in the carnival celebrations held in our village.  In early March, work started on the second phase of the project, which was scheduled to be completed before the 2008 feast.  Also the group designed and ordered new feast t-shirts as well as worked on new flags to be used during the marches.  Another initiative taken was that of meeting on a regular basis the Qala youths to prepare with them for the feast marches, the aim being of having well organised celebrations.

The 2008 Feast was a memorable one not only for the group but for all the people of our village. People were amazed since a small village can put up such an amazing feast. The committee have already started its preparations for the upcoming feast and is currently in discussions to decide on the next project which it promises to be bigger than the one finished this year.


Qala St. Joseph F.C.

Qala St. Joseph F.C is a football club from the village of Qala in Gozo, Malta. The club was founded in 1968 and is named after the village patron Saint Joseph.  They play in the Gozo Football League.



Menhir Qala Folk Group

The Menhir Qala Folk Group, was originally set up to promote the local traditions and culture of the Gozitan and Maltese folklore, with special reference to the village of Qala and its history.  The Qala Local Council offered all its means and manpower to sustain the conception and growth of this folk group.  The first official group inauguration took place on the 18th September 2004 in Gnien il-Familja where a traditional Maltese night was organized with full co-operation of the Qala Local Council involving the participation of all the members of the group; the repertoire being several traditional Maltese dances and songs.  Since its formation in 2003, the Menhir Qala Folk Group has participated in various local, national and international events and activities; mostly those organized by other local councils both in Malta and Gozo.

It is worth mentioning here, that the first invitation abroad was to Porto Roz in Slovenia in July 2005 for the Val Piran International Folklore Festival where the group was representing the Maltese Islands amongst other foreign groups such as those from Portugal, Italy and of course Slovenia.

Since then, the group has participated in other Folk Festivals, held in Lanciano, Italy, Serbia, Czech Republic and Lefkada, Greece. For the near future the group is being enlarged with the involvement of four male dancers. Traditional costumes are worn and tools are used during the dances and songs to provide a better picture to the audience especially for tourists when performing locally and also when participating in international events abroad.

With great success our folk group, in collaboration with the Qala Local Council has organised the Qala International Folk Festival, which this year will be the 6th edition since its inception.  This folk festival is the only international folk festival held on the island of Gozo and it is very much anticipated by both the local communities and the tourists visiting the island at the time.  Folk groups from abroad who have so far participated in this event hail from countries such as, Slovenia, Serbia, Portugal, Italy, Bulgaria, Sicily and Slovakia to name but a few.  During this festival the Menhir Qala Folk Group are responsible in the re-enactment of a traditional Maltese wedding.  Another event held during the festival is a half day conference covering a different subject related with our customs and culture.  For this conference, even the foreign groups attending the festival, participate.

The Menhir Qala Folk Group has recently acquired premises in the village of Qala, which used to be the old police station and which eventually, with the assistance of the Local Council, these premises will be transformed into a folklore museum, and obviously will be the headquarters for the Menhir group.

The Menhir Qala Folk Group committee is made up of 7 members and the president is Mr Paul Buttigieg, Mayor of Qala Local Council.  These committee meetings are held in the Qala Local Council premises.



Ite Ad Joseph

The Ite ad Joseph Band is the official band of the village of Qala is one of eleven bands on the island Gozo.  It was established on 8th December 1996 and just recently marked its first tenth anniversary.  Since then the band has offered numerous services and most of Gozo's feasts on an annual basis mainly at the villages of Nadur, Ghajnsielem, Xewkija, Xaghra, Fontana, Kercem, Sannat, Zebbug and at the St. George's feast in the capital Victoria. Also, the band has had services in a number of localities in Malta.

Over the years, the Ite ad Joseph Band grew to become a medium-sized Gozitan band with an emphasis on quality service. It has issued two CDs so far, one in 2001 and another in 2004 on the occasion of the Centenary Celebrations. Between 20 and 26th September 2001 a number of Ite ad Joseph bandsmen participated with the Sicilian Band of Salina at Isola Verde. In September 2005 the band visited and performed in Arvika in the region of Varmland in Sweden.  On other occasions a number of bandsmen performed in Siros in Greece.

The band is composed of about 35 regularly practicing and attending bandsmen and women and 39 students studying music, all from the village of Qala.  As is the tradition in Gozo, a number of bandsmen and women are invited from outside the village to support the band on most occasions.

The Ite ad Joseph committee is presided by Raymond Tabone. Michael Carol Bartolo is the secretary and Simeon Spiteri is the treasurer, Johnathan Mizzi, Steve Bartolo, Guzeppi Grima, Joseph Gatt and Charlene Bartolo are other members.  The band is presently under the direction of Mro. Antoine Mercieca.  All official committee meetings are held at the Ite ad Joseph Band Club at 12 St. Joseph Square, Qala, Gozo.

The membership base counts to over 600 members, accounting for half of the village population.  Its popularity extends beyond Gozo's shores to hundreds of fans living in Australia, Canada, the United States of America, England and Wales.




Events

St.Joseph Feast (Qala's patron's feast)

The feast of Qala is celebrated on the first Sunday of August and is dedicated to the beloved patron Saint Joseph.  The baroque present parish church is dedicated to St Joseph.  It was designed by Dun Guzepp Diacono and was built between 1882 and 1889.  The foundation stone of the church was laid on 19 March 1882 and the church was consecrated on 8 May 1904.  The parish became Archipresbyteral on 21 April 1965.

The community of Qala celebrated the first feast of St. Joseph on 27 April 1890.  The village of Qala has a local brass band known as Ite ad Joseph, which plays marches and stage concerts during the festive week.



Gozo International Celebration

An international celebration which is held three times per year; Christmas Edition, Easter Edition, Feast Edition.  This is an ecumenical, socio-cultural event organised by the Archpriest, Canon Dr. Joseph Zammit, and the clergy of the parish church of Qala.  Entrance to this event is free but donations will be gratefully accepted.


International Folk Festival

The Festival is orgainised by the Qala Local Council and the Menhir Qala Folk Group.  It is spread over four (4) days, and has got a mix of traditional local and foreign folk music, song and dance.  Performances are given by both local and foreign folk groups and bands, including instrumental and brass.

In 2008's edition a special attraction was that of It-Tieg-fl-Antik (a traditional Maltese wedding). It commenced at 11am and was a complete re-enactment of a Maltese wedding.  Starting at Imgarr Road then moved in procession towards St Josephs Square.  The wedding was concluded with a small 'festin' serving traditional wedding delicacies. Immediately after the wedding festivities there was the opening of the local Gozitan and Maltese traditional hand-crafts exhibition.