Two millennia ago, a Turkish man from Tarsus named Saul used to take pleasure in persecuting Christians. Then, one day, while on his way to Damascus, the god of the Christians appeared to him as a blinding flash of light. The members of Saul’s entourage, and indeed Saul himself, were quite shocked and overwhelmed by the experience. In fact, their account of the event was never too clear, but it seems that through the bright light the voice of the Christian god told Saul in no uncertain terms that he must change his ways. ‘Thou shalt change thy ways. Or else…’, were the words that Saul’s terrified companions reported later.*

Saul took God’s admonishment to heart. He changed his name to Paul and decided to side with the Christians. He set up a blog and began to write a large number of posts promoting the Christian religion. Although, of course, there was no internet at the time. But Paul was such a great influencer that this young new religion took hold and would eventually become the dominant belief in the world for many centuries. Many of his blog posts were compiled and included with other comtemporary as well as historical writings by others, resulting in a publication that is, as yet and by far, the number one best seller of all time.

Saul sive Paul had the idea of taking a trip to Rome in order to preach the good word there. Unfortunately, on the way there a huge gregale storm blew up and Paul ended up shipwrecked on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, called Melita. The inhabitants there, well aware they were living in the middle of the middle of the world – effectively at the centre of the known universe – were rather self-important and snobbish. They used to resent foreigners, even those in distress, and when they saw Paul and his companions wash up on their shores they thought they were invaders and began to shout at them: “Go back to your country!”

Then, an astonishing thing happened. A poisonous snake attacked and bit Paul. The islanders thought this would be the end of the invader but, lo and behold, Paul took hold of the snake by the neck, shook it hard, basically strangling it, and threw it away with nonchalance. It was the last surviving member of an endangered species and the last poisonous snake ever to inhabit Melita. The populace were mightily impressed by Paul’s power, so much that they thought he was a god and set out to worship him. But then, of course, Paul set them on the right track by converting them to the one true religion – the one he had been promoting in his blog posts.

We know all this through Paul’s fellow traveller, Luke, a doctor and a travel blogger in his own right, whose account of this ill-fated trip made it into the best-selling compilation.

That’s the main gist as taught to the distant descendants of Melita’s population. Real historians, however, claim that Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem for defying the religious order there and was being taken to Rome for trial. Melita pretty much adopted the religion of the occupying power each time it was invaded. Some say the island was depopulated at one point in the dark ages and eventually became Christian through the European feudal lords who owned it in the first half of the second millennium. It’s hard to believe that a nation whose language is basically Arabic was not, at any point, also Muslim. But let’s not get distracted by religion and focus on the main reason of this account, which is the town of St Paul’s Bay, and in particular the pictures that I took there on a recent visit, in the north of Melita. Or should I rather say, given that Melita followed Saul sive Paul’s example and updated its name, the north of Malta.

Modern St Paul’s Bay has grown from a small fishing village into a bustling, diverse, cosmopolitan town. The diversity refers both to the town’s constituent localities – the farming hamlet of Burmarrad, the posh villas of Wardija, the seaside resort of Qawra, the tourist ‘mecca’ of Buġibba, the original village of St Paul’s Bay, and furthest north Ix-Xemxija (“the sunny one”) – and to its population which includes among others Maltese, British, Italians, Serbians and people from any number of nations from eastern Europe, Asia and Africa that you can notice while strolling along the coastal promenade.

Legend has it that Paul was shipwrecked on Selmunett, popularly known as St Paul’s Island. This island lies at the tip of a peninsula that provides a beautiful view all along the coast.

St Paul’s Bay, along with the rest of Malta, attracts most visitors in summer, but it’s in the other seasons, and particularly in winter, that the weather gives rise to many different spectacular skyscapes to enhance the view.

In the early morning …

During the day …

Into the evening …


* Caution advised – poetic licence mode activated.


Advertisement