Msida could be described now as a large village or a small town. It is located beside the harbour and has a population of 8,000 people. It was previously an old fishing village, but although it is now more urbanised, some fishermen still operate in the village. The lower part of Msida lies at the outlet of a valley and is mostly commercial. The higher part, which many tourists never see, is a charming old residential area with narrow hilly streets and winding pathways. Most of the lower village centre was reclaimed from the sea after the Second World War.
Today, Msida is best known and is hugely important for being the location of the University of Malta, the GF Abela Junior College, the Yacht Marina and the Mater Dei General Hospital.
The University overlooks the village from a hill known as Tal-Qroqq. There are 11,500 students on the campus, including 750 international students from 82 countries following full-time or part-time degree and diploma courses. Over 3,000 students graduate annually. There are a further 2,500 students at the Junior College, which is also managed by the university. Most of the students commute daily but those from Gozo and the international students are accommodated in the surrounding areas. All this movement of lively and exuberant young people creates a buzz around Msida in stark contrast to Malta’s other quieter and more tranquil inland villages.
The Msida and Ta’ Xbiex Marinas, many times referred to as the Sliema Marina, form the largest marina in Malta. These Marinas together provide mooring facilities for more than 700 boats on 15 serviced pontoons. It is located inside Marsamxett Harbour, which makes it safe and well sheltered, as well as conveniently central. The Marina is operated by Creek Developments Plc, who provides every facility, including showers, toilets, water and electricity.
The Marina can handle pleasure yachts of up to 22 metres in length at this excellent picturesque location. I have often strolled around this expansive enclosure of luxury which is always full to capacity with gorgeous yachts of all shapes and sizes. I find it an absorbing experience and a fleeting glimpse of another world.
The Mater Dei is Malta’s new state of the art hospital and is situated on the outskirts of Msida. Opened in 2007, it is the flagship of the excellent health services of the Maltese Islands. It is massive, covering 250,000 square metres and commands a strategic position visible from far and wide. Some of its statistics are staggering; 3,760 staff, 850 beds, 25 fully equipped operating theatres and cost 600 million Euro to build. It was a brave move by the Malta government to embark on such an ambitious project but now their vision and courage is much appreciated by everyone who needs its services, including many tourists.
As in most Malta villages the dominant landmark is the parish church and Msida is another example of the pride and status of the church in its midst. Saint Joseph’s Parish Church stands tall and elegant in the centre of the village and is clearly visible from every direction. It is a beautiful traditional baroque design, built in the late 19th century and replaced the old church of the Immaculate Conception which still exists today.
The façade is hugely impressive comprising of a series of bays with the two outer bays surmounted by well-proportioned bell-towers. However, the main artistic highlight lies within the interior of the church with a mystical fresco painting over the choir vault depicting the death of St Joseph. Msida’s Festa in honour of St Joseph is quite special because it is celebrated for a full week and a half in July. It is also unique for the playing of the traditional game known as il-Gostra (pronounced il-jostra) where local men compete in trying to reach a flag at the end of a slippery log and invariably splash into the sea below!
Most tourists only get a passing glance of Msida when travelling between Valletta, Sliema and other towns and resorts. But having spent many enjoyable days in and around Msida I can say it is a bustling, lively and stimulating area, well worth spending a few hours there and exploring its many interesting features.
From ‘IN LOVE WITH MALTA’ (The Hidden Treasures)
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