Ramla


Ramla Bay

Another natural attraction is Ir-Ramla. It is the most unspoiled bay of the whole Maltese archipelago where it possible to get an idea of the beauty of the island’s beaches centuries ago, that is before houses were built right on the shoreline. The beach area is covered by a reddish golden sand that has given it its name while on the inner end of the beach there are sand-dunes full of endemic plants and animals.

Not withstanding that the place is invaded by thousands, these sand-dunes, still carry most of the typical dune flora fauna, almost inexistent elsewhere in the Maltese islands. Worthy of mention are the sand restharrow, the marram grass, as well as populations of sea spurge. The place is also the habitat of a large variety of dune animals some of which are very rare elsewhere. These include the earwig, the histerid beetle, and several other species of beetles and wasps.

 

The Roman Baths at Ramla

Sometimes between the fourth and fifth century, during the Roman rule, an establishment of public baths was built at Ir-Ramla. It was raised on the left-hand side seawards, just beneath the still visible redoubt of the Knights. Its principal entrance was probably from the bay on the north and it was approached from the valley on the south though no traces if a Roman road has survived.

The bathhouse, discovered in 1910 and covered up again after excavations, consisted of nineteen rooms constructed of blocks of local stone. It included a complete of baths with both cold and hot water. Water was supplied through a system of canals from a spring in the hillside. The common room that led to the baths was by far the finest of the building, with a pavement of various coloured marbles and a band of grey enclosing a thin band of black. Another band of grey marble, a thin band of red, and a third band of grey followed successively, framing a centre of eight slabs of fine breccia. A series of five rooms were heated by hypocausts: hollow spaces under the floor accumulation of heat. Another room had a large cold bath. A perfect bathhouse in a most perfect place.

Fortifications

The Island of Gozo, situated in the middle of Mediterranean, was in past times subject to continuous raids by the Gennoese, the Calabrians, the Hafsids of Tunisia, the Turks and other marauding corsairs. They caused widespread havoc and terror. To better safeguard the island, early in the seventeenth century, the Knights of St John began raising watch-towers and other fortifications along the littoral.

One of the first towers was sited at the north western edge of Ghajn Damma plateau. Often referred to as Marsalforn Tower or Ix-Xaghra Tower, it was built in 1616 probably on a design by the military engineer Giovanni Rinaldini. It commanded Marsalforn Bay westwards and ir-Ramla Bay eastwards and guarded the northern approach to Gozo like a solitary sentinel up to 1716 when it collapsed. In 1720, the second Marsalforn tower, designed by the military engineer Charles Francois de Montdion, was raised in the centre of tal-Qortin plateau. It was demolished in 1915 but its foundations are still partly visible.

Military engineers sent to Gozo from time to time still considered ir-Ramla as a place where invaders and pirates could disembark with relative ease. Between 1715 and 1716, the Knights of Saint John began building a series of fortifications to guard the bay. A battery was built at Ghajn Barrani and another, further inland, upon 1-Irdum tax-Xaghra. At ir-Ramla itself two batteries were raised one on each side of the bay and a redoubt in the middle. The one on ix-Xaghra side was known as the Balincourt Battery and though in a dilapidated condition, it is still clearly visible. That on the other side was known as thr Nadur battery. The Vendosme redoubt, so called after Philippe de Vendosme, Grand Prior of France, was sited in the very centre of the bay and its foundations can be traced behind the statue in the middle of ir-Ramla.

In 1730, an underwater obstruction was also built. This consisted of a submerged wall about two metres across and over two meters high. Vessels attempting an illegal landing could easily crush against or run aground upon the wall. In 1995, after having withstood storms for over two and a half centuries, it was breached by someone to ease the passage of pleasure sea-craft. A fougasse, a rock-cut cannon with a bore of nearly two metres, was added time later on the eastern/Nadur end of the bay. Ir-Ramla as well as ix-Xaghra and in-Nadur were rendered safer.

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