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Manikata


Manikata is a small village in the limits of Mellieħa in the northwestern part of Malta. With a population of only 539 people, the main industry of Manikata is farming. All year round the fields are tended and fruits & vegetables such as grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, melons, water melons, apples, oranges, pomegranates, strawberries and many other crops are commonly seen in the fields and enjoyed by many. The fields are found in the surrounding areas known as il-Ġnien ta’ Għajn Tuffieħa (Għajn Tuffieħa Gardens), il-Wilġa ta’ Għajn Tuffieħa (Għajn Tuffieħa meadow), il-Miżieb (woodland) and ix-Xagħra l-Ħamra (The red garigue).

A lot of cart ruts are found around Manikata. These probably date to a period between the Bronze Age and the Roman Era. One particular line of cart ruts surfaces from under the trees in the Miżieb area, proceeds towards the parish church and goes towards the cliffs hanging above Mejjiesa Bay. In the northeast of the Manikata church there is a medium barren land called Tal-Qargħa. This land contains a number of archaeological remains including cart-ruts, an old quarry and walls built of large stones. In the are there is a girna and in the west of the structure there is a wall some 8 metres long and in it there are five large stones. Parallel to this wall there is another wall, which has six large stones. On top of the hill there is another wall and it there are three large stones, the largest one is 0.75m length and 0.6m breath. Apart from this wall there are another two built from large stones. It seems that during the Bronze Age period in this area there was a prehistoric village, and it was defended against their enemies by several walls.

In the area of Il-Ġnien ta’ Għajn Tuffieħa there are the remains of Roman baths that formed part of a rural villa. Nearer to Manikata there are several Roman tombs. Some of them have been obliterated when people cut across the cliff side to level the ground and make space for their fields. Other tombs are found in caves and have been modified by subsequent cave inhabitants to be used as storage space. Some tombs were used as air-raid shelters during World War Two.

During the Middle Ages, the lands at Għajn Tuffieħa and Manikata were used for the cultivation of crops and fruit trees. Fields belonged to land owners from the capital city, Mdina, and its suburb, Rabat. The farmers usually inhabited the caves in the vicinity. The caves also housed sheep, goats and oxen. People also used to come here to collect firewood.

On the 23rd of May 1648, Grand Master Lascaris came to Għajn Tuffieħa to lay the foundation stone of the Watch Tower of Għajn Tuffieħa. This is one of the seven towers built by Grand Master Lascaris during the times of the Knights of Malta. This tower has a longish shape and the ground floor room is larger than the second floor one. It was armed with ½-pdr cannon and was manned by four men, one of whom was a captain. Unfortunately, the cliffs around this Tower are corroding very badly with various cracks visible on the surface of the cliffs near the Tower and huge holes can be seen on the wall of the cliffs. 

From 1902 onwards, a number of farmers in Manikata and Għajn Tuffieħa lost a vast amount of agricultural land which was taken over by the Admiralty for the construction of a Royal Marines Training Centre. The Għajn Tuffieħa Camp consisted of shooting ranges and residential quarters for soldiers, their families and camp officials. During World War One (1914-1917) the camp was covered in tents and used as a military hospital to cure wounded soldiers that were brought here from the war front. People from Manikata used to work in this emergency hospital as nurses. The British suspected that Mussolini would attempt to invade Malta. So, they built a number of coastal defences called beach posts. These were built of concrete and camouflaged with rubble walls. Two such beach posts were built in Manikata in 1935, one near Għajn Tuffieħa Tower and one near the Razzett tal-Qasam. These beach posts were provided with a searchlight in order to spot enemy aircraft. Over Għajn Tuffieħa Gardens, an anti-aircraft battery was also built because due to the presence of the Admiralty camp, Manikata was often a target during air-raids. A pillbox can be found in Manikata at the rear of the Għajn Tuffieħa Camp. Pillboxes were the last type of fortification to be built in Mellieħa and Malta. These types of military structures were constructed in nearly every part of the Island.

Every last Sunday in August the parish celebrates the feast of St.Joseph. On the eve of the parish feast, the local community celebrates Lejla Sajfija għaż-Żiffa (a Summer Breeze Night) where the villagers put their best talents and products on show, including songs, drama, paintings, hand crafts, vegetables, fruits, honey, wine and olive oil.

In the surroundings of Manikata one can find two of Malta’s main beaches. Ghajn Tuffieha Bay is situated at the bottom of Wied tal-Pwales (Pwales valley). The sea is deep blue and aquamarine interspersed with emerald and white stretches of sand. Golden Bay (Il-Mixquqa) is a sandy beach where the sand at the edge of the water at this bay is peppered with small pebbles and reaching the water can be tricky. The water here can be quite rough at times and as one swims away from the beach, the currents can be quite strong. This is one of the best places for sunsets on the Maltese islands where the water shimmers as the sun hits the horizon.

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