MALTA DIARY: …..judged the most scenic airport landing in the world…..
Many, many moons ago I decided to up sticks and relocate my family for a new life in Australia. Needless to say the lengthy flight was sapping and debilitating but after a couple of stop-overs in Dubai and Singapore we finally approached the north Australian coastline.
There were other Maltese migrants on board who were obviously oblivious of the gigantic geographical difference between approaching the Malta coastline and the Australian coastline. Some of them sprang to their feet and started securing their hand luggage. I watched in amazement.
A stewardess came by and watched curiously before asking one of them what he was doing.
He simply replied “we arrived in Australia”.
She slowly shook her head. “You can sit down again….it will be four more hours before we reach Melbourne”.
The not-so-subtle difference is that in our Mediterranean area within ten minutes of seeing the north Gozo coastline, the aircraft is landing at Gudja International Airport.
As I had never really thought about the matter, having gone and come so many times to different parts of the world, it was a pleasant surprise recently to read that Malta has been named as having the world’s most scenic airport landing in the world in a poll conducted by the private jet booking service PrivateFly!
One voter commented: “Landing on this gem in the Mediterranean Sea is not to be missed! The islands of Malta and Gozo fit into your window…the sea, the blue skies, the landscape, the greenery, the cities, the temples, and all the colours that this beautiful island has to offer. Beats any landing by far!”
The other day I was strolling along the Qawra coastline near the National Aquarium, adjacent to a children’s playground. A woman in an American accent was gently rocking her young daughter on a swing.
“Look at that view” she was saying in amazement. “It’s so beautiful isn’t it? Never ever we have seen such a beautiful view”. She was looking over St Paul’s Bay, an expanse of blue Mediterranean Sea and in the distance St Paul’s Island, the small island of Comino and the slightly larger island of Gozo.
“Simply amazing” she said dreamily.
Sure, the Maltese islands are small but jam-packed with views and sites to see. On one occasion, on my way to Pakistan I had first to go to Rome from Malta and then fly back on a long-haul flight to Karachi and 35,000 feet up in the air we passed over the Maltese islands, a small speck surrounded in a massive sea of blue.
Difficult to imagine that way below my wife and children, my relatives, friends and fellow countrymen were all hustling and bustling around with their daily lives, the streets jam-packed with traffic.
Approaching over Sicily, aerodynamics determine two landing routes, apparently depending on directional wind flow. One route is over Gozo, St Paul’s Bay and central Malta to Gudja. The other route is to fly east of Malta and Gozo to the southern point and then do a 180 degree turn to approach from the southern side of the island over Birzebbuga and straight down to Gudja.
Whatever, the scenery really is breath-taking; small expanses of compact fields, green in winter, parched brown in summer and clusters of limestone houses, all supervised by ornate church domes – and the blue Mediterranean always near and always shimmering.
For those with more knowledge of what to expect, there are things to look out for. The splendid fortified city of Mdina, the compactness of Comino, the Ggantija neolithic temples in Gozo or the Hagar Qim temples near Siggiewi, the Blue Grotto in Zurrieq, a number of yacht marinas with their rows and rows of neatly packed yachts and the fortified areas of Cottonera and of course, Valletta.
The capital city Valletta is itself a gem of parallel grids of baroque buildings, auberges and palaces and of course, the Grand Harbour, one of the most beautiful and deepest harbours in the world.
Views from commercial aircraft are more difficult, but I can well understand the breath-taking beauty from a private aircraft as it descends and descends to finally touch tarmac at Gudja International Airport.