Considering Malta’s size, one would be easily forgiven for thinking that the country is made up of one, homogeneous people. But wait, isn’t it?
If you’ve never lived in Malta, then you’ll be very surprised to discover that many of the islanders believe that there is a divide between those living in the north and those living in the south of the island.
This divide, which is obviously invisible and only theoretical, has been attributed to geography, culture and even economic means. But to me, the real question isn’t what gave rise to this divide, but whether it should be there in first place.
The Geographical Divide
If you had to take a map of the Maltese Islands, you would quickly realise that the south of Malta is limited to places like Żurrieq, Qrendi, Luqa and Mqabba, while places like Birgu, Bormla and Marsascala, which are normally deemed to be in the south, are technically in the east or, if we want to be pedantic, south east.
The funny thing is that St Julian’s and Sliema are only one port away from Valletta and, to the other side of the capital, we have Bormla, which many would refer to as the capital of the south. Buġibba on the other hand, a place many locals shun, would be one of the most prominent towns in northern Malta, and Attard, which is generally considered to be in the north, and Qormi, deemed a southerner, are only divided by a swathe of fields.
You see, the way the islands are positioned makes it very hard to distinguish between north and south in terms of geography, so that reasoning really doesn’t stand.
The Cultural Divide
Some people think this divide stems from the cultural aspect of these two, separate entities. Those in the north tend to be more highbrow, while those in the south enjoy village festas and piss ups at the każini. This does come from a history where Dock Yard workers and farmers lived in the south, while white-collar workers and nobility live in the north – granted.
But is this really relevant on an island that is 1/10th the size of Greater London? Last time I checked, people living in the south could easily commute to Valletta or Sliema, or even Gozo to work and play.
Moreover, there are a lot of people many would deem to be of a higher class and creatives who live in the south of Malta. Qormi, Bormla, Birgu, Isla, Siġġiewi, Żejtun, Qrendi… They’re full of them and they’re the ones conditioning the mood of art and culture in Malta and influencing our economy and politics.
The Financial Divide
Back in the 70s and 80s, this would have been somewhat true. People with good financial means were moving to Madliena, Bidnija, St Julian’s and Sliema. Today, they’re looking for the unconverted houses of character, the palazzos and the farmhouses in the middle of 200 metres of nowhere. The money has truly shifted, and it is now evenly divided between the high-rises of St Julian’s and Sliema, the mansions of Santa Maria Estate and Madliena, and the quaint properties in Lija, Attard, Bormla and Qormi.
This has meant that the south is now also one of the most desirable areas to live in for both locals and foreigners, and with so much money being injected into the local economy there, the prices of buildings have sky-rocketed. What this means, in layman’s terms, is that some of those who have lived there for generations may now be living in a house worth hundreds of thousands of euros.
So, while many have been debating the divide between the north and south – and the government keeps trying to make whole careers out of it (Minister for the South…) – the scales have actually balanced and some of us didn’t even notice.
What do you think? Is there a divide, cultural or otherwise, between the north and south of Malta?
Let us know in the comments section below.
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