According to my research, Dwejra bay held an unmissable land form — a giant archway of rock reaching into the sea, called the Azure Window due to the shimmering turquoise view provided through its middle. Today we set out to see it for ourselves — before having our first experience of a bonkers ‘dinner show‘…
Stepping off the bus, it was immediately apparent that Dwejra bay was another of Gozo‘s alien landscapes. Giant plateaus of bubbly rock spread out in front of us towards the ocean, its surface cracked, pocked and distorted by deep crevices and moon-like craters, many of them filled with reflective pools of blue and green. A truly breath-taking landscape, like nothing we’d ever seen before. We scrambled over these rocks, climbing up and down onto platforms of different heights, until we reached the knobbly edge that hung over the sea at a great height. Sitting on the edge and gazing down into the gushing sea foam, layers of multicoloured coral were visible beneath the clear waters.
Strange and beautiful
The Azure Window was, indeed, stunning. Photos can’t quite capture the majesty this towering arch of crumbly-looking yellow rock exudes to the onlooker, tiny and awe-struck in its midst. Except maybe that couldn’t be said of everyone there — as we spotted a few daredevils, reduced to tiny dots, ignoring the warning signs to walk over the arch itself. Making sure we saw it from every angle, we did some more clambering — catching sight of a crystalline pool below us, on the lowest section of the rock plateau, in which several people were swimming — before buying ice creams and walking down to the inland sea, from where boat trips were departing.
Exploration by boat
We were soon climbing into a small fishing boat, with around six other people and a tour guide, and strapping ourselves into life jackets. For the bargain price of 3.50 euros, we received a fantastic tour around the back of the Azure Window, as well as through dark, cavernous tunnels and recesses in the rock and along the towering cliff faces surrounding us. All the while, our friendly tour guide gave a running commentary as the waves rippled and splashed against the sides of the boat. Never has 3.50 euros been so well spent!
Quickly calling into a gift shop on our way out, to buy a heart-shaped paperweight of turquoise Gozo glass, we jumped back on the bus and started our journey towards Paradise Bay hotel in Malta, our pick-up spot for the dinner show — The Malta Nights Extravaganza. Once on the minibus, we trundled along almost exactly the same route the minibus for the cruise had taken, picking people up, before eventually arriving in front of a large Grecian-style archway. This led through to a wide pathway lined with street lamps, leading into a large building that we were directed into by a man dressed in the regal red garb of an olde knight of Malta.
Curiouser and curiouser
Halfway through the queue we were ushered into a photo set-up to stand between two more Malta knights, one of them holding a live bird on his hand! We bought this photo at the end of the queue for five euros, and it stands framed in pride of place in our living room today. Next we were let into an auditorium-like room with descending rows of seats around three sides of an empty large rectangular floor. We slid into our seats — long wooden benches — to find an odd collection of medieval-style metal plate, bowl and goblet in front of us, with unmarked metal jugs arranged nearby. Only by sniffing these, or pouring them out into our goblets, were we able to discern them as lemonade, coke and red and white wine. It was certainly a strange set-up to find ourselves in, and it would only get stranger!
It wasn’t long before more ‘knights’ arrived, this time riding horses through a large door onto the floor in front of us, waving to the crowd and posing for photos. Inevitably, minutes later one of said horses began pooing, right in the middle of the floor, leaving a large pile of steaming dung behind. Cleaners were brought on but were unfortunately not as thorough as I’m sure most of the audience hoped. When a troop of dancers burst onto the scene minutes later, throwing the show into full swing, we couldn’t help focusing on how they traversed the wet swabs across the stone floor….
The show must go on
After some very camp and swirly-fabricked dancing, a narrator came to introduce herself to us, before starting to mimic reading Malta’s history from a book in her arms. As she read, actors emerged to play out the events with great gusto, involving a ship on high seas at one point, a cavalry battle, bustling market town scene or harem of gyrating belly dancers at another. This gave us a vague impression of the country’s history, but we had to admit finding it very difficult to follow among all the random singing, dancing and general madness unfolding in front of us (not forgetting the token love-against-the-odds story, thrown in for good measure). That’s without mentioning the distraction of the ‘dinner’: waiters coming round with trolleys containing vats of food, which was scooped out and plopped onto your plate as a near-indistinguishable mushy mass; and then clinkingly taking your plates away once finished. Drinks were free-flowing, as long as you could get the attention of someone to replace your emptied jug with a new one (alternatively, you could steal the above table’s jug — that’s what a man beneath us did anyway). It has to be said, however, the starter of ross il-forn (baked rice, stuck gooily together with a sumptuous mixture of cheese and tangy tomato sauce) was delicious. The main course primarily comprised tough bragioli, while dessert was some kind of custardy… thing. Considering the context, however, we hadn’t been expecting gourmet dining.
Dazed and confused
These less-than amazing elements only enhanced the evening’s bizarreness and made it all the more enjoyable. On our way out, I posed for a photo with the (very talented) leading cast and Steve signed the comments book with a declaration of his resultant confusion! We may not have been affected in the same way as most audience members (we heard numerous exclamations in the foyer afterwards of how fantabulous it had been, as well as written comments calling it ‘the best thing [they’d] ever seen’), but overall it was a really fun, unique experience and one I wouldn’t have wanted to miss.
All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2012. All rights reserved.