Plan­ning Au­thor­ity pro­tects prop­er­ties with rare muxra­bija fea­tures

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

The Plan­ning Au­thor­ity has re­cently sched­uled, with a Grade 2 pro­tec­tion level, 36 prop­er­ties that in­cor­po­rate within their fa­cades the rare Mediter­ranean ar­chi­tec­tural fea­ture: a win­dow-like el­e­ment know as the muxra­bija.

The prop­er­ties are found in the lo­cal­i­ties of Balzan, Birkirkara, Lija, Marsas­cala, Naxxar, Qrendi, Qormi, Ra­bat, Sig­giewi, Zab­bar, Zeb­bug and Ze­j­tun, while in Gozo they can be found in Ra­bat, Ghasri, Gharb and San Lawrenz.

The muxra­bija is a Mediter­ranean fea­ture and its ear­li­est records date back to the 7th cen­tury in the Mid­dle East. They de­vel­oped around the Mid­dle East and North Africa, mainly to cool the build­ing in­te­rior by al­low­ing the breeze to cir­cu­late through the trel­lis­work and also al­low women to look onto the street with­out be­ing seen. They were also used as a cool­ing de­vice for wa­ter stor­age and as a se­cu­rity mea­sure to see who was at the door or on the ap­proach­ing roads.

In Mal­tese ar­chi­tec­ture, the ear­li­est ver­sion of the muxra­bija, dates back to the late Mid­dle Ages (1300-1400) and were prob­a­bly in­tro­duced through cul­tural con­tacts the Is­lands had with the Arab world. Muxra­biji that carry a se­cu­rity com­po­nent are most com­monly found in the vil­lages whose in­hab­i­tants lived away from the safety of Md­ina and for­ti­fied cities around the har­bour area. This is ev­i­dent in the ge­o­graphic dis­tri­bu­tion of the sur­viv­ing spec­i­men.

The muxra­biji that are found in the Mal­tese Is­lands carry dis­tinct char­ac­ter­is­tics, namely, that the older ones are con­structed in lo­cal lime­stone, with more mod­ern ones be­ing made out of tim­ber; they are small in size; they of­ten carry a crude shape and rather sim­plis­tic de­sign, which was prob­a­bly meant to ren­der it in­con­spic­u­ous adding to its sur­veil­lance po­ten­tial. Muxra­biji are not an iso­lated fea­ture within th­ese sched­uled prop­er­ties but other pe­riod fea­tures typical of Mal­tese ar­chi­tec­ture are usu­ally also found within the in­te­rior of th­ese build­ings.

In some places the Arab term Mashra­biyah also refers to bal­conies hav­ing equally in­tri­cately de­signed screens. Th­ese are found mainly in Egypt and were an im­por­tant sta­tus sym­bol for the own­ers of the houses to which they were at­tached to.

The 36 prop­er­ties that have been sched­uled can be viewed un­der Govern­ment No­tices GN 1262/16 of the Govern­ment Gazette dated 18 Novem­ber 2016.

The full reg­is­ter of sched­uled prop­er­ties within the Mal­tese Is­lands, which date back to 1994, may be viewed on the Au­thor­ity’s web­site at www.pa.org.mt. Sched­uled prop­er­ties may also be viewed on the Au­thor­ity’s Mapserver.

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