fIn the past, Knights of Malta used to move on horseback with swords and battle axes, today they drive Japanese microcars and are only armed with mobile phones. Justin Zammit Tabona, a highly official member of the Sovereign Order of Knights and Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta, which was founded in 1048 by crusaders in the city of the three world religions, is a pragmatic and unpretentious person in view of the narrow streets of his home island exchanged the large off-road vehicle for a nimble speedster from the Far East and is even making faster progress with it than before – which is extremely important to him, because he has a big goal in mind: he finally wants to give the notorious party and beach holiday island of Malta a reputation, which it truly deserves, and establish in its homeland a tourism worthy of the spectacular six-thousand-year heritage of the smallest country in the European Union – a country that is home to the oldest buildings known to man, the largest of all Caravaggio’s hangs and the mightiest fortifications of the Occident are to be found, a land in where history is so condensed and yet so visible like nowhere else in Europe.
A half-millennial journey through time
The tourism and real estate entrepreneur, whose pedigree stretches back well into the fourteenth century, is a man of action like any good knight. When he is not celebrating ancient rituals in the cathedral of the capital Valletta in his black robe with the white Maltese cross or, in accordance with his religious vows, organizing pilgrimages to the Mother of God of Lourdes for the sick and infirm, he is doing all he can to look after the future. He experiments with hydroponic gardens and autonomous aquacultures on house roofs, breeds black soldier flies as compost suppliers or devotes himself to other avant-garde forms of biodynamic agriculture. He promotes the still tender plant of Maltese quality viticulture to the best of his ability, prefers to serve his guests the best Maltese wines rather than the usual suspects from the French or Italian prestige locations, constantly perfects the recycling processes of his company or, as recently, reopened in St. Julian’s a new restaurant with a loge view over the promenade, with which he naturally wants to cook for himself Michelin stars.
The heart of his empire, however, is the five-hundred-year-old Xara Palace in the first Maltese capital, Mdina, a mighty citadel towering over the island, protected by deep moats, built entirely of the dazzlingly beautiful, gleaming yellow-white limestone of Malta – and so unaltered, looks so unspoiled as if it were inhabited by nothing but grandmasters to this day, which makes it a popular backdrop for historical films. Only one or the other car disturbs the impression of a half-thousand-year journey through time, and history-conscious Maltese like to point out to their visitors a little piqued that in the past only ambulances and hearses were allowed to drive through the city gate under the statue of St. Paul into the citadel, those were the days .