In this age of globalisation, some products are still unique to a place. Especially here.
Here’s our round up of stuff that shouts ‘Made in Malta’ at you and is part of the nation’s collective ‘heritage’. It includes those odd things that you miss, remember through rose-tinted spectacles or brag about when you’re away from the island. Some even make it as tourist souvenirs too. We’ve left Malta’s numerous food products and specialities for another feast post later on.
Our top 10 Malta products
Hand-blown glass: the most famous exponent is Mdina Glass. Get down to the factory at Ta’ Qali Crafts Village to see wonderful works of art created right in front of your eyes.
Hasiras: made from cane, these are blinds to keep out the harsh summer sun.
Fly-swotters: unbelievably sold as souvenirs, these have a cult following in places as far-flung as Austria and Australia (though in the latter, a country renowned for cork-hung hats, the swotter might perceivably be of use).
Filigree silverware: any jeweller in Malta will have a selection of items of filligree, said to have been perfected in Malta several hundred years ago to please knights’ and priests’ tastes for adornment.
Hand-made Lace: some beautiful stuff, using combini. Gozo is trying to regenerate the industry and the university here runs a diploma in lace-making studies. But do look at the labels and make sure that it’s locally made. If it’s cheap, it’s likely to be machine-made, and originating in China!
Hand-knitted woollen garments: not exactly at the cutting edge of haute tricot as designs never change. But solid sellers from the Crafts Village at ta’ Qali and the market at it-Tokk in Gozo. It’s widely dislayed for sale even when temperatures are hitting 40 centrigrade!
Religious artefacts: kitsch for some, holy objects of desire for others, you can pick up some delightful items from village stores to that shop in Merchants street. You can take your pick from bleeding heart madonnas, various gory crucifixions and a saint of your choice. A friend of mine collects 1950s’ religious memorabilia and scours antique and bric-a-brac shops, so try those as well (if you’re into it).
Wicker work: if you’re into baskets, you can find plenty of these where you find the woollen garments. Good for vegetable storage and logs.
Model Buses: They may be gone from our roads, thanks to the arrival of Arriva (1 July, 2011), but they are going to be a top seller, more than ever, in dinky model size. Most visitors loved the old Malta buses, which have spawned a vast souvenir industry from badges and plaques to metal and pottery miniatures.
Brass door knockers: Everyone has a photo of a door knocker or two in Mdina, where residences sport some of the largest, most lovingly polished and ancient examples. A shop there conveniently sells the popular designs – dolphins and Bacchus heads. Like most impulse buy holiday purchases, the Maltese knocker might not look quite at home in other countries on other styles of front door.
Update (2016): there are some new, artisan companies springing up to provide innovative locally made products that also source, where possible their ingredients and raw materials from the Islands. One such company is SoapCafe, which is run by the indomitable and totally creative Charlene. Her shop is in Sliema, but you can also buy online. Another in the beauty and skincare sector, which is still in dev mode we hear, but soon to sell come late 2016, is AlchemyduCorps, a natural skincare line focusing on using locally-harvested sea salt as an ingredient in its launch body spa range. For similar artisan products keep an eye on the Artisan Markets which are held every couple of months.
Photo: Alan Paris