180. In the beginning… there was the sun, sea, and salt!
The warm, dry summers and seawater surrounding the Maltese Islands were two major factors that made these islands ideal for extracting sea salt. The Salt flats and the hollows in the rocks were first to host salt crystals when this mineral was important in food preservation. From rock pits they developed to larger shapes and eventually systems with channels, warming pans, reservoirs, wells, overflows and much more.
The arrival of the Knights of St John in 1530 saw the construction of state of the art salt pan systems designed by European engineers. The Salina salt pan system is an architectural jewel balanced on a reclaimed island of clay. Salt produced during this period was exported and it competed with the best salt of Europe. Salt pans once made Malta a prosperous commercial centre.
Locals also tried their luck in this flourishing industry and the excellent craftsmanship of our skilled ancestors is preserved in the salt pans on Malta’s shores. They have been working sustainably for hundreds of years and helped preserve the coast in pristine state. The Salina and few other sites deserve to be nominated as World Heritage for their architecture, uniqueness, sustainability and the constant danger of being lost to the sea.
This study is the result of several years of research, fieldworks and interviews, and it documents all salt pans on the Islands in a quantitative and qualitative manner.
There are 14,000 known uses of salt worldwide. We use it in food, clothing, medicine, cleaning agents, cosmetics and much more. Humans and animals cannot live without it. Salt freshly collected from shallow pans is best tasting and healthy salt one can consume. This gives reason why the salt pans on the Maltese shores still has a purpose…
By: Pauline Dingli