Monday, 5 January 2009

Rainy Rabat

Our luck with the weather finally ran out. Until now it has been dry, if a little cloudy. Last night there was a big electrical storm and high winds, and this morning it was still raining heavily. We set off for Rabat regardless, and visited St Agatha's Catacombs. It's a privately-run attraction, still managed by the archaelogist who excavated most of the catacombs back in the 50s. The current curator who guided our tour seemed most indignant that he's still alive - presumably his chance of promotion rests on the old guy's demise. The catacombs contain a chapel where St Agatha is reputed to have hidden to escape the attentions of the nobleman who eventually had her killed for rejecting his advances. But beyond that there is an extensive network of rock-hewn tombs, some of which still contain skeletons. There's also a museum; rather a random assortment of rocks and relics from around the world, but at least it was dry inside!

We stopped for lunch at the Grotto Tavern, right outside St Paul's grotto and then paid a brief visit to the Grotto, where Alex and I explored a winding staircase leading to another small burial chamber. From there we walked to the Roman Domus, just outside the walls of Mdina. The museum was informative and there are some well-preserved mosaics and remarkable statues. Unfortunately the rain had come back with a vengeance but we pressed on with our walking tour of Mdina like good Brits should.
I love Mdina, it has a great atmosphere and in the rain we almost had it to ourselves. We admired the honey-coloured stone buildings and dipped briefly into the National Archive and St Paul's Cathedral, mainly to get out of the rain. We also enjoyed a warm drink at the Xara Palace Hotel, which amused Alex. Then back to our hotel - good to be warm and dry again.

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