Discovering Ħasan Cave – Malta

The cave of ‘Ħasan’ or ‘Għar Ħasan’, which, legend says, was once the hide-out of a 12th century Saracen rebel, lies within the cliff-bound coastline south of Birżebbuġa, 2 kilometres south-west of Kalafrana. Ħasan’s Cave is approximately 387 metres in length and is to be found 70 metres above sea-level.

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The views from the cave itself are amazingly beautiful. Situated on a narrow precipice and commanding spectacular views of sheer rock-faces and brilliant blue sea, the experience is definitely worth the effort. To enter the cave, one can leave his/her car in the nearby parking lot, and then make his way up a number of steps heading up to a limestone cliff. One is then faced by a narrow path carved out of the cliff. There is a rail guard which the visitor can use to brace himself along the path, however if you are faint-hearted or afraid of heights, I’m sure it’s not going to be one of your favorite places. The brave Saracen in question did not even have this path, and legend tells us that he used a knotted rope tethered at the entrance to enter the cave.

Once you arrive to the main entrance, be sure to have a torch at hand. The main entrance to the cave itself is approximately 5 meters high and 6 meters wide, and the cave has these same dimensions for the first 20 meters or so. Unfortunately an iron-gate bars the access to the inner cave, probably due to possible danger. One can however, enter the man made circular chamber present near the eastern entrance. This small chamber has a stone bench around its edge and obvious pick marks on the wall. It is thought that this could be Ħasan’s own living quarters.

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In the 1980s, a number of cave paintings were also discovered within the cave. The art was preserved beneath a stalagmitic layer, and although it was badly vandalised since its discovery, some of the rock art can still be seen. The original art was reproduced in manuscript-form, which is to be found at the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

There are a number of different versions of the legend of the cave. The most popular of these tells the story of the Saracen Ħasan who abducted a beautiful farm girl in the 11th century A.D, after the island of Malta was conquered by the Christians, and held her captive in the cave where he was hiding. This angered the locals, who investigated the Saracen’s whereabouts, found the cave, and attacked it together with some soldiers. The story has a tragic ending unfortunately, since, rather than be captured, Ħasan flung the girl into the churning sea below, and then jumped after her and committed suicide.

No one knows where this legend actually originated, and there is no written record of it, and no facts which lead one to suppose there is actually any truth in it at all. It is highly possible that some scavenger, escaped slave or even a criminal did in fact, live in the cave at some point, however one must suppose that the murder-suicide story is nothing but a cautionary tale for young girls.

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While the area is currently cordoned off, due to the falling rocks of the cliff, intrepid hikers do somehow still find a way to enjoy and appreciate this picturesque spot. However if you are the adventurous type, I would definitely suggest not going alone, not only for safety reasons, but also because certain experiences, when shared, are much more precious.

This article was written by me and originally published on http://livinginmalta.com/places/hasan-cave-birzebbuga/

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Finding ‘Eva Luna’ in Utrecht

Ever since I first read Isabel Allende’s ‘House of Spirits’, as well as watching the great movie, it has been my absolute favorite when it comes to her novels. Her writing style, not to mention her rich descriptions, and the way she uses magic realism, enchants me, however, I must admit, most of her books seem to follow the same formula.

There is the main female character who is always strong and fey, facing any adversity with creativity and courage, the mysterious and dark male characters, whom she falls in love with (there are usually at least two or three of these), a couple of strong yet flawed mother-figures, an almost-always absent father-figure, as well as a major war/social upheval in the background. The male love interest is always, in some way or other, invariably linked to some kind of resistance or rebel force, and the heroine ends up trying to help him, even though she’s shocked by the harsh reality he lives by. And this is the plot-line for most, if not all (since I haven’t read all of her books) of Allende’s works.

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Although not actively seeking out her books, I tend to read IA’s novels when I come across them, even though at this point they are entirely predictable.This was the case when I purchased one of her novels which I’ve been curious about for some time now. I refer to ‘Eva Luna’ which I’ve been hearing about on and off for some years.

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While in Utrecht (Netherlands) last December, my boyfriend was off visiting the bell tower and I had some time for myself. I didn’t go up with him cause I’ve been suffering from some back problems recently and all those stairs were definitely not going to help my muscles. So, obviously, I ended up gravitating towards the local bookstore. Most of the books were in Dutch and there was only a small selection of books in English… and there it was – ‘Eva Luna’. 

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Although purchased some weeks ago now, I only started to read it, and finished it, last week. The plot was, once again, the same as usual, yet Allende’s writing style was as rich and captivating as ever, so no I’m not at all sorry I bought this book. I’m not gonna delve any more into the storyline as I guess I’ve already given enough spoilers. 

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Book Review – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Have you ever been curious about your partner’s ex? Have you ever felt even just a little bit envious of the times they shared with your beloved, the way they knew him when he was younger, or perhaps different from how he is today? Or worse, have you ever suspected your partner might still have feelings for them, or that what they feel for you may not be as strong as their past relationship?

Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) is a novel which explores such feelings. It is a book about obsession – not the obsessive all-pervading feeling of love, but the obsessiveness of envy, hate, and the morbid fascination of a wife for her husband’s ex. Rebecca, in fact, is not as one might suppose,the name of the narrator, but the name of Mr de Winter’s first wife. The deceased, elusive, sophisticated, beautiful Rebecca, whom the reader, and in fact the narrator, never meets, but who nonetheless haunts every page, every moment, every thought.

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This novel was groundbreaking in its time, and still continues to be so for a number of reasons. First of all, for example, the actual name of the narrator and main character is never mentioned. We always hear her being referred to as “the second Mrs de Winter”, but we never get to know her real name. This is very important, as it denotes that the narrator herself suffered from such low self-esteem, and gave herself so little importance, that her own individuality is barely glossed over in the overall scheme of things. Another factor is that the narrator, we realize, is not actually the real main character.

The main character is in fact Rebecca.

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When the young naive narrator meets and marries Maximilian de Winter, the wealthy landowner of the notorious mansion of Manderley, she knows that he’d been previously married, and that his first wife had died in a boating accident some time before. This however leaves her unprepared for the fact that back home at Manderley, all the servants, neighbors, and acquaintances still miss and look up to her husband’s first wife – a peerless socialite, beautiful, intelligent, brave and helpful. The perfect woman, wife and partner. Her husband won’t speak of her, and flies into a rage every time she’s mentioned. The housekeeper emphatizes the fact that Mrs de Winter had always wanted things managed just so, as though she’s still there, and Rebecca’s clothes, her monogrammed stationary, even her room, is left untouched. The house is still hers, as is the neighborhood, and the narrator comes to believe that even the man she married cannot possibly have gotten over his previous marriage. She feels like everyone is comparing her to her predecessor, and finding her wanting. The novel is beautifully written, rendering the reader to empathize with the narrator, and slowly becomes convinced – as she does – that something is not right and not quite as it seems.

The rest of this article was published on EVE.COM.MT and can be read here – http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/11/12/rebecca-by-daphne-du-maurier-a-review/ 

2014 Good Movies – What have I missed?

This morning I had the idea of looking around youtube trailers for good 2014 movies, to check up if I had missed watching any. While I was at it, I also viewed a couple of trailers for good movies coming out in 2015, and made a very short (for now) list. Here goes:

2014 – To Watch

1. Mr Turner – Released Oct 2014 – Biographical drama about the life of the notorious landscape painter J.M.W Turner

2. Effie Gray – Released Oct 2014 – Biographical drama about the life of art critic John Turner’s wife and their strange relationship. Also about the Pre-Raphaelite artistic movement.

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3. Wish I was Here – Released July 2014 – I don’t usually like comedies, but I’m curious since Zach Braff (‘Scrubs’) is not only the main character but also the writer, producer and director.

Any other movies you think might be worth watching? I love horror, psychological thrillers, historical dramas and anything to do with fairytales. Not the ‘Frozen’ kind, but the ‘Into the Woods’ and ‘Maleficent’ kind.

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2015 – To Watch

1. Pan – Release July 2015 – Yes another Peter Pan remake, so what? ;p

2. Ex Machina – – Released April 2015 – An experiment which makes one reflect on the actual origins of life. Sounds interesting.

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3. Unfriended – Released April 2015 – Psychological horror – How powerful are social media?

4. The DUFF – Released February 2015 – Yet another movie about the school ugly duckling who turns into a swan. Yes these things do happen, because I was such a case, so I have a soft spot for these kind of movies. So there ;p

Again, any other movies you might want to suggest are more than welcome.

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‘Paprika’ – Not just a spice, but a brilliant Anime Movie!

After four years, yesterday I re-watched the animated movie ‘Paprika’ (2006). This Satoshi Kon masterpiece had always remained in my mind as one of a kind in its genre (that is, anime movies), and my perception of it did not change after re-watching it.

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Apart from the plot-line, which is bewitching and exclusive in and of itself, the characters are wonderfully mysterious, yet with understandable motives and feelings, and, most importantly, the graphics and colors, apart from being unusual and perfect for the dream-sequences pertaining to the storyline (which, in fact, concerns dreams), are vivid, yet in a way, horrifically nightmarish. The theme of the hellish circus is captured perfectly, and wonderfully juxtaposed with the clinical and cold atmosphere of the labs. The soundtrack is also exceptional – in fact this was the first animated movie to use a VOCALOID – that is a singing voice synthesizer software.

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What entirely fascinated me apart from all this (yes there is MORE) was the double and split identity of Doctor Chiba, whose dream-self is the sexy, cute and pixie-like Paprika. Able to navigate through dreams, free as a bird and always smiling, she is totally different from her genius down-to-earth counterpart. This is what we hide inside us – another self – which is only free when we are asleep.

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And the question comes naturally to mind – what is my dream-self like? If I had such an advantaged technological device that enabled me to control my dreams, would I also have such a different dream-self? Self, but not self? A part of me, but, as Paprika says, with me being also a part of her? Who would be the strongest between us, the conscious me, or the subconscious one?

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‘Paprika’ is not a children’s anime. Not only does it have violent, sexual and very disturbing connotations, it also has a very convoluted plot. One which makes us thing and debate, frown and wonder. The term ‘fucked-up’ also comes to mind lol.

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Unfortunately, its director, Satoshi Kon, died in 2010, so we will have no more of these gems coming our way. Another anime of his which I’ve been hearing for years about, and never got around to watching, is the psychological thriller ‘Perfect Blue’ (also by Satoshi Kon), which not only has an immense cult following, but is also described as being one of a kind.

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‘Perfect Blue’ is even older than ‘Paprika’ since it was produced in 1997. Certain animes, like certain movies, are ageless.