Where did your mind rush off to on reading that title? Did it pitch in with the patriots? Before we go there, let me take you on a little stroll down a lane on the outskirts of Rabat.

The sun is out but the concrete path down Wied Isqof is still slippery after heavy rains. An alternative track, running on level soil, seems a better option. Despite pastoral scenes soothing the senses, the trail twists away from the valley towards a busy road.

Instead of bird song, and the rustling of leaves in the breeze, your ears can only pick up traffic noise. It’s a sound by which you can tell the day of the week as every Sunday driver or motorbike rider without a silencer seems to hit the tarmac.

Cutting back, along the extreme edges of cultivated fields, with care not to step on the crop, you head for the valley. With luck you can duck down out of earshot into some blissful silence there. After a while you pick up a footpath which descends to the lower part of the valley.

Happily losing the hubbub from the main road, you are finally beginning to tune into natural sights, scents and sounds. The tensions of the past week fall away, you slide into a silent rhythm with your feet. The sound of your own breathing and heartbeat keep you in the moment. This is the peak of relaxation, as experienced by hikers and lovers of the Maltese countryside, in rare doses.

As the track widens, suddenly something is not right. To one side a concrete platform juts out over a blackened field. Worn out tables and chairs, victims of refurbishment at some commercial establishment, have been tipped off the platform. They are forlornly waiting for someone to put a match to the lot. You have stumbled across a 100 per cent pure Maltese illegal scrapyard.

This dump-and-burn activity has been going on for some time, as anyone can tell from a closer inspection of the field. Half-burnt remains include gaudy neon tubes and part of the corpse of a pigeon.

Uncontrolled burning of mixed waste, at this site in full view of the old Verdala Hotel, makes properly regulated incineration look like a clean-air dream.

Alongside the bonfire area for all sorts of unwanted discards, a walled compound is guarded by a rusty gate of corrugated metal. Piles of salvageable items are stacked inside – pallets, plastic tubs and other delectables. Let’s leave it there as the environment authority is investigating.

Yet another blitz on the landscape has been the shanty town of Kuwaiti-style tents (made in Pakistan) at Qalet Marku, now dismantled.

You have stumbled across a 100 per cent pure Maltese illegal scrapyard

Sleeping under the stars and cooking food on fires conjures up the idealised lifestyle of a nomadic, pre-Islamic people. Yet the Bedouin way of life ended in Syria after an extended drought 70 years ago, when herders were forced into towns and cities to find work. The trial by fire of migration and urbanisation restores traditions.

For a fleeting moment it was intriguing to see exotic tents pitched on the coastline, as if fresh from the desert. A closer look at the spreading of gravel for tent-bases, tearing of limbs from trees and some heavy-duty littering quickly took the glaze off it. Plastic bags, soft drink bottles and the jaw bone of a sheep were thrown on the bonfires. 

Now Malta has migrants to blame for its life-long habit of littering and disregard for trees. Keeping homes sparkling with acrid, industrial grade, multi-purpose cleansers while sneaking down the road to dump your rubbish bag on the wrong doorstep, on the wrong day, has produced results. What a lovely example we have set for foreigners to build upon.

Hackles were raised and the tents were removed. It might look good on Google Earth now, or on a carefully arranged postcard – but the place is still a dump.

The site has long been an unofficial camping ground. Western-style tents were bumped out and the original clandestine Maltese campers sent off to occupy another piece of countryside. 

Shanty towns start with one tent/caravan/boathouse. Complaints fall on deaf ears – unless they are patriotic complaints.

 A woman by the name of Fatima credits the far-right Moviment Patrijotti Maltin as “the one who filed the report to the police” about the (allegedly) Syrian tents.

Ironically the MPM queen shares the same name as the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, may his namebe blessed.

A dedicated Fatima follower takes a pot-shot at the very idea of labelling anyone a racist before they are charged and found guilty. A white MPM T-shirt reads “Patriotic does not mean racist”. It means xenophobe.

Malta’s Swedish MEP candidate and environmental clean-up champion has been told to “Go home – we can clean Malta without you.” And the mess in BuÄĦibba is blamed on “dirty Serbs”.

Now, how about dumping the xenophobia and really tidying up the beloved homeland? It would take a very long time to remove every trace of plastic from Qalet Marku after decades of mistreatment.

Last Saturday at dusk a ‘Paradise Blue’ Toyota truck turned into the dirt track to the headland. It was loaded with bags of charcoal, wooden pallets, six-packs of water and plastic chairs. Where is the law, for Maltese and non-Maltese alike?

The police pass along the Coast Road at least once a day – why did they let things get so provocatively bad? While they are there they might control the fanatical congregation of weekend suicide bikers and their unbearable din.  

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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