An interim visitors' centre has just been opened at the Ggantija Temples, in Gozo, where extensive works are in progress.
A spokesman for the Ministry for Gozo said the centre is a short-term measure aimed at providing adequate visitor facilities at this World Heritage Site during the transition period until a permanent centre is completed.
The temporary centre includes a new ticket booth and an adjacent space intended for a small museum shop, to be further enhanced by the provision of improved sanitary facilities, the spokesman explained.
The museum shop space is being used for a temporary display of a set of reproductions of Charles Frederick de Brocktorff's prestigious watercolours of Ggantija, done in the 1820s.
The interim ticket booth and shop are made of fully reversible lightweight structures with a lifespan of about five years. Their location is closely linked to another important project, that of the demolition of the unsightly reinforced brick wall constructed around the megalithic monument in 1957 as a safety measure.
A stretch of this concrete wall at the back of the temples was replaced by a low-profile dry stone wall, thus freeing the superb vista of the Ggantija megalithic back wall from any intruding modern structures, the ministry spokesman said.
Over the past years, several rehabilitation projects were undertaken by the Gozo area office of Heritage Malta and the Ministry for Gozo. These include the restoration of a wall that was damaged in a storm in September 2003, the generation of a 3D virtual model locating every stone within the temples' structures and the restoration of over 500 metres of rubble walls both in close proximity of the temples and those retaining agricultural land at the edge of the cliff face to the south of the temples.
Works in hand are also connected to conservation. A conservation catalogue, listing all sensitive areas of the megalithic structure in need of attention, was completed early in 2007, under the direction of the scientific committee for the megalithic temples.
Heritage Malta's long-term vision for this prestigious site is to transform the Ggantija grounds into a heritage park, a much larger project funded through European Structural Funds for the period 2007-13.
The ambit of this long-term project covers a much wider area of land and addresses several issues linked to visitor services, accessibility and interpretation.
Forming part of the same project is the implementation of a new set of walkways and viewing platform for the temples, to be funded by the Vodafone Malta Foundation.
The project, financed by the European Regional Development Fund, comprises a visitor centre housing a permanent display of Gozo's prehistoric collection, together with interpretation facilities, office space, full accessibility and valorisation of the cultural landscape within the park, and the provision of a welcoming orientation point to the cultural resources on the Xaghra plateau. The temples are open all week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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