Updated 12.52pm - Adds objection by heritage foundation

The Turkish Embassy is rallying support against the proposed construction of a three-storey industrial garage complex set to overshadow the Ottoman-Muslim Cemetery in Marsa.

Revered as one of the masterpieces of Maltese architect Emmanuele Luigi Galizia (1830-1907) the burial place was commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz I.

The cemetery was built in 1873-74 and is a Grade 1 scheduled structure, which is supposed to be the highest level of protection by the Planning Authority.

Emails were sent out yesterday, appealing to numerous embassies and people of influence to lodge an objection with the Planning Authority to the proposed construction of the industrial complex.

Submitted last month by Mark Cassar, the proposal covers an area of 5,744 square metres adjacent to the cemetery, on a partially developed site which has been abandoned for years.

Under the proposal, the existing structures will be demolished and instead make way for 29 industrial garages, earmarked to be used for light industry, storage and aquaculture.

We are preparing for an official objection to the project- Embassy official

An official at the Turkish Embassy said that the visual aspect of the protected Grade 1 historical site would be damaged by the proposed construction project and highlighted the need to preserve “our national heritage”.

“We are preparing for official objection to the project,” she said, adding that it was important for as many objections as possible to be lodged. “Efforts are being made to send the maximum number of applications from each nation by September 23.”

Galizia’s cemetery has been described as “the Ottoman Taj Mahal” by the contemporary writer and artist T. M. P. Duggan.

In his words, it is “the least known and certainly today the most important surviving 19th century Ottoman building to have been built beyond the borders of the Ottoman Sultanate, in the new Ottoman Islamic style. This building is an architectural statement of great beauty and also of boldness and authority.”

Most of the Muslims buried in the cemetery were members of army units and navy personnel or prisoners of war who died while detained in Malta.

They came from different countries including Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Turkey, Burma, India, Indonesia, and French Polynesia.

The cemetery continued to be used for burials of Muslims until 2007, when The Malta Islamic Cemetery was constructed.

Foundation files objection

Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna said it had filed an objection to the proposed industrial development.

It insisted that the cemetery is an important architectural and historical monument and its architectural style and characteristics are unique in Malta.

When originally designed it was meant to stand in isolation surrounded by open country and not buildings.

"Engulfing this important and exquisite monument by an abutting industrial complex will demean its holy nature and will obscure it from the side," the foundation said.  

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