Why do the Maltese seem uncomfortable with naturism ?
As a Mediterranean island, Malta offers sunny weather and warm blue seas that is pleasant to swim, practically all year round. However, despite these favorable climate conditions and the great hospitality afforded by the islanders, Malta is unfortunately not renowned as a
nudist friendly country.
First of all, there is a provision in the criminal law, enacted in 1933 that has never been updated to modern times, which still makes any public nude expression unlawful and subject to criminal prosecution. There are signs on many beaches that topless bathing is strictly prohibited. Many blame the vociferous Roman Catholic religious spirit of the islanders which is so intertwined with their cultural life as one of the main reasons why many Maltese have never felt comfortable with public nudity.
However this argument does not seem to hold water when considering that the Maltese have slowly become more secular and liberal in their approach, especially during the last decade when divorce and same-sex marriages have been legalised. While abortion, euthanasia and legalisation of cannabis have lately become more open to public discussion, the issue of nudity remains shunned from any public discussion and even from the political agenda. The Maltese media also does not help much to the cause, for it tends to report in a sensational manner any instance that it comes across of someone in the nude.
One possible reason that might explain why many Maltese feel reluctant to come out in the open on public nudity is that with a tiny population of only 494,000 inhabitants, every native on the island can easily be traced to his roots once his family and work connections becomes familiar. Furthermore, the small size of the islands which amount to a total of no more than 317 km2 (246 km2 for Malta, 67 km2 for Gozo and 3.5 km2 for Comino) makes it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Consequently, Malta can afford very limited spots to enjoy privacy in a natural state.
You will, however, find many open-minded Maltese who are tolerant and even practice it cautiously themselves in secluded remote areas or in their privacy of their boats. There are a quite a number of Maltese each year who also go on Naturist holidays abroad.
There are also two beaches, that are known as unofficial nudist beaches and suitable owing to their quiet and peaceful secluded location.
Qarraba Bay in Malta is located between two popular textile beaches in the North Western part of the island - Riviera Martini (near Ghajn Tuffieħa) and Ġnejna Bay. It is only accessible by foot or by boat and can be approached from either direction of Riviera Martini or Gnejna Bay, though it is strongly recommended not to slide down the dangerous clay slopes as many often do. The safest option is to take a boat trip from Ġnejna Bay that is offered by a boat operator known as Gnejna Water Sports. It involves only a two-minute ride and costs about €5 inclusive of return.
Ghajn Barrani is situated in Gozo between Marsalforn and Ramla l- Hamra. Similar to Qarraba Bay, it not easy to reach and you need the guidance of someone experienced with the whereabouts. This beach can best be reached from a path in Xagħra and requires a 15-minute walk down a narrow path that winds through some bush scrubs and steep slopes. You need to be fit and agile to make it and you might feel frustrated, if during the peak summer months, you find your privacy invaded by textile swimmers or by boats anchoring by after all the hassle to reach it.
Among its treasure trove of heritage and culture, Malta also offers visiting tourists impressive attractions of the megalithic prehistoric temples, the baroque capital city of Valletta, the Grand Harbour and the fortified three cities surrounding it, the walled medieval citadels of Mdina and Victoria, and baroque churches dotting all the islands in the centre of many picturesque villages and squares.
This article appeared in the British Naturist Magazine Summer Issue 2020, Issue BN 224.