A golden, fennel-infused sunset at Ras il-Qammieh
It is mid-July on Malta. Summer is almost four weeks old and the last signs of spring have long since vanished. It has not rained for weeks and the next rainstorm is about six weeks away. The air is hot and humid and the land is parched. Only a few brave patches of resistant greenery emerge from the bone-dry, dusty, rocky landscape.
I stand at Ras il-Qammieh at the western tip of the Marfa Ridge on the flat topped plateau descriptively called id-Dahar, the Back. Truly it resembles the back of some gargantuan rock monster lying face down in the blue Mediterranean from which it was born and from whose depths it now emerges.
I walk towards the westernmost point on mainland Malta to watch the sun set. A place where the wild fennel grows profusely on the garigue, competing with Mediterranean thyme, wolfbane and lentisk. There are no clouds on this clear July evening, but the air near the horizon is pregnant with suspended dust: fine dust from the Sahara sand storms of a few weeks ago, still airborne due to the absence of rain. As the sun sinks lower into this dusty atmospheric layer, the sky, the sea and the landscape take on a surreal golden hue. No need for fancy filters or artistic rendering: a mere point and shoot on my camera’s automatic setting and the scene is captured for ever.
The photo only captures the visual aspect however. In reality, the experience is augmented by some rich olfactory flavours and other sensations which can only be experienced in situ to be fully appreciated and enjoyed. The cloying humidity, the smell of the baked earth rising in waves from the ground, the fine dust clinging to one’s sandal-clad feet, the soft breeze coming from the sea. And the intoxicating smell of wild fennel like some heady liquor combining to turn a simple sunset into something transcending the mystical.