One of the most enjoyable ways to appreciate the beauty of the Maltese balcony is to take a stroll through the capital city of Valletta, where the very first Maltese balcony sits in St Georges square palazzo.
These almost identical balconies sit in rows, one placed on top of another, defining Maltese heritage and architecture. The balconies are traditionally made of wood and contain glass windows providing a discreet surveillance position to the viewer. Rumour has it that the purpose behind these structures was originally to conceal women from passing knights, although this is a fun fact that has yet to be proven. Although most prominent in Valletta, the Maltese balcony can be found in villages and older towns all over the island.
The origins of the Maltese balcony date back to ancient times and are closely linked to the Arabic “Muxrabija” – the primary purpose of which was to cool off houses given the sweltering and dry climate. However, the influential Arabic structure was also designed to shield their women from prying eyes in a very conservative culture where women were traditionally covered from head to toe. In Malta, women were similarly dressed in a black cape-like creation known as the “Ghonnella” as soon as they came of age.
As time passed, the Maltese balcony evolved in various ways whilst maintaining its traditional vital features. Irrespective of size, the enclosed balcony allows each dweller the benefit of looking out onto the world outside, bringing light and air indoors whilst filtering heat and cold and assisting with the temperature maintenance inside the property. For the more modern family and architects alike, the Maltese balcony is an opportunity to create an intelligent space. These internal spaces are often transformed into tranquil reading spaces, marvellous conservatories and personalized chill-out lounge areas. The original Maltese balconies are a sought-after feature in the Malta property market, and many buyers specifically request this feature when purchasing properties.
Aesthetic changes have allowed for variations of the traditional balconies, with local architects often incorporating wrought iron, stone and modern materials. However, the core concept remains: allowing for natural light to enter the building, allowing for temperature control during seasonal changes and providing a seemingly outdoor space to a property where one might not be possible. In today’s times, the outcome of the Maltese balcony derived initially from the “muxrabija” is entirely different from its original intent but will always remain a key feature of cultural and architectural identity here in Malta.