A pensioner who used to harvest salt crystals has expressed his regrets that despite all the money spent on the restoration of the Salina Bay salt pans, salt is no longer being produced there. Karmenu Camilleri, who spent a lifetime collecting salt crystals and trading there, spoke nostalgically of the times when he performed such work to raise and keep a family.
In this picture, taken during the early 1970s, he is seen collecting salt crystal with a shovel. He said the work is hard and certainly not easy and he has no idea of how many persons are still undertaking such work nowadays.
Karmenu spent 40 years earning his daily bread in this manner at Salina Bay, salt plans that were originally designed and hewn by engineers during the times of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. According to documented plans, the Salina salt pans came into being in 1764.
He said he still always misses the past although he retired from the work 15 years ago but still potters about the area today.
Researcher Pauline Dingli explained that Salina, having the largest spread of salt pans in Malta stretching about a kilometre, served as a gold mine for the Knights. In those days of course refrigeration did not exist and foodstuffs were preserved in salt.
The Knights exported salt throughout Europe and this well-competed with the finest salt to be found in Europe, including salt from Venice.
She said the salt was of a fine white colour and was a competitor among the best produced because of its acidity, colour and taste.
They have one regret however.
Pauline said that despite all the money spent on the restoration, no salt from there is being harvested.
Karmenu Camilleri stated he had never thought that so much money could be spent yet not yield any production.
Researcher Pauline believes that Salina and its salt production should be part of UNESCO’s world heritage.
She said these salt pans are unique because they were designed and hewn by engineers from the Knight Order of St John’s and therefore Malta should have them listed as part of World Heritage.
The salt pans at Salina Bay are one of 40 localities around Malta, Gozo and Comino that are featured in a book on Malta’s salt pans written by Pauline Dingli.