Azure Window in Malta Collapses into the Sea

One of the most naturally stunning seascapes in the world has been changed forever. This week, the internationally famous Azure Window in Malta collapsed into the ocean after a fierce storm. Iconic for its turquoise water and almost perfectly arched rock formation, the Azure Window was on the tentative list as a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Known by the locals as Tieqa tad-Dwejra, the ‘archway to heaven’ protrudes from Gozo Island, one of three that make up Malta, a collection of islands in the Mediterranean.

The famous tourist site recently gained popularity due to its cameo appearance in HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’. Characters Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen were married in front of the window. It has also become infamous as a cliff diving location. In the past few months, tourists have been forbidden to walk across the top of the giant rock formation, amid fears that the foundation is eroding and the structure is unstable. On Wednesday 8th March, early in the morning, those fears were realised as the landmark fell into Dwejra Bay.

Locals and government officials are still coming to terms with the loss, and how the tourism industry will be affected. Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat wrote on Twitter, “I have just been informed that the beautiful Tieqa tad-Dwejra in Gozo has collapsed … Reports commissioned over the years indicated that this landmark would be hard hit by unavoidable natural corrosion.”

Malta, has a population of just over 400,000 and relies heavily on tourism for livelihoods and for the economy. The Gozo Tourism Association took to social media to exclaim their lament; “Today Gozo has lost one of its iconic beauties. The inevitable and the much feared has happened. The flagship of the Gozitan touristic sites has sunk in its same birth place … The much promoted Azure Window is no more, and only millions of photographs remain as testimony of this touristic spot”. The Gozo Tourism Association estimated that 80 percent of the island’s guests visited the arch.

The gigantic rock formation soared 92 feet into the air and scientists believe that it was formed by the pounding ocean and rain eroding the limestone. While one layer of soft limestone was slowly corroding, the harder layer remained intact. It is said that this process took close to 500 years to complete. Until the ocean’s power was too much for the landmark.

Over the last couple of years, rocks have slowly been falling from the structure, widening the arch. In 2016, tourists were threatened with expensive fines if they walked across the top of the Azure Window. However, none of these measures were enough to prevent the inevitable.

Travellers across Instagram and Facebook are mourning the loss of this epic tourist attraction and beloved local landmark.

Author: Michelle Hyde

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