Growing Up In Sliema
Walking about in the Zanzi Homes Head Office is Jessica Spiteri, threading along the open plan, busy on the phone speaking with clients. She has fond memories of her hometown Sliema, the buzzing coastal town bordering St Julians which has notoriously experienced fundamental changes during her generation’s lifetime. The increase of interest in Sliema and the development that materialised as a result, has forever changed the cityscape. Its popularity is still thriving as it continues to draw huge crowds of people on a daily basis, both residents and visitors alike. Whether you’re looking to live in one of its beautiful Victorian houses; open up a new business venture in one of its bustling streets; or sip a coffee at one of its many quaint cafés; you’ve undoubtedly stepped foot in Sliema on more than one occasion.
Q – When it comes to history, you’re second to none in the company. What was Sliema like??
A – Where do you want me to start? (laughs). Names usually give the cues; ‘Sliema’ comes from a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Sea (Stella Maris) built in 1855. It actually served as a reference point for fishermen who lived in the area and symbolises peace and serenity. Once a quiet fishing village hosting the wealthier Valletta residents, Sliema experienced major growth during the 19th and 20th centuries. It rapidly grew into a residential area, evident through the villas and townhouses that were built along its promenade. This is manifested especially in the Victorian and British buildings.
Q – What brought about this change??
A – I think people soon realised the potential of Sliema as a great residential area. Made up mainly of a lovely stretch of promenade, perfect for summer evening walks, and a coastline adorned with a number of popular bathing spots. There has definitely been an increased interest in Sliema and the spectacular views of Valletta from one side and open sea views from the other (along Tower Road) definitely contributes to making it a highly sought after location.
Q – You yourself have cherished memories of Sliema.
A – Absolutely! I lived in Sliema for 25 years, since the late 80s, and have only just recently moved to Msida. Before Tigne’ Point was constructed, we learnt how to ride a bike around the British barracks, whilst swimming was usually done at Tigne beach, still a popular bathing spot until this day! We also enjoyed hours of fishing at the Sliema Ferries, followed by ice cream from Tanti. I love to remember our walks along the promenade, romantically haunted by big waves created by a strong north-easterly wind – especially during winter! I still have a clear picture in my head, there at Sliema pitch – just a raincoat and let it pour! Most of my childhood sweets were bought from a classic shop called “Chocolate Box” in Tower Road. I experienced most of my childhood during the 90s, by which time Sliema was already a commercial hub. Unlike today, residents were mostly made up of Maltese and some ex pats who had decided to settle in the area, and not many young foreigners like nowadays.?
Q – The pull factors for local residents soon became also those for tourists, right??
A – Correct. Sliema quickly became a major tourist hub. This then gave rise to the construction of apartments along the coast, especially in the 70s, and a number of hotels for well- to-do tourists. I experienced some major changes in Sliema, as residential and tourist interest grew, commercial entities also start to sprout. For the past 20 years, but especially the last ten, professional reasons have lead even more people to Sliema, as a substantial amount of offices have been opening up, resulting in the number of daily commuters to skyrocket. This, in turn, encouraged the opening of several more shops, bars, restaurants and other businesses required to entertain the volume of people visiting Sliema on a daily basis.?
Q – Still as fond of Sliema as before??
A – For sure. I love it all the same, and often frequent the city to visit my family or for some retail therapy. Yes, it has changed over the years, but its change has been dynamic and has resulted in bringing together different people from different cultures. Its’ growing popularity has also encouraged local councils to carry out some much-needed refurbishments, such as Qui-Si-Sana park and the promenade. Without a doubt Sliema is our cosmopolitan town that has something for everyone; from shopping to swimming, to several bars and restaurants guaranteed to tantalise everyone’s palate, and it is during Christmas time that Sliema truly comes alive, displaying why locals and foreigners alike are so charmed by this coastal town.