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Grand Harbour

Grand Harbour is a natural harbour on the island of Malta.

It has been used as a harbour since at least Phoenician times. The natural harbour has been greatly improved with extensive docks and wharves, and has been massively fortified.

The harbour mouth faces north east and is bounded to the north by St Elmo’s Point and further sheltered by an isolated breakwater and is bounded to the south by Ricasoli Point. Its north west shore is formed by the Scebarras peninsula, which is largely covered by the city of Valletta and its suburb Floriana. This peninsula also divides Grand Harbour from a second parallel natural harbour, Marsamxett Harbour. The main waterway of Grand Harbour continues inland almost to Marsa. The south eastern shore of the harbour is formed by a number of inlets and headlands, principally Rinella Creek, Kalkara Creek, Dockyard Creek, and French Creek, which are covered by Kalkara and the Three Cities: Cospicua, Vittoriosa, and Senglea.

The Grand Harbour was the base for the Knights of St John for 268 years, and after their departure became a strategic base for the British for a further 170 years. It was the site in the late 16th century of a devastating tornado that killed 600 people and destroyed a shipping armada. The area was the scene of much of the fighting in the First Siege of Malta when the Turks attempted to eject the Knights of St John. The whole area was savagely bombed during the Second Siege of Malta during World War II, as the docks and military installations around the port were legitimate targets for Axis bombers. However collateral damage wrecked much of Valletta and The Three Cities, and caused large numbers of civilian casualties.

Malta Dockyard is still active but with the departure of the British Military the harbour lost much of its military significance. A considerable part of Malta’s commercial shipping is now handled by the new free port at Kalafrana, so the harbour is much quieter than it was in the first half of the 20th century.

 
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