On the 6th of July 1614, 60 Ottoman galleys set anchor at St Thomas’ Bay and the port of Marsascala and from there, 6000 Turkish soldiers advanced to the nearest village – Żejtun – pillaged the churches and chapels they came upon, until they were finally reached by Maltese soldiers and the cavalry, and had to retreat back to their ships.
This is one of the many historic accounts that define the village of Żejtun and its history. Today, thousands of tourists descend upon Żejtun – not the way the Ottomans did 400 years ago but to enjoy the history, the culture and the sights that this town and its surrounding sights have to offer.
Malta was always a key ingredient in the development of what we today regard as the Mediterranean diet specifically due to its prominent role in the production of olive oil. Since Roman times, olive oil production in Malta was a very lucrative business with large exports to neighbouring countries.
The town of Żejtun, one of the oldest and most picturesque in Malta, must have been a protagonist in this industry. Indeed, Żejtun’s name comes from the Arab word ‘żejt’ which means ‘oil’ – a word which is still in use up to this very day when Maltese refer to olive oil – “żejt taż-żebbuġa”. ‘Żejtun’ refers to the olive-presses, which have existed from olden times, can still be seen in the area. Indeed the motto of Żejtun is “Frott Iż-Żebbuġ Ismi”, literally meaning ‘My Name is the Fruit of the Olive Tree’.
Over the past years, a renewal in olive tree cultivation spurred the Żejtun Local Council to start hosting its Żejt iż-Żejtun event every September – a festival promoting olive oil and its prominent role in the local cuisine, the Mediterranean diet and centuries-old traditions.
This is why this year, project H.O.S.T. (Heritage of Olive Oil Tree for Sustainable Tourism) chose to involve Żejtun in its project FOOT – Fit On Olive Trail – a project that celebrates the olive oil trail and presents an ideal way to discover the history, culture, lifestyle and the deep, shared roots of Żejtun’s strong ecosystem and olive oil tradition.
This project includes the organisation of a half marathon event which besides attracting local athletes is also being opened up to foreign visitors. This exciting half marathon is spread along a route that passes through many attractions around the historic locality of Żejtun and can be run in full or as a relay with three team members running approximately 7km each.
FOOT – Fit On Olive Trail is therefore launching three specific new tourist packages centering round this unique olive trail half marathon. Tourists can travel to Malta to participate in this half marathon which is taking place on Sunday 18th and then link this visit to a number of visits to the localities round Żejtun. These packages, which are also available all year round, are an opportunity to experience one of the most historic localities in Malta whilst enjoying a different and unique tourist experience which is more authentic and memorable.
The three packages are as follows:-
Żejt iż-Żejtun Marathon Tourist Package 1:
Żejtun, Valletta and Surrounding Localities
Żejt iż-Żejtun Marathon Tourist Package 2:
Żejtun, Valletta and Agrotourism
Żejt iż-Żejtun Marathon Tourist Package 3:
Żejtun, Valletta and Countryside Walks and Bike Routes
This event is an ideal family trip. In fact the half marathon event also includes a 650m children fun run (as a fund raiser for Jesus of Nazareth Orphanage of Żejtun) and a 2.6km fun run.
HOST is an EU-funded project taking place across four Mediterranean territories in Malta, Italy, Slovenia and Greece, four countries who have all played an important role in the development of the olive oil industry. This project is being co-financed by the COSME programme of the European Commission with an overall budget of €239,991 for a period of 18 months from June 2015. The project is led by Fondazione Campus in Italy and includes another five international partners including: Timesis srl, The Municipality of Koper, The Regional Development Centre Koper, ETAL S.A and 5 Senses Ltd. representing Malta.