Comino, the tiny island measure less than 4 square kilometres and home to a permanent population of just four people, is nonetheless one of the most popular tourist destinations of the Maltese archipelago. This largely due to its spectacular inlet, the Blue Lagoon, which is a magnet for locals and tourists alike during the summer months due to its clear turquoise waters and white sand. Nonetheless, not many are familiar with the history of this small island.
To begin with, the island derives its name (Kemmuna in Maltese) from the word ‘cumin’ due to the wide presence of wild cumin plants on the island. While today its sole purpose may seem to be as a tourist destination, it has had a chequered past. Since the time when the Romans inhabited the islands, Comino was used for farming. Unfortunately for the farmers, the island was often attacked by pirates who launched surprise attacks by entering through the islands cliffs and caves.
The natural isolation of the small island from the mainland made Comino ideal for exiling those who for some reason or other fell out of favour with the rulers of the time. In the Middle Ages, one of these was the famous prophet Abraham Abulafia who wrote some of his most known works while living on the Island. In the 1600’s when the Knight’s of St John were ruling the country, they erected Comino’s most visible structure – St Mary’s tower, which was used as a lookout to provide an early warning system in the event of an invasion. Manning this isolated tower was lonely work and the job was used as a punishment for misbehaving knights. The island was also the site of some of the Knights leisure activities. In fact, they enjoyed hunting on Comino which provided them with a plentiful bounty of hares and wild boar. Unfortunately the latter have long been hunted out of existence however visitors on the island may very well catch a glimpse of a hare or two on the trek round the island.
Today the island of Comino remains an important part of the Maltese Archipelego. Besides the inevitable kiosks and ice cream vans that pop up wherever large amounts of holiday makers gather, one may also take pleasure in the fact the the island is a nature reserve and bird sanctuary. Whatever your interest, be it nature, history or just plain gorgeous scenery, Comino is sure to have something for you. Even Hollywood has taken notice of the small island which has been used as a filming location for films such as Troy and Count of Monte Cristo, the latter shooting St Mary’s Tower as the infamous Chateu D’if.