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Behind closed doors

Author George Cini rightly launched his book Strait Street: Secrets and Stories from Behind Closed Doors as Valletta became the European Capital of Culture.

One can hardly speak about the capital city and not mention its red light district of bygone days.

Strait Street: Secrets and Stories from Behind Closed Doors is a smaller version of the first book in English printed in 2013 called Strada Stretta: The Gut Which For Many Years Lit Up Valletta.

Cini says the new edition was published not only because the first had been sold out and the demand remained but also because market research he commissioned indicated readers wanted a more user-friendly book that was easier to handle, lighter to carry and cheaper.

The latest edition, which features a number of photographs that were not in the first book, caught the attention of one of Germany’s leading travel writers, Lilo Solcher, who highlighted the integral part Strait Street played in the life of the city.

Cini’s books, the writer notes, represent “the memory of Strait Street” and a world view that has disappeared.

The narrow alley, just a few metres from the Grand Master’s Palace, provided jobs for barmaids, hailing mostly from poor families, who did their best to help their parents and siblings with what they earned at the bars. But Strait Street also produced artistic talent, especially jazz musicians, and a cosmopolitan lifestyle that Malta would not otherwise have known.

The alley was the financial backbone of the city. But it died a natural death... until a few years ago when an effort was made to revamp it. The work is bearing fruit and the alley is alive again, though the activity there is somewhat different than during its heyday.

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