Veteran visitor notes drastic drop in natural habitat

Veteran visitor notes drastic drop in natural habitat

Briton on his 43rd visit to the island

Michael Khan, now in his 80s, has visited Malta every year since 1975. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Michael Khan, now in his 80s, has visited Malta every year since 1975. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Englishman Michael Khan, who is on his 43rd visit to Malta, lamented the reduction in the natural habitat and the number of cars on the road.

He has been visiting every year since 1975 and knows practically all there is to know about the island.

“It’s perfect, geographically, and the warm climate is always welcome,” he said.

Mr Khan, 80, who celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary here earlier this month, has built lifelong friendships that kept him coming back.

He considers himself a visitor rather than a tourist.

During his first few visits here he used to stay in rented houses that were being hired by English teachers throughout the winter. When the teachers left, Mr Khan thought that meant an end to his journeys to the island.

Once he was involved in an accident and a Maltese man offered to be an eyewitness. “I told him he sounded Maltese and asked whether he knew anyone who had apartments for rent in Malta. It turned out his mother did,” he recalled. A lifelong friendship developed right after.

The Maltese man, Carmelo Camilleri, said he could stay at his apartment in Gżira and the Khans have been hosted at Mr Camilleri’s home every summer since.

Mr Khan has seen Malta through highs and lows. He recalled seeing the traditional Maltese houses on Tower Road, Sliema, “with their classic green shutters”, disappear over time.

In 2005, he told the Times of Malta how construction had changed the island drastically. Now, more than a decade later, he noted that traffic and the reduction in natural habitat stood out.

Read: 'Accidental' visitor sees construction as destruction

“There was controversy when I had said construction could also be destruction but I still believe the houses on Tower Road should have been listed and afforded government protection”, he said.

Mr Khan, accompanied by his wife, Margaret, also mentioned bird hunting.

“Still, live and let live,” he said.

He memorises quite a few things about the island, including the number of steps at Għajn Tuffieħa bay and the route to follow to drive from the airport to Mr Camilleri’s house.

Yet, despite the traffic and the smaller natural habitat, Mr Khan said nothing could keep him away from the country.

“I don’t think anything of it. I know I will be coming back here again next year, and the year after that,” he said.

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