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Iz-Zebbug Culture & History

Zebbug is situated about 3.5 km away from Rabat, the Capital of Gozo and is situated in the northern part of the island.  Built on two major plateaus of “Ta’ Abram” and “iz-Zebbug” is considered to be the highest village in Gozo above sea level. Zebbug derives its name from a Maltese word olive tree or else from food products or tools which were used to produced olive oil.

Zebbug is Maltese for 'olives' or 'olive trees', olea europeaea, in Arabic Zejtun. It is a very long-living tree that grows up to five metres high. In Arabic, Zebbug means 'wild olives', olea silvestris, that differs from the cultivated variety mainly in the spiny lower branches and small leaves and drupes. Some wild olive trees must have been growing beneath the south-east ridge of the village and not on its top, where the north-westerly winds are strong enough to uproot them. It was from these zebbug that eventually the hill got its name. The name of the village is first recorded as zebugi in a document related to the foundation of a religious chantry on 1 September 1492.

Motto and Coat of Arms:
The motto of the village is Terra Sublimis meaning Land giving the best meaning of the village situated so high that can be easily seen from all parts of Gozo. Its coat of arms consists of a silver shield with an olive tree on a slope and on it a red band with three six pointed yellow stars.

The emblem of Zebbug are argent, an olive tree upon a mount proper, upon a chief gules three estoiles of six points; that is a silver shield with an olive tree in its soil and at the top of the shield three gold stars.

Iz-Zebbugin live, as already pointed out, on two hills ta' Abram and iz-Zebbug connected by a narrow strip of land. The land drops abruptly all around. This can be best experienced going down ghajn Mhelhel road that leads from iz-Zebbug to the coastal inlet known as ix-Xwejni.
The best known place-names around the hill ta' Abram are (clockwise, from next to the village cemetery) tat-Tafla, tal-Vecca, tal-Kanun, tat-Tafla, tas-Sellum, ta' ginju, ta' Saliba, ta' Kuljat, and ta' Fra Bez. The area around the second hill of iz-Zebbug (clockwise, from below the square) are tac-Caqra, tal-Barumbara, ta' Ghajn Mhelhel, tal-Hluq and tal-Milied.
The most important inner place-names on ta' Abram are: il-Ponta, tal-Lampuka, tac-Cnus and ta' Goma; those on iz-Zebbug are: tac-Cicri, ta' Skapuccina, is-Saghtrija, ta' Ghajn Mhelhel, ta' Tutiet, tal-Konti, ta' l-Andar and ta' Zaqi. The highest point of the village, appropriately called ir-Ras, 'the head', rises 126 metres above sea level.

Short History:
The history of iz-Zebbug goes back to very early times. So much so that next to the village on the flat-topped hill of Ta' Kuljat there was a Bronze Age settlement (1500-700 BC). This is proved from several Bronze Age silo pits that are still visible on top of the hill, as well as a wide scatter of pottery shreds datable to that period.
The area leading from the hill to Qbajjar, and inlet beyond the fishing village of Marsalforn, contained several punic tombs (700-218 BC). Then for a millennium and a half, the place was probably inhabited only by a handful of farmers. From the time of the Aragonese onwards (AD 1282), a community began to take shape. This community could even raise a chapel for its spiritual needs. The community was recognised as an autonomous entity in 1688 when the area of iz-Zebbug and its vicinities was raised into a separate parish.
Iz-Zebbugin are known for the high quality of their bizzilla, lace; nsig, weaving; and kutri tas-suf, woollen blankets. The villagers are very proud of their religious heritage, as judged for example, from the priority given to the maintenance of street niches. The best known is that of il-Madonna Omm tal-Hniena, better known as tac-Cicri. The love of the villagers for the church is visibly and almost physically felt within the parish church.

Places of interest:
In 1974, the Missionary Society of St Paul built a novitiate house in Zebbug.  Throughout these years the members have contributed tirelessly in pastoral activity. Stella Maris House is situated in a quiet and airy place in Mons G De Piro Street. Nowadays its used to welcome various lay groups and organizations from outside the village for retreats.
Nearby is the Primary Government School built in 1955.  In the limits between “il-Qlajja” and “is-Sellum” is the village cemetery built in 1934. In the main square of the parish one finds the Parish Center.  The center caters for various groups such as the Catholic Action Group, Legion of Mary and temporary the St Mary’s Band Club.  This musical talent goes back to 1946 when through the contribution of the conductor Antonio Mallia an orchestra was formed and it’s still going strong especially during liturgical services in the parish.
At Zebbug one can also find the Society of Christian Doctrine, they not only tirelessly contribute towards religious formation of their members but also through the cooperation of various benefactors they have built their own center.   The village has its own football club, Zebbug Rovers, which plays in the highest division of the football league in Gozo.
Besides the football ground in Zebbug one finds other sporting facilities such as the Shooting Range. “Bocci” pitches and the playing field. Another attraction in Zebbug is the Christmas crib “Ta Bastjan” in Ghajn Mhelhel Street, work of art by Sebastian Axiaq, with a number of figurines, buildings and relives made out of limestone. Throughout the village one can admire the various niches dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the saints. The oldest is the one of Our Lady of Cicri built in 1795.

Agriculture was the main source of income for the family up till some years ago. Each year the main product was barley and wheat. Cotton was also another important agriculture product in Zebbug and loom was to be found in every house.  Thin and thick blankets of wool and loom manufactured in Zebbug were popular and in demand. The same can be said about lace. After the decline of cotton, vines were cultivated and almost everyone uses to produce his own wine. Other popular agricultural products were melons, tomatoes, onions and potatoes. Popular and delicious is the local cheese of Gozo made out of sheep’s milk.

Local Council:
With a population of nearly 2000 including M’forn, Zebbug has its own Local Council instituted in May 1994 with Michael Cefai, as its first Major. After the second elections held in March 1998, Harry Debono was elected Major and in January 2000 Joe Bajada became vice Major. After elections of March 2001, Harry Debono and Joe Bajada were elected Major and vice Major respectively.