Malta, officially the Republic of Malta is a Southern European island country comprising an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2 (122 sq mi), with a population of just under 450,000 (despite an extensive emigration programme since the Second World War),making it one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which at 0.8 km2, is the smallest national capital in the European Union. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English.
Malta’s location has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, have ruled the islands.
Malta was awarded the George Cross by King George VI in 1942, for the country’s bravery in the Second World War. The George Cross continues to appear on Malta’s national flag. Under the Malta Independence Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1964, Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom as an independent sovereign Commonwealth realm, officially known from 1964 to 1974 as the State of Malta, with Elizabeth II as its head of state. The country became a republic in 1974, and although no longer a Commonwealth realm, remains a current member state of the Commonwealth of Nations. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the Eurozone.
Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Malta is claimed to be an Apostolic See because, according to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on Malta. Catholicism is the official religion in Malta.
Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta and seven Megalithic Temples, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Malta’s climate is typical of the Mediterranean and is strongly influenced by the sea. The Maltese Islands have a pleasantly sunny climate with a daily average of around 12 hours sunshine in summer going down to 5 to 6 hours in mid-winter.
Summers are hot, dry and very sunny. Day-time temperatures in summer are often mitigated by cooling sea breezes.
Spring and autumn are cooler, except when the occasional Scirocco wind from Africa brings unseasonally high temperatures and humidity.
Winters are mild, with the occasional short cold spells brought about by the north and north-easterly winds from central Europe.
Annual rainfall is low, averaging 568mm a year. Bathing in the sea is quite possible well into the ‘winter’ months, and the peak beach season can last until mid- to late October.
In Malta and Gozo, driving is on the left. There are speed limits of 80 km/h on the open road and 50 km/h in built-up areas, unless otherwise indicated on relevant road signs.
If you intend to rent a car or drive in Malta, it is advisable to take out comprehensive insurance. National or international driving licences are accepted.
The electrical supply is 230 volts /- 10%.
The frequency of the supply is 50 hertz.
The three-pin rectangular plug system is used, as in Britain.
Adapters are very easy to find.
The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English.
Maltese, a language of Semitic origin written in the Latin script, is the national language of Malta. Over the centuries, it has incorporated many words derived from English, Italian and French.
Italian is also widely spoken.
Malti – The Maltese Language
The Maltese language is a source of fascination to both visitors and linguists. The Maltese speak a unique language, Malti, the only Semitic language written in Latin characters.
Through the ages, many foreign words, particularly English and Italian, have become part of the language. English, which is also an official language, is widely and fluently spoken and is the language of international business.
What is surprising is that the islanders managed to retain a unique language in face of so many others brought by various powers over the centuries. Maltese was largely only a spoken language until the latter half of the 19th century when its grammatical rules were defined and written down.
The earliest written evidence of Maltese is a ballad by Pietro Caxaro, (d.1485). The Knights attempted to script it as well. The survival of the language is perhaps testament to the resilience of the Maltese to remain a distinct people and culture. Malti is thought to derive from the language of the ancient Phoenicians who arrived in Malta in 750 B.C.
The influence of the Arabs who made the Islands home from the 9th to 13th centuries is clear in the Maltese language whose roots are closely akin to Arabic. Place names and numbers are the most obvious examples of Arabic influence on the language.
For non-native speakers trying to learn Malti, the most awkward sound is similar to the Arabic q – an almost silent, but difficult to master, glottal stop. If you are interested in learning Maltese, several language schools on the islands run courses in Maltese for non-native speakers.
Tap water is safe to drink throughout the Maltese Islands. Local and imported bottled mineral water is available from shops, supermarkets, restaurants and bars.
Malta has produced collectors’ coins with face value ranging from 10 to 50 euro. These coins continue an existing national practice of minting of silver and gold commemorative coins. Unlike normal issues, these coins are not legal tender in all the eurozone. For instance, a €10 Maltese commemorative coin cannot be used in any other country.
From 1972 until introduction of the Euro in 2008, the currency was the Maltese lira, which had replaced the Maltese pound. The pound replaced the Maltese scudo in 1825.