Located in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Sicily, the Maltese archipelago basically consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. Their total population in 2004 was 402,000.
Malta has no mountains or rivers. A series of low hills with terraced fields on the slopes characterise the Island.
The coastline of Malta is well indented, thus providing numerous harbours, bays, creeks, sandy beaches and rocky coves. The length of the shoreline round Malta is 136 km, and 43km round Gozo.
The distance between Malta and the nearest point in Sicily is 93 km. The distance from the nearest point on the North African mainland (Tunisia) is 288 km. Gibraltar is 1,826 km to the west and Alexandria is 1,510 km to the east.
This strategic position has allowed Malta to develop as an important trading post. The Malta Freeport is one of the Mediterranean's leading ports for container transhipments.
The Maltese Islands fall within the following co-ordinates:
Northern Latitude 36, 00, 00
Eastern Longitude 14, 36, 00
It is the climate, more than anything else that has made Malta an important tourist resort in the centre of the Mediterranean. The total annual rainfall is about 50cm (20ins). The average winter temperature is 12 degC (54F.) There are really only two seasons in Malta: the dry summer season, and the mild winter season. The average rainfall is 578 mm (22.756 ins). Rain rarely, if ever, falls during the summer months.
History: Pre-Historic Malta
The country comprises an archipelago, with three inhabited islands. Malta, Gozo and Comino. The population, known as Maltese, are descendants of ancient Carthaginians and Phoenicians, with strong elements of Italian, Sicilian and Greek stock.
The official language is Maltese and English. Almost everyone speaks fluent Italian. The Maltese language is the only Semitic tongue officially written in the Latin alphabet. For over 300 years, Malta was an Arab colony, and throughout the following years, the Maltese language was influenced and new words introduced by various European countries and Empires that once occupied Malta.
The earliest known visitors, who most probably arrived from Sicily, landed on Malta some 6,000 years B.C. They were the Megalithic temple builders and today, thanks to them, the islands can boast of the oldest free-standing temples in the world older than the Pyramids of Egypt.
From pre-history the islands passed over to history with the arrival of the first settlers, the Phoenicians who arrived some 700 years before Christ.
History: Punic Malta
The Phoenicians called Malta, Mlt, meaning shelter and could have been pronounced Malet or Melet which lead naturally to the Roman name for Malta, 'Melita'. The Phoenicians, realising the importance of the strategic central location in the centre of the Mediterranean, changed Malta into a rich and flourishing Punic colony; a port of call for the Phoenician trading ships because of the island's sheltered harbours.
The Phoenicians found this a place of refuge, from the excellence of its harbours, and its situation in the middle of the sea.
In around 420-480 BC, Malta was occupied by the Carthaginians who used Malta as their advanced post to attack Sicilian harbours during their war against Sicily. The Maltese became richer with the increased trade with other Carthaginian cities. Textiles and cotton were exported to these lands.
In the year 220BC, the Romans captured Malta from the Carthaginians during the 2nd Punic war. The Romans treated the Maltese as friends and had their representative to Rome. The islands prospered, roads, harbour quays, water reservoirs, villas, temples and palaces were built and commerce increased.
It was under the Romans, in AD60 when Paul of Tarsus (Saint Paul) on his voyage from Palestine to Rome was shipwrecked here. The Acts of the Apostles records the Hospitality of the Maltese, 'when we reached the land we knew the island was called Melita and the inhabitants took great care of us' Christendom had arrived to Pagan Malta.
History: Medieval Malta
In the year 870AD when the Maltese formed part of the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs Colonised the islands for almost 300 years, until Count Roger the Norman, a kinsman of William the Conqueror of England, who, in 1090 conquered the islands, and added Malta to his Empire. It is said that our flag was given to the Maltese by Count Roger by giving a section of his Hauteville's coat of arms - White to the mast Red to the last. The flag was recognized by King Alfonso of Spain in 1429.
For more than two centuries Malta formed part of the Aragonese Crown. In the early 16th century, the Crown of Aragon and Castille, fell to Charles V who at the time was head of the Holy Roman Empire. Charles V had too much on his plate and in 1530 preferred to grant the islands to the Order of the Knights of St .John as a fief on condition they give the King a life falcon every year.
During the following 200 years Malta experienced probably the most colourful and exciting period in its history. In 1565, the Turks invaded Malta as they wanted to destroy the Knights completely and use Malta as an Ottoman stronghold from which they could attack Southern Europe. The four month siege was disastrous to the Turks and although heavily outnumbered, the Knights and the Maltese people resisted, stood firm and defeated the Turks.
After this victory the Knights concentrated on improving trade and commerce, built hospitals, the main Hospital could accommodate 500 patients and was renowned as one of the finest in the world, churches, palaces and above all erected new fortification lines, bastions, and a new fortress city which was called Valletta in honour of the Grandmaster La Valette under whose inspired guidance and courage, the Knights and Maltese had defeated the Ottoman onslaught.
History: Modern Malta
No wonder, when in 1798, Napoleon entered Valletta he commented that he prefer to see the English occupying Montmartre (the heart of Paris) than occupying the island of Malta. This ended 268 years of rule by the knights of St. John and Malta was destined to become a typical Department of France.
However, French rule was short-lived. By 1800 the Maltese rose against the French and asked Nelson for help and together they succeeded in driving the French garrison out of Malta.
The Maltese sought the protection of the British throne. It was the beginning of the British rule here, lasting 160 years. In 1964, Malta became independent and in 1974 it became a Republic within the Commonwealth. Since the 1st of May 2004 Malta forms part of the European Union.
The Maltese islands today have five defined yacht marinas, four in Malta and one in Gozo, with a potential of nearly 2,000 berths. One of these marinas, the Manoel Island Marina is still in construction phase; whilst the Grand Harbour marina in Vittoriosa is now fully operational. For more information visit nautica.com.mt
Grand Harbour Marina - Vittoriosa: Marina with about 35 berths in the size range 20 to 25 metres (66 to 82 feet), About 14 berths of 26 to 35 metres (85 to 115 feet), and about 20 berths of 50 to 85 metres (164 to 279 feet). Grand Harbour Vittoriosa, one of the largest Large Boats Marinas in the World!
Manoel Island Marina - Ta Xbiex: Marina with 60 pontoon and 20 stern to berths, max size 80 metres, max draught 5 metres, with water and electricity to each berth
Portomaso Marina - St Julians: Accommodates up to 45 sailing boats to a maximum length of 16 metres and up to 60 motor cruisers to a maximum of 16 metres.
Mgarr Marina - Gozo: The Mgarr Marina consists of 208 berths. The Marina provides a perfect stop-over for anyone visiting Gozo or cruising around the Maltese Islands.
Msida Marina: Fifteen floating pontoons provide berths for 640 yachts up to 16 metres long. Water and electricity are available at each berth. Yachts moor to double lines attached to heavy chain ground tackle.
Malta's superb climate coupled with a historic backdrop make a round of golf on the course at the Royal Malta Golf Club a special experience. Malta's passion for golf goes back some 120 years. The Club's name refers to the royal patronage the sport has received here over the years. The Duke of Edinburgh played here in the early 1950s while serving with the British navy.
Today's clubroom and 18-hole course are part of the Marsa Sports Club, not far from Valletta. The course offers the holiday golfer a pleasant test without being too unkind to the novice. Several of the holes are challenging par fives, and take some negotiating. The best time to play is from mid autumn through to spring. Golf is certainly an ideal winter sun activity.
Scuba diving in Malta is considered the best diving in the Mediterranean and it's easy too. The Maltese islands are blessed with warm temperatures, even in winter, clear, unpolluted seas, with visibility underwater in excess of thirty metres. Hundreds of kilometres of coastline, many of which are still unexplored, make the Maltese archipelago a favourite with adventurous divers.
The Islands offer excellent sport for both beginners and experienced open water and cave divers. With their natural harbours, bays, sheltered creeks, cliffs, reefs and wrecks, the Islands invite you to explore. The possibilities are endless. With dive sites just a stone's throw away from each other, you will be able to explore a variety of underwater worlds. They range from labyrinthine caves to reefs and wartime wrecks.
Other Links: divemed.com ;