Malta Travel Articles
The Inviting Malta Islands
Malta, Europe’s fourth southernmost country, offers its visitors a spectacular setting, just south of Sicily in the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Malta is an archipelago of five islands, but only the three largest, Malta, Gozo, and Comino are inhabited. Malta’s coastline has many cliffs, and indented stretches that provide great harbors. Because of its island geography, an adventure cruise is a perfect way to explore Malta. On average, Malta is composed of mostly low, rocky, flat to dissected plains, characterized by low hills and terraced fields. Malta has a pleasing Mediterranean temperate climate. There are two noticeable seasons for travelers to enjoy while on a tour of the islands – a mild, rainy winter season and a warm, dry summer season.
The unique Mediterranean location in combination with a history of political takeovers has blended to create a unique Maltese culture. The official nationality of Malta is Maltese. Religion is very important. Approximately 98% of the population are Roman Catholics. By law, Roman Catholicism is the religion of Malta, yet, full liberty of conscience and freedom of worship is guaranteed, and a variety of faiths have places of worship on the island.
The history of various foreign dominations has mixed with the indigenous culture to create the Maltese cuisine. Maltese cuisine is actually quite similar to that of its Sicilian neighbors. The staple of a Maltese diet is pasta. As for dining during you Malta cruise, you can dine on a small bay and have a great view of the ocean or you may choose a spot on the hills of the capital city of Valletta and enjoy views of the terraced countryside. Family run bars are entertaining places to visit because they often specialize in particular Maltese dishes, like rabbit simmered in wine and herbs. Small courtyards with candlelight tables are also available if you’re looking for a romantic Maltese dinner.
Since around 5200 BC Malta has been inhabited. So for nearly 7,000 years, Malta has been overrun by pretty much every major Mediterranean power. Once a possession of Great Britain, the Mediterranean Archipelago of Malta is now a prosperous independent Republic. In May of 2004, Malta joined the European Union. The Maltese have developed the islands into a financial center, with a freight transshipment point, and desirable tourist destinations. Malta is the smallest European Union country, both in size and population.
Malta Cruise, Culture and Customs
Visitors to the islands are certain to enjoy the unique Malta culture. The country’s Mediterranean location in combination with a history of political takeovers has blended to create a unique Maltese culture. The official nationality of Malta is Maltese. Maltese are descendants of ancient Carthaginians and Phoenicians, with strong elements of Italian and other Mediterranean cultures. Maltese and English are both official languages of the country, yet many are also fluent in Italian. A Malta cruise allows a look at the main cultural influences that come from Italy and the United Kingdom; both are highly visible in Maltese society.
There are a number of churches, both large and small in Malta. Religion is very important. Approximately 98% of the population is Roman Catholics. The law recognizes Roman Catholicism as the official religion of Malta, yet full liberty of conscience and freedom of worship is guaranteed, and a number of faiths have places of worship on the island. The church remains strong, and abortion and divorce are still outlawed. The church and private sector even run a number of schools on the islands of Malta and Gozo. Education in Malta is free, and the state pays a majority of the teachers’ salaries in Church schools. Education in Malta is based on the British Model and is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16 years. Undergraduate and postgraduate study in Malta is generally provided at the University of Malta.
Today, Maltese music is largely western, but during a tour of the islands you can still find traditional music being performed. Such music consists of background folk guitar music where two or three people would improvise and take turns to argue for the melodic voice. This music takes many years to master, but when done correctly creates an atmosphere that is both friendly and challenging. The tune is normally sung in quarter-tone, and Arabic mode that is accompanied by a western European Tonality.
Enjoy the Island Environment on a Malta Tour
Malta has various different types of landscape – fields, valleys, steeps, wastelands, shores, walls, coastal areas and more. Each of these regions is home to a diversity of plant species. The Mediterranean climate of Malta allows for a majority of plant-life to survive yearlong. Common flora includes species that are able to withstand stronger winds. Plants found on Malta are similar to that of its neighbor, Sicily.
A Malta tour is an excellent option for bird lovers. Many migratory birds of European and African origin stop in Malta because of the islands convenient Mediterranean location. Malta is home to the Maltese falcon, the countries namesake. Peregrine falcons and Wildsong birds are also popular birds found on the islands. There is not an abundance of wild land animals in Malta. However, wild rabbits are common and easy to spot. There are some snakes that live throughout the islands as well.
The Maltese Islands are composed entirely of sedimentary rocks, which are largely of marine biogenic origin. The islands have a karstic landscape. This means that there is depression in the land, where soil accumulates. The low elevation and small size of the islands allows for soils to be more saline. Natural resources in Malta include limestone, salt, and arable land.
Some environmental issues have currently come about in Malta. There is an ongoing problem with water supply because the islands have very limited natural fresh water resources. So, people have developed an increasing reliance on desalination. There are also no domestic energy sources that can be found on the islands.
Malta Cuisine: A Taste of the Mediterranean
Malta is full of nice dining locations. During your travel in Malta enjoy a meal on a small bay and have a great view of the ocean or you may choose the hills of the capital city of Valletta with panoramas of the terraced countryside. Family run bars are entertaining places to dine because they often specialize in a particular Maltese dish, like rabbit simmered in wine and herbs. Small courtyards with candlelight tables are also available if you’re looking for a romantic Maltese dinner.
The history of various foreign influences has mixed with the indigenous culture to create a unique Maltese cuisine. Maltese cuisine is actually quite similar to that of its Sicilian neighbors. The staple of a Maltese diet is pasta foods. Many women enjoy preparing their own ravioli, typically rich in flavor, stuffed with ricotta cheese and fresh parsley, and topped with a flavorful tomato sauce. Other common foods to taste during your Malta tour include the fisherman’s catch (bass, stone bass, grouper, dentix, amberjack, whitebream, sword-fish, mullet, dorado and polit) and seasonal produce (aubergines, tomatoes, peppers, baby marrows and onions). Many fresh fruits like, oranges and tangerines, grapefruit, grapes, miniature pears, pomegranates, red and yellow medlars, nectarines, apricots, melons and sweet peaches are also found on the islands.
Pastries are extremely common. They are prepared in a variety of ways and may encase fish, meats, vegetables, pastas, and cheese. The most popular pastry is a “pastizzi”, which is warm snack often eaten with coffee or tea. It is a delicacy of ricotta cheese and egg wrapped with a thin crisp pastry (a mixture of what a filo and puff may make). Sometimes a “pastizzi” may be filled with peas, anchovies or meat. You will have plenty of opportunities to sample a pastizzi or two while on a Malta cruise; they are sold all over the region from village bars to street corners.
The start of many Maltese meals is soup. Soups include the thick, healthy Minestrone soup that is typically made of fresh and dried vegetables. When fish is in abundance, you will often find fish stew or “Aljotta”, with plenty of garlic and tomatoes. There is also the Kusku, a thick hearty soup made of fresh broad beans, and the optional addition of couscous.
Stuffed and stewed dishes are quite popular. Poultry can be stuffed and served over red potatoes, onions, herbs and garlic, simmered lightly with gravy. Stuffed, squid, octopus and cuttlefish with a spicy tomato sauce are also well-accepted dishes that are often cooked in the oven. Stewed rabbit cooked with herbs in wine is another common dish to try during your travel in Malta. Slow simmering can be considered a hallmark of Maltese cooking. In the past, foods used to be cooked over a little stone hearth, and the slow cooking method stuck. Even early in the morning, lunchtime aromas can be smelt in the streets.
Other foods include minced meats stuffed in veggies, served warm or as an antipasto that can be chilled and ate before the main course. “Hobz biz-zejt”, or bread and oil, serves as a popular beach or anytime snack. Snails may be stewed too, especially after the first rainstorm (often in September), when they are easy to catch.
Desserts include deep-fried, date filled pastries, almond macaroons and treacle rings. There is also the “helwa tat-tork”, which is a very sweet sugary mixture of crushed and whole almonds (often served with coffee after dinner) and the “kannoli”, a tube shaped dessert that consists of a deep-fried crisp pastry stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese and pieces of chocolate and candied fruit (eaten as a treat anytime of the day).
As for drinks, there are Maltese wines, often considered to be of fine quality. The wines from the Maltese island of Gozo, tend to produce wines that are slightly stronger. Maltese lagers and beers are also widely enjoyed and can be found at various locations around the islands.
The Mediterranean Geography of Malta
Malta, Europe’s fourth southernmost country, has a spectacular setting, just south of Sicily in the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Malta Channel separates the islands of Malta and Sicily, which are only 90 kilometers apart. Malta is an archipelago of five islands, only the three largest, Malta, Gozo, and Comino are inhabited. Malta Island is only 316 square kilometers, which is slightly less than twice the size of Washington, DC. Gozo is 65 square kilometers, and Comino is a minuscule 2.5 square kilometers. Birkirkara, Malta’s largest city, lies on the Island of Malta and is home to nearly 25,000 people. A Malta cruise offers exploration of the country’s many coastlines that have plenty of cliffs and indented stretches that provide great harbors. On average, Malta is composed of mostly low, rocky, flat to dissected plains, characterized by low hills and terraced fields. The highest point on the island, Ta'Dmejrek is at only 253 meters, and is sometimes troublesome for even the locals to find. Currently, Malta is the smallest European Union country, both in size and population.
Malta Travel: An Introduction to the Islands’ History
Malta has been populated since around 5200 BC. For nearly 7,000 years, Malta has been overrun by every major Mediterranean power. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, Angevin, Aragonese, the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the French, and the British have controlled the islands at some point in history.
It is believed that Malta was the home to a significant prehistory culture that predates the Pyramids of Giza by a millennium. Around 1000 BC, Phoenicians colonized the islands, and used them as an outpost for expanding sea explorations and trade in the Mediterranean.
Influential periods of ancient rule included the Greek takeover in 736 BC. They called the colony “Melita”. The islands went on to be controlled by other powerful ancient civilizations, including the Carthaginians, in 400 BC, and the Romans in 218 BC, followed by the Byzantines, and eventually the Arabs in 870 AD. The Arabs introduced the cultivation of citrus fruits and cotton, irrigation systems, and most notably, the Arabic language. Today, while enjoying Malta travel, visitors may notice the influence of the Arabic language, which has been adopted into the modern Maltese language. The Arabs ruled until 1090 when Sicilian Normans took over the islands.
Control over the islands continued to change hands for nearly a century. Great Britain formally acquired possession of the islands in 1814, and held onto them for a century and a half. During both World Wars, Malta supported the United Kingdom. Now, the Maltese administer the islands. They have formed the Republic of Malta. Malta joined the European Union in May 2004, becoming the smallest nation in the EU.
The Politics of Malta
On September 21st, 1964, Malta established independence from the United Kingdom. Since then, Malta has become the Republic of Malta, a country with a representative society. There government system is based on the Westminster system. Many Malta travelers will include a tour of Valletta, the capital city where the islands’ government is administered. There are no administrative divisions, but local councils carry out administrative orders. Malta has an established constitution that has been amended many times since 1964.
The current elected Chief of State is President Edward Fenech Adami, who was elected by the House of Representatives for a five-year term on April 4, 2004. The House of Representatives is typically composed of 65 Members of Parliament, and are elected by popular vote. These 65 members represent each of the local divisions. There is no intermediate level between local and national government. The head of the government is Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who was elected in March of 2004. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President. The President with the advice of the Prime Minister appoints the government cabinet.
There are two main Maltese parties, the Malta Labor Party (a social democratic party), and the Nationalist Party (a Christian Democratic Party). If you plan your Malta travel today, the Nationalist Party is currently in control because Prime Minister Gonzi is of that party. Malta has also been a member of the European Union since May 2004.
The Temperate Malta Weather
Malta has a pleasing temperate Mediterranean climate. There are two noticeable seasons that occur on the islands, a mild, rainy winter season and a warm, dry summer season. A Malta tour in the winter offers pleasant conditions with moderate rains, and a January temperature averaging 10-14°C (50-58°F). Occasionally, it is possible for abnormal cold fronts to occur during the winter season. During this time, frost patches may develop on areas further inland. July daytime temperatures can hover around 36°C (97°F). Scarce precipitation takes place during the summer months. Normally, visitors prefer to come to the island during the dryer summer months. In a normal year, Malta receives about 590mm of rain and nearly 300 days of enjoyable sunshine.