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MALTA
 

Cities in MALTA

Valletta

Geography and Landscape

Geography

Malta is an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea and consists of the islands of Malta, Gozo, Comino and the uninhabited islands of Cominotto and Filfla. It is located approximately 94 km south of Sicily and 290 km north of Tunisia.

Satellite image MaltaPhoto:Public domain

Landscape

Malta is generally hilly, fairly flat in the east and somewhat higher in the west. Malta's highest point, Ta 'Dmejrek, is 253 meters above sea level. There are no mountains, lakes and rivers and the island looks rocky and barren, especially in summer. Only in the months of March to May does the island look a bit greener and friendlier because of the rain that falls. The coast of Malta is rocky with a sandy bay here and there. In the east there are large bays that form excellent natural harbors.

Ta 'Dmejrek, Malta's highest pointPhoto:ERWEH CC BY-SA 3.0 no changes made

In a distant past, Malta was covered with forests, but these have been cut down in ancient times for firewood, shipbuilding and arable farming. After the forest disappeared, erosion hit quickly and resulted in the current landscape. Gozo looks greener and more hilly. The soil here is more fertile than on Malta due to the clay layer lying on the surface. It retains the water and thus forms good agricultural land. The island of Comino has a dry and barren landscape.

Climate and Weather

Climate diagram Valetta, MaltaPhoto:Hedwig in Washington CCAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Malta has a Mediterranean climate with a dry long summer lasting from April to October. In the summer months, the average temperature is 26°C. The winter season, from November to March, is very mild with an average temperature of 12° C. Still, it is quite possible that it will still reach 25° during the day in November. Precipitation, usually short heavy showers, normally falls from the end of September to the end of April and averages 500 mm per year. In the summer, the sirocco often blows, which sometimes raises the temperature to 40°C and makes it uncomfortably stuffy. If you go to Malta purely for the sun, then the summer months June to September are recommended, the months just before or after are suitable if it is more about sightseeing.

Plants and Weather

Plants

Ancient olive trees in MaltaPhoto:PolluxWorld Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Forests do not occur in Malta (see: location and landscape). The trees that still exist on the island have been planted by humans. Some species that occur are olive trees, cypresses, laurel trees and almond trees. Date palms are also found but have a hard time due to soil and climate.

Maltese CentauriePhoto:Jeffrey Sciberras Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

Furthermore, the vegetation consists of low and thorny shrubs. Especially in spring, poppies, orchids and gladioli bloom. The national plant is the Maltese centaury, which is only found in Malta and grows on the cliffs near the coast. Herbs such as thyme, basil, oregano and mint are also common.

Animals

Maltese LionPhoto:Ninostar Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Due to deforestation, drought and especially hunting, the numbers of native animals have been greatly reduced. Mammals that occur include rabbits, weasels, bats and hedgehogs. The Maltese lion is famous, a small white long-haired dog breed that was already depicted on Greek vases from the oldheid.

Lark MaltaPhoto:Daniel Pettersson Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Sweden no changes made

The most common native birds are the sparrow, the finch, the lark, the jackdaw, and the thrush. The peregrine falcon and the barn owl are extinct. The hunt for native species and especially migratory birds is disastrous for the birds. Protests from the Netherlands and abroad have so far yielded little.

Maltese Wall LizardPhoto:Pan narrans Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Malta has different types of lizards. The Maltese wall lizard is only found on the Maltese islands. There are three types of non-venomous snakes as well as the chameleon that was imported from Africa in the 19th century. Fish found in the caverns and caves along the coastline include the groupers, sea bream and grunt. Special sea inhabitants are the squid, octopus, scorpionfish and the stingray.

History

Prehistory

Megalithic Temple of Hagar Qim, MaltaPhoto:Hamelin de Guettelet CCAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The first Maltese were farmers who kept livestock and made some pottery. They arrived around 5200 BC. probably from Sicily. In this time people still lived in caves. This earliest civilization came about 4100 BC. an end. Around that time, people left the caves and settled in small villages. About 3600 BC. people came to Malta from the megalith culture. They made buildings of large stones, comparable to Stonehenge in England. What is special is that these temples are the oldest free-standing buildings in the world!

Another striking remnant from prehistoric times are the enormous "cart tracks". The tracks are about 1.30 m apart and are up to 75 cm deep and are an unsolved mystery.

Antiquity

Roman Baths, MaltaPhoto:Fran Vincentz Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The first Phoenicians arrived in 800 BC. and set up trading posts. They discovered that Malta was a very useful port for them on the crossing from Sicily to Africa. Moreover, Malta was of great strategic importance from a military point of view. They were followed by the Punic of Carthage, who after their defeat in the Second Punic War in 218 BC. were driven out again by the Romans. The shipwreck of the apostle Paul in AD 56. is said to have taken place in Malta; he is said to have founded a Christian congregation there. When the Roman Empire was split in 397, Malta probably belonged to the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire.

Middle Ages and New Times

Malta was conquered in 870 by Arabs from Tunisia. Very little tangible from that period has been preserved. Their arrival did have a major influence on the Maltese language. Many place names can be traced back to Arabic. After the capture by Roger of Normandy in 1090, Malta belonged to the rulers of Sicily. Malta has suffered a lot from changing rulers, especially since the thirteenth century. The islanders were exploited and regularly visited by North African and Turkish pirates.

St. John's Fortress St Angelo in MaltaPhoto:Frank Vincentz Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 1530 Charles V gave the islands to the Military Knighthood of St. John of Jerusalem, the Johannites. In 1565 the Johannites managed to withstand a four-month siege by the Turks. They were hailed across Europe as the saviors of Christian civilization. In 1571 the Turks suffered a major defeat at Lepanto and the Turkish threat slowly diminished. The French Revolution in 1789 dealt a heavy blow to the Johanniter because all their property in France was confiscated. In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte got hold of Malta while passing through Egypt without a fight. His rule soon led to a revolt against the garrison, and with British support, the French were expelled in 1800. The British made Malta a British Crown colony and naval base at the Peace of Paris (1814), which became essential for the British shipping route to India after the opening of the Suez Canal (1864).

20th century

During the First World War, ships were repaired on Malta that had been damaged by the war. Many wounded front soldiers were also cared for. In 1921 Malta was given limited autonomy and its own parliament. However, the constitution was repealed in 1933 because the Maltese threatened to join Mussolini's fascist Italy.

Damage after bombing in Valetta, June 1942Photo:Public domain

In World War II, Malta was of great strategic importance to the Allies in North Africa and later to the invasion of Sicily. Malta was attacked by the Italian and German Air Forces but held up despite a blockade and 2,000 air raids. Thousands were killed, tens of thousands of houses were destroyed and the population was starving. Malta was awarded the high British military decoration, the George Cross, which can still be found on the national flag. In 1947, a renewed constitution came into effect, which was again suspended in 1958, following the resignation of the Mintoff government due to the failure of its policy of integrating Malta with Britain. The decline of Malta's strategic importance through the collapse of the British Empire and the downsizing of British defense eventually led to the granting of independence on September 21, 1964.

Monument to the Independence of MaltaPhoto:A Ocram in het publieke domein

In 1974 the republic was proclaimed, and the privileged position of the Roman Catholic clergy came to an end. In 1979 the contract with the British fleet expired and the last British troops left. The 1980s-'87 was a turbulent period. Especially when the government tried to get a grip on private education in 1984, this led to a major conflict with the Roman Catholic Church. Mintoff stepped down in December 1984 in favor of his self-chosen successor K. Mifsud Bonnici. In 1985 the school battle was ended by an agreement with the Vatican. The run-up to the 1987 elections was unsettled and violent. A constitutional amendment was introduced, which meant that in future the party with an absolute majority vote would also receive a seat majority in parliament. This allowed the PN to take over the government after a peaceful change of power. E. Fenech Adami became Prime Minister.

Edward Fenech Adami, Prime Minister and later President of MaltaPhoto:Michal Koziczynski Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Poland no changes made

In April 1994, former leader of the ruling Nationalist Party, Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, was sworn in as president, succeeding Vincent Tabone. The October 1996 parliamentary elections aimed at Malta's accession to the EU, which was applied for in 1990. In November 1996, the EU was informed that Malta no longer wanted EU membership. The reason for this was that the economy continued to develop well, mainly thanks to the rapid growth of tourism.

21st century

Malta joined the European Union on May 1, 2004.

The policy of the opposition party MLP has changed since Malta's accession to the EU. The party now supports Maltese membership and is gradually transforming itself into a more modern and pragmatic social democratic party, inspired by similar processes in European sister parties. This was also reflected in the unanimous ratification of the Constitutional Treaty (on 7 July 2005) and the accession treaties with Romania and Bulgaria (on 24 January 2006) by the Maltese Parliament.

Lawrence Gonzi, MaltaPhoto:Wergheld Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

After Eddie Fenech Adami retired as Prime Minister in March 2004 after a political career spanning more than 28 years - a month later he was appointed President of the Republic by Parliament - a new PN government was formed under the leadership of former Vice-President. Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs Lawrence Gonzi. In the race for leadership, he largely beat Finance Minister John Dalli and Education Minister Louis Galea. In the new cabinet, Dalli became Minister of Foreign Affairs, a post that became vacant with the departure of Joe Borg, who became Malta's first Commissioner in Brussels. After trust in Dalli was severely diminished in the spring of 2004 over alleged corruption, he resigned to Prime Minister Gonzi in July 2004. The then Secretary of State Michael Frendo, an outspoken Europhile, succeeded Dalli as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In the European Parliament and Local Council elections held at the same time on 12 July 2004, domestic political relations in Malta changed. For the first time in six years, Prime Minister Gonzi's reigning PN suffered a political defeat: the MLP scored 48%, while the PN got only 41% of the vote. This was partly due to the fact that almost 10% of the voters cast a protest vote on the green AD. As a result, three of the five MEP seats allocated to Malta went to (then still considered anti-Europe) Labor and only two to the PN, the party that had brought Malta into the EU. In the municipal elections of March 2005, the MLP also made a profit in almost all municipalities.

Joseph Muscat, MaltaPhoto:Aron Mifsud Bonnici Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes

Despite the political discord, the political parties in Malta have come closer in attitudes towards Europe. On the night of 6-7 July 2005, in a demonstration of seldom political unanimity, the MLP voted unanimously in Parliament in favor of a PN motion to approve the Constitutional Treaty for Europe. The MLP thus showed that it has largely revised its anti-European stance. The euro was officially introduced as legal tender on 1 January 2008. In March 2008 the PN narrowly won the elections. The incumbent president has been George Abela since 2009. In March 2013, Labor wins the elections and Joseph Muscat becomes prime minister. In June 2017 Muscat will be re-elected in the parliamentary elections. Georg Vella will be elected 10th President of Malta in 2019.

Robert Abela, Malta

Photo:Deadsite 22 CCAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Joseph Muscat is forced to leave the field for Robert Abela in January 2021 as a result of the scandal surrounding the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who investigated corruption and was the victim of a car bomb in 2017 in dubious circumstances.

Population

Carnival in Valletta, MaltaPhoto:Ronny Siegel Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) no changes made

Malta is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. 416,383 Maltese (2017) live on an area of 316 km2. More than half of the population lives in the urban area around the capital Valetta and Sliema. About twenty-five villages and towns have grown together. The capital has 9,129 inhabitants and Birkirkara is the largest of the towns with 21,600. Many Maltese, especially unemployed young unmarried men, have emigrated since the early 20th century. This was due to the relatively large population and the lack of employment. Between 1948 and 1979, 141,660 Maltese emigrated, while about 24,000 returned. Due to the mixture of cultures, one sees British as well as Italian and Arab types.

Language

Maltese alphabetPhoto:Hamelin de Guettelet CCAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Maltese is a Semitic language strongly influenced by English and Italian. It has been the national language since independence in 1964. The other official language is English. Many Maltese also speak Italian because of the approximately fifteen Italian TV channels that can be received in Malta. Maltese was not put into writing until the beginning of this century and is written in slightly modified Latin letters, which is remarkable for a Semitic language. The Maltese alphabet has 29 letters, 5 vowels and 24 consonants.

Religion

Mdina Cathedral in MaltaPhoto:Tony Hisgett Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The vast majority of Maltese people are Roman Catholic. There are about 300 churches on the small island that are still well attended. Malta has been an independent ecclesiastical province since 1943. The village festival, the festa, at which the local patron saint is worshiped, is a mixture of religion and worldly entertainment. The processions and gigantic fireworks are visited by many tourists. It is also significant that many bus drivers have a statue of Mary surrounded by flashing lights and prayer cards on their dashboard. The patron saints of Malta are St. Paul, St. Publius and St. Agatha. The Assumption of Mary, known as Santa Marija, is celebrated in the Maltese Islands.

Society

State structure

Malta Parliament BuildingPhoto:Continentaleurope at English wikipedia CCttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes

Malta was independent from 1964 to 1974, but the Queen of England was still head of state. Since 1974, Malta has been a republic headed by a president. The president is elected by the parliament (House of Representatives) for a term of five years. Parliament has had 65 members since 1987, who are elected by universal suffrage according to a district system consisting of thirteen constituencies. A constitutional amendment then ensured that the party with an absolute majority vote would get as many additional parliamentary seats if necessary until there would be a majority seat. The president appoints the member of parliament who has a majority of parliament behind him as prime minister. The prime minister appoints the other ministers and state secretaries, who must be members of parliament. There is a separate minister who looks after the interests of Gozo. The maximum term of parliament is five years, but the prime minister can always call new elections within this term and must do so if a government proposal is rejected. Malta has no administrative division into provinces and municipalities, but has traditionally been divided into parishes.

Politics

Coat of arms of MaltaPhoto:public domain

Since 1966, only two political parties have remained in parliament: the Malta Labor Party, and the Christian Democratic Partit Nazzjonalista (PN). The PN has ruled since 1987 and is pro-Western and pro-Europe and finds its support mainly among the academics, the clergy, the bourgeoisie, the middle class and the peasants, but also has a fair number of workers. The parties play a major role in everyday life. The newspapers thus represent the position of one of the two parties. Malta is affiliated with the following international organizations: the United Nations, a number of UN sub-organizations, and the Council of Europe. In 1990 an application was made for membership of the EU. Malta is part of the Commonwealth. In April 1995, parliament approved the NATO Partnership for Peace. For the current political situation see chapter history.

Education

University of MaltaPhoto:Chevaliero78 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Maltese children are of compulsory school age from the ages of six to sixteen. Malta is proud of its university which has been established on the island since 1592. It is the oldest Commonwealth university outside of Great Britain. There is also a tourist school on the island. Every year 1,500 Maltese graduate there as cook, waiter or guide.

Economy

General

Portomaso business tower, MaltaPhoto:Frank Vicentz Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Malta was considered a developing country until the 1980s, but then experienced spectacular economic growth. The island economy is not very strong, but fairly stable. This is mainly due to tourism. The government is the largest employer. Since 1987, efforts have been made to attract foreign investors through very favorable tax conditions and develop Malta into an international financial center. Malta's central location between Africa, Europe and the Middle East is of course extremely suitable for this. The EU and Italy are providing financial support to Malta.

Economic growth rate in 2017 was 6.7% and the GDP per capita was $ 41,900. The unemployment rate was 4.6% in 2017.

Agriculture, livestock and fishing

Vineyard MaltaPhoto:Florival fr Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Most farms are small and for most farmers it is an extra income. Not more than half of the total land area is suitable for arable farming and livestock farming. Total agricultural production (including fishing) represented only 1.1% of GDP in 2017. Crops that are exported are potatoes, onions, cut flowers and plants. Furthermore, many wine grapes are grown, but not enough for the local wine industry. Vegetable, fruit and livestock farming do not yield enough for local consumption. The fishing industry employs 1000 people, in whole or in part, but has only a small share in the Maltese economy.

Industry and energy supply

Malta Dry DocksPhoto:Boguslaw Garbacz Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

The largest private employer in Malta is the Malta Drydocks, the former shipyards and drydocks of the UK fleet base with over 5,000 employees. In the early 1970s, the dockyards were privatized by the Maltese government. Malta also has shipyards specializing in the construction and repair of yachts. There are also a number of small businesses that manufacture cigars, textiles, glass and pottery. For its energy supply, Malta is completely dependent on imports of petroleum from the Middle East. The continental shelf surrounding the islands contains petroleum and natural gas.

Trade

Export MaltaPhoto:Alexander Simoes, Cesar Hidalgo et alCCAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unportedno changes

The trade balance is always in deficit. The main imports ($ 5 billion in 2017) are food, semi-finished goods, vehicles, machinery, chemicals, alcoholics, petroleum and petroleum products. The largest suppliers are: France, Great Britain, Italy and Germany. The main exports ($ 3.3 billion in 2017) are textiles, clothing, footwear, machinery, plastics, potatoes, onions and tobacco products. The main customers are Italy, Germany, Great Britain, France.

Traffic

Air MaltaPhoto:MX8 Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

Malta has an airport, Luqa, which was radically modernized not long ago. Founded in 1973, the state airline Air Malta maintains services to Europe and North Africa. The Grand Harbor is served by many merchant ships. Ferry services with Sicily and Southern Italy are maintained. The road network is reasonably maintained. Malta has not had a railway since 1931; public transport (buses and taxis) is in the hands of small private entrepreneurs.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Malta beachPhoto:Karelj Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Tourism is very important to the Maltese economy and is strongly promoted by the government. The tourists mainly come from England and Germany. Malta does not want to get as many tourists on the island at all costs. The average mass tourist does not generate much money in comparison. That is why, for example, more and more expensive hotels are being built that are only affordable for the wealthier tourist.

Valetta, maltaPhoto:Public domain

Malta's capital, Valletta, is more popularly known as Il-Belt (The City). Since 1980, the old core of the Maltese capital has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Valletta has many churches, of which the Church of Our Lady of Victory is probably the best known. This was the first building built in Valletta by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578. Valletta not only has many churches, you also see many palaces. The Palace of the Grand Master is one of them. Currently the House of Representatives of Malta is located in this palace. It is built around two courtyards. A statue of Neptune can be found in one of these courtyards. The palace has two entrances at the front and one entrance from Piazza Regina. The palace contains frescoes by Matteo Perez d'Aleccio (pupil of none other than Michelangelo). Read more on the Valetta page of Landenweb.

Ggantija Megalithic Temples at Gozio, MaltaPhoto:Bs0u10e01 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Malta's prehistoric temples are unique around the world. They are the oldest stone structures from ancient times. The temples were built in 4000 - 2500 BC. They are older than Stonehenge, older than the pyramids. Their architecture is beautiful and inspiring, the size impressive but on a human scale. They have been excellently preserved. For a long time they were invisible because they were covered with soil. The temples were rediscovered and restored by European and Maltese archaeologists in the early 19th century. Due to their uniqueness and beauty, the main temple complexes have been included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Sources

Boulton, S. / Malta
Kosmos

Cutajar, D. / Malta en Gozo
Publications Ltd.

Encarta Encyclopedie

Leeuwen, G. van / Malta
ANWB

Strijbos, E. / Malta en Gozo
Gottmer

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles Minbuza

Last updated August 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb