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Situated in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta’s prehistoric origins and subsequent involvement in major regional and world events throughout its colourful history, have given it a vibrant multicultural edge.
The village of Mellieha, which gets its name from the Arab word for salt, has been inhabited since the neolithic period. Boasting Malta’s longest sandy beach, Għadira, as well as the more secluded Armier Bay, Mellieħa is also home to a wildlife sanctuary, and a religious one - that of Our Lady of Mellieħa, who many devotees believe grants the power of healing.
The two major fortifications - the Red and White towers, hark back to the time of the Knights of St John. Being well-connected on the transport grid, means that Mellieha is easily accessible and can serve as a base to explore the rest of the island.
With an incredibly short and mild winter, the lowest recorded temperature has never gone below zero. A pleasant early spring and a long and very hot summer, which runs into a brief and warm autumn, means that for over 300 days of the year, Malta is bathed in sunshine.
The fine weather means that outdoor activities, from days at one of the many blue-flag beaches, to water sports like diving, paragliding, sailing and canoeing, as well as other activities like horse riding, or simply hiking, biking and picnicking, can be carried out with ease throughout the year. Take a break from the heat of the summer sun and explore Malta’s vast wealth of historic attractions.
Sights & Attractions
Malta’s capital, Valletta, has been voted European City of Culture 2018 and the intensive restoration projects to embellish it have truly brought this baroque gem back to life. If you’re interested in other fortified cities, why not take a boat trip across the spectacular harbour - which has seen its fair share of battles and victories from the Renaissance to World War II, and explore the three cities of Cottonera.
Alternatively, go Medieval and visit the old capital, Mdina, which, along with the other four cities has been immortalised in many an international film over the years. With not one but three world heritage sites - from megalithic temples to an underground Hypogeum, as well as Valletta itself, you’re bound to find something that draws you in. Alternatively, go to the island of Comino and swim in the turquoise blue waters of the Blue Lagoon.
From its language to its architecture, Malta’s rich and multilayered history, starts at the dawn of civilisation with some of the oldest free-standing stone monuments in the world, predating even the Pyramids and Stonehenge. Following different conquerors from the Phoenicians to the Romans, a visit by St Paul brought Christianity to the island, only for it to be lost to Arab rule for over 200 years.
A return to Christianity followed amalgamation into the Kingdom of the two Sicilies and subsequently the Holy Roman Empire, via the Aragonese and Angevin rule. Once given to the Order of the Hospitaller Knights of St John, Malta truly left the middle ages behind and entered the stunning world of the European renaissance until falling under Napoleonic rule and then inviting Britain to take oust the French and govern us until Independence in 1964.
The island’s strategic position made it a coveted trading post and naval hub meant that over the centuries the Island has witnessed the most crucial events in European history.
Thanks to its varied past, Malta has had the privilege of being influenced and taking on the best of all its conquerors’ ruling cultures. With a semitic-based language which is the only one to be spelt with the Roman alphabet, and a rich vocabulary that borrowed and adapted from Arabic, Spanish, French, Italian and English, even the way we speak reflects our multicultural heritage.
Our Catholic background and Mediterranean flair means that we have turned saints’ feast days into a social event and these are generally accompanied by formidable fireworks displays and marching bands.
Malta also has a very vibrant arts scene with music festivals ranging from jazz to classical, opera and contemporary and choir festivals. Theatre is big here with productions taking place almost every weekend from October to mid-August, and dedicated seasonal events from an international children’s arts festival, carnival and candle-lit nights in the fortified cities.
The vast number of events is enough to make you want to attend more than one in a day and thanks to the island’s small size, this too is possible.
Getting to Malta is incredibly straightforward. The national carrier, Air Malta operates its largest number of direct flights to and from the UK to several airports across the country. The same can be said for British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair - which together give the UK flyer a selection of flight times throughout the day, every day of the week.
Travelling around on the island is easy too. The Maltese have inherited many British traits and rules over the 100 plus years of their occupation - from red letter boxes to left hand driving, which means that all you need is a valid driving license to hire a car - no need for adjustment. Bus routes are plentiful and well-connected, while an increase in taxi services has brought prices down to competitive levels.
Maltese cuisine is a fascinating blend of flavours and traditions from all over the Mediterranean as well as Britain.
From traditional dishes like rabbit stew and quick snacks like the deliciously sinful pastizzi (ricotta or pea filled filo pastry), we derive our thriving food culture from every one of the countries which at some time left their mark on our nation and our kitchens. From a varied fish based diet of a land of farmers and fishermen, to the influences of Italy and france with pasta being a staple along with fresh vegetables and meat, the sourdough bread is to die for.
Sweets have a strong Italo-Anglo provenance with a North African twist. With typical English cakes and puddings being firm favourites, Italian ice cream and cannoli, as well a Sicilian cassatella vie for attention with the humbler but tasty fried date cakes and almond paste.
Malta’s food culture has grown and embraced global trends too, boasting dozens of new and quirky restaurants serving world cuisine - from sushi to fusion dishes and gourmet burger bars. You can dine in style or in comfort, but always with satisfaction.