Republic of Malta
Repubblika ta' Malta
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: L-Innu Malti  
The Maltese Anthem
Location of  Malta  (dark green)– on the European continent  (green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (green)  —  [Legend]
Location of  Malta  (dark green)

– on the European continent  (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (green)  —  [Legend]

Capital Valletta
Largest city Birkirkara 35° 53′ 48″ N, 14° 27′ 45″ E
Official languages Maltese, English
Ethnic groups (2007) Maltese 95.3%, British 1.6%, other 3.1%
Religion Roman Catholicism
Demonym Maltese
Government Parliamentary Republic
 -  President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca
 -  Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Independence
 -  from the United Kingdom 21 September 1964 
 -  Republic 13 December 1974 
Area
 -  Total 316 km2 (200th)
121 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 0.001
Population
 -  2010 estimate 417,608 Increase (171st)
 -  2007 census 410,5671
 -  Density 1,306.8/km2 (7th)
3,413.9/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $10.405 billion
 -  Per capita $24,792
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $8.288 billion
 -  Per capita $19,746
HDI (2011) Increase 0.832
very high · 36th
Currency Euro ()2 (EUR)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 -  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Drives on the left
Calling code 356
Internet TLD .mt 3
1 Total population includes foreign residents. Maltese residents population estimate at end 2004 was 389,769. All official population data provided by the NSO.
2Before 2008: Maltese lira
3 Also .eu, shared with other European Union member states.

Malta is an island country in Europe. It is near the center of the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily. The capital of Malta is Valletta. About 400,000 people live in Malta. Malta is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Because of this, it has many cities and towns, that grew close to each other over time.

Language

Maltese is the national language of Malta, with Maltese and English serving as official languages in line with the constitution of the country. A majority of the people of Malta can speak three languages; Maltese, English and Italian.

Money

Malta had its own currency, called the Maltese Lira until 2008. The Maltese Lira was better known as the Maltese Pound because of the strong links to the United Kingdom. One Maltese Lira consisted of 100 cents. In 2008 Malta joined the Euro countries in adopting the Euro as the National Currency.

Climate

Blue Lagoon and Cominotto
Blue Lagoon Bay between Comino and Cominotto island

Malta has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa), with mild winters and hot summers, hotter in the inland areas. Rain occurs mainly in autumn and winter, with summer being generally dry.

The average yearly temperature is around 23 °C (73 °F) during the day and 15.5 °C (59.9 °F) at night. In the coldest month – January – the typical maximum temperature ranges from 12 to 18 °C (54 to 64 °F) during the day and minimum 6 to 12 °C (43 to 54 °F) at night. In the warmest month – August – the typical maximum temperature ranges from 28 to 34 °C (82 to 93 °F) during the day and minimum 20 to 24 °C (68 to 75 °F) at night. Amongst all capitals in the continent of Europe, Valletta – the capital of Malta has the warmest winters, with average temperatures of around 15 to 16 °C (59 to 61 °F) during the day and 9 to 10 °C (48 to 50 °F) at night in the period January–February. In March and December average temperatures are around 17 °C (63 °F) during the day and 11 °C (52 °F) at night. Large fluctuations in temperature are rare. Snow is very rare on the island, although various snowfalls have been recorded in the last century, the last one reported in various locations across Malta in 2014.

The average annual sea temperature is 20 °C (68 °F), from 15–16 °C (59–61 °F) in February to 26 °C (79 °F) in August. In the 6 months – from June to November – the average sea temperature exceeds 20 °C (68 °F).

The annual average relative humidity is high, averaging 75%, ranging from 65% in July (morning: 78% evening: 53%) to 80% in December (morning: 83% evening: 73%).

Sunshine duration hours total around 3,000 per year, from an average 5.2 hours of sunshine duration per day in December to an average above 12 hours in July. This is about double that of cities in the northern half of Europe, for comparison: London – 1,461; however, in winter it has up to four times more sunshine; for comparison: in December, London has 37 hours of sunshine whereas Malta has above 160.

Tourism

Mellieha Bay beach Malta 1
Mellieħa Bay beach

Malta is a popular tourist destination, with 1.6 million tourists per year. Three times more tourists visit than there are residents. Tourism infrastructure has increased dramatically over the years and a number of hotels are present on the island, although overdevelopment and the destruction of traditional housing is of growing concern. An increasing number of Maltese now travel abroad on holiday.

History

People have lived in Malta since at least 5200 BC. The island has some key archaeological locations dating from early times.

Malta became well known as the base of the Knights of St John. They moved to Malta after being forced to leave Palestine and then Rhodes, in Greece. The knights and the Maltese people survived a great attack by the Turks. The history of the knights at Malta continued the strong Roman Catholic beliefs in the country that were started by the Norman and Spanish rulers.

In 1798, Napoleon took control of Malta. The French rule was not popular and in 1800 Maltese rebels invited the English Royal Navy to come to the island. This led to 200 years as a British colony and independent Commonwealth member.

During the Second World War, Malta was again attacked this time by the Axis forces. The entire island was symbolically given the George Cross for heroism.

Malta became independent in 1964 and a republic in 1974. In 2004 Malta joined the European Union and in 2008 Malta joined the Euro.

Culture

The culture of Malta reflects the various cultures, from the Phoenicians to the British, that have come into contact with the Maltese Islands throughout the centuries, including neighbouring Mediterranean cultures, and the cultures of the nations that ruled Malta for long periods of time prior to its independence in 1964.

Music

Manoel theatre (12851453033)
Manoel Theatre, Europe's third-oldest working theatre. Now Malta's National Theatre and home to the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.

While Maltese music today is largely Western, traditional Maltese music includes what is known as għana. This consists of background folk guitar music, while a few people, generally men, take it in turns to argue a point in a sing-song voice. The aim of the lyrics, which are improvised, is to create a friendly yet challenging atmosphere, and it takes a number of years of practice to be able to combine the required artistic qualities with the ability to debate effectively.

Literature

Documented Maltese literature is over 200 years old. However, a recently unearthed love ballad testifies to literary activity in the local tongue from the Medieval period. Malta followed a Romantic literary tradition, culminating in the works of Dun Karm Psaila, Malta's National Poet. Subsequent writers like Ruzar Briffa and Karmenu Vassallo tried to estrange themselves from the rigidity of formal themes and versification.

The next generation of writers, including Karl Schembri and Immanuel Mifsud, widened the tracks further, especially in prose and poetry.

San Giulian, Marina
Typical architecture built in recent years in Malta

Art and architecture

Vallettaupperbarraccagardens
Lower Barrakka Gardens

Maltese architecture has been influenced by many different Mediterranean cultures and British architecture over its history. The first settlers on the island constructed Ġgantija, one of the oldest manmade freestanding structures in the world. The Neolithic temple builders 3800–2500 BC endowed the numerous temples of Malta and Gozo with intricate bas relief designs, including spirals evocative of the tree of life and animal portraits, designs painted in red ochre, ceramics and a vast collection of human form sculptures, particularly the Venus of Malta. These can be viewed at the temples themselves (most notably, the Hypogeum and Tarxien Temples), and at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. Malta's temples such as Imnajdra are full of history and have a story behind them. Malta is currently undergoing several large-scale building projects, including the construction of SmartCity Malta, the M-Towers and Pendergardens, while areas such as the Valletta Waterfront and Tigné Point have been or are being renovated.

The Roman period introduced highly decorative mosaic floors, marble colonnades and classical statuary, remnants of which are beautifully preserved and presented in the Roman Domus, a country villa just outside the walls of Mdina. The early Christian frescoes that decorate the catacombs beneath Malta reveal a propensity for eastern, Byzantine tastes. These tastes continued to inform the endeavours of medieval Maltese artists, but they were increasingly influenced by the Romanesque and Southern Gothic movements. Towards the end of the 15th century, Maltese artists, like their counterparts in neighbouring Sicily, came under the influence of the School of Antonello da Messina, which introduced Renaissance ideals and concepts to the decorative arts in Malta.

CaravaggioJeromeValletta
Saint Jerome Writing, by Caravaggio. Held in St John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta.

The artistic heritage of Malta blossomed under the Knights of St. John, who brought Italian and Flemish Mannerist painters to decorate their palaces and the churches of these islands, most notably, Matteo Perez d'Aleccio, whose works appear in the Magisterial Palace and in the Conventual Church of St. John in Valletta, and Filippo Paladini, who was active in Malta from 1590 to 1595. For many years, Mannerism continued to inform the tastes and ideals of local Maltese artists.

The arrival in Malta of Caravaggio, who painted at least seven works during his 15-month stay on these islands, further revolutionised local art. Two of Caravaggio's most notable works, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist and Saint Jerome Writing, are on display in the Oratory of the Conventual Church of St. John. His legacy is evident in the works of local artists Giulio Cassarino (1582–1637) and Stefano Erardi (1630–1716). However, the Baroque movement that followed was destined to have the most enduring impact on Maltese art and architecture. The glorious vault paintings of the celebrated Calabrese artist, Mattia Preti transformed the severe, Mannerist interior of the Conventual Church St. John into a Baroque masterpiece. Preti spent the last 40 years of his life in Malta, where he created many of his finest works, now on display in the Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta. During this period, local sculptor Melchior Gafà (1639–1667) emerged as one of the top Baroque sculptors of the Roman School.

Siege of malta 3
The Siege of Malta – Flight of the Turks, by Matteo Perez d'Aleccio

During the 17th and 18th century, Neapolitan and Rococo influences emerged in the works of the Italian painters Luca Giordano (1632–1705) and Francesco Solimena (1657–1747), and these developments can be seen in the work of their Maltese contemporaries such as Giovanni Nicola Buhagiar (1698–1752) and Francesco Zahra (1710–1773). The Rococo movement was greatly enhanced by the relocation to Malta of Antoine de Favray (1706–1798), who assumed the position of court painter to Grand Master Pinto in 1744.

Neo-classicism made some inroads among local Maltese artists in the late-18th century, but this trend was reversed in the early 19th century, as the local Church authorities – perhaps in an effort to strengthen Catholic resolve against the perceived threat of Protestantism during the early days of British rule in Malta – favoured and avidly promoted the religious themes embraced by the Nazarene movement of artists. Romanticism, tempered by the naturalism introduced to Malta by Giuseppe Calì, informed the "salon" artists of the early 20th century, including Edward and Robert Caruana Dingli.

Parliament established the National School of Art in the 1920s. During the reconstruction period that followed the Second World War, the emergence of the "Modern Art Group", whose members included Josef Kalleya (1898–1998), George Preca (1909–1984), Anton Inglott (1915–1945), Envin Cremona (1919–1987), Frank Portelli (b. 1922-2004), Antoine Camilleri (b. 1922-2005) and Esprit Barthet (b. 1919-1999) greatly enhanced the local art scene. This group of forward-looking artists came together forming an influential pressure group known as the Modern Art Group. Together they forced the Maltese public to take seriously modern aesthetics and succeeded in playing a leading role in the renewal of Maltese art. Most of Malta's modern artists have in fact studied in Art institutions in England, or on the continent, leading to the explosive development of a wide spectrum of views and to a diversity of artistic expression that has remained characteristic of contemporary Maltese art. In Valletta, the National Museum of Fine Arts features work from artists such as H. Craig Hanna.

Cuisine

Malta Pastizzi
Pastizzi, a typical Maltese snack
Malta ftira
Ftira, a type of Maltese bread

Maltese cuisine shows strong Sicilian and English influences as well as influences of Spanish, Maghrebin and Provençal cuisines. A number of regional variations, particularly with regards to Gozo, can be noted as well as seasonal variations associated with the seasonal availability of produce and Christian feasts (such as Lent, Easter and Christmas). Food has been important historically in the development of a national identity in particular the traditional fenkata (i.e., the eating of stewed or fried rabbit).

Customs

A 2010 Charities Aid Foundation study found that the Maltese were the most generous people in the world, with 83% contributing to charity.

Maltese folktales include various stories about mysterious creatures and supernatural events. These were most comprehensively compiled by the scholar (and pioneer in Maltese archaeology) Manwel Magri in his core criticism "Ħrejjef Missirijietna" ("Fables from our Forefathers"). This collection of material inspired subsequent researchers and academics to gather traditional tales, fables and legends from all over the Archipelago.

Magri's work also inspired a series of comic books (released by Klabb Kotba Maltin in 1984): the titles included Bin is-Sultan Jiźźewweġ x-Xebba tat-Tronġiet Mewwija and Ir-Rjieħ. Many of these stories have been popularly re-written as Children's literature by authors writing in Maltese, such as Trevor Żahra. While giants, witches and dragons feature in many of the stories, some contain entirely Maltese creatures like the Kaw kaw, Il-Belliegħa and L-Imħalla among others. The traditional Maltese obsession with maintaining spiritual (or ritual) purity means that many of these creatures have the role of guarding forbidden or restricted areas and attacking individuals who broke the strict codes of conduct that characterised the island's pre-industrial society.

Traditions

On a child's first birthday, in a tradition that still survives today, Maltese parents would organise a game known as il-quċċija, where a variety of symbolic objects would be randomly placed around the seated child. These may include a hard-boiled egg, a Bible, crucifix or rosary beads, a book, and so on. Whichever object the child shows most interest in is said to reveal the child's path and fortunes in adulthood.

Money refers to a rich future while a book expresses intelligence and a possible career as a teacher. Infants who select a pencil or pen will be writers. Choosing Bibles or rosary beads refers to a clerical or monastic life. If the child chooses a hard-boiled egg, it will have a long life and many children. More recent additions include calculators (refers to accounting), thread (fashion) and wooden spoons (cooking and a great appetite).

Maltesewedding
Re-enactment of a traditional Maltese 18th century wedding

Traditional Maltese weddings featured the bridal party walking in procession beneath an ornate canopy, from the home of the bride's family to the parish church, with singers trailing behind serenading the bride and groom. The Maltese word for this custom is il-ġilwa. This custom along with many others has long since disappeared from the islands, in the face of modern practices.

New wives would wear the għonnella, a traditional item of Maltese clothing. However, it is no longer worn in modern Malta. Today's couples are married in churches or chapels in the village or town of their choice. The nuptials are usually followed by a lavish and joyous wedding reception, often including several hundred guests. Occasionally, couples will try to incorporate elements of the traditional Maltese wedding in their celebration. A resurgent interest in the traditional wedding was evident in May 2007, when thousands of Maltese and tourists attended a traditional Maltese wedding in the style of the 16th century, in the village of Żurrieq. This included il-ġilwa, which led the bride and groom to a wedding ceremony that took place on the parvis of St. Andrew's Chapel. The reception that followed featured folklore music (għana) and dancing.

Images


Malta Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.