Friday, 1 June 2018

MALTA: Happy Tourist Destination, Crime Rate Is Low, Beware Of Alcohol And Drug Fueled Violence.

Malta is a small, island country in the Mediterranean Sea that lies south of the island of Sicily, Italy.

Malta is an archipelago, but only the three largest islands of Malta, Gozo (Għawdex) and Kemmuna (Comino) are inhabited.

The terrain is mostly low with the highest point, Ta' Dmejrek (near Dingli), being only 253m above sea level.

Ta' Dmejrek is rocky, flat to dissected plains, with a coastline that has many coastal cliffs and numerous bays that provide good harbours.

Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea.

It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya.

At over 316 km2 (122 sq mi), and with a population of just under 450,000, Malta is one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries.

Valletta is Malta's capital city, which at 0.8 km2, is the smallest national capital in the European Union by area; its largest city and chief economic center is Birkirkara.

Malta has two official languages, Maltese and English, with the former also recognized as the national language. Maltese is the only Semitic language to be officially recognized in the European Union.

Malta has been inhabited since around 5900 BC. Its location in the centre of the Mediterranean has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers.

This, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, Turkish, French, and British having contested and ruled the islands.

Most of these foreign influences have left some sort of mark on the country's ancient culture.

Malta became a British colony in 1815, serving as a critical way station for ships and the headquarters for the British Mediterranean Fleet.

It played an important role in the Allied war effort during the Second World War, and was subsequently awarded the George Cross for its bravery in the face of an Axis siege.

The George Cross continues to appear on Malta's national flag. Following intense negotiations, the British Parliament passed the Malta Independence Act in 1964, giving Malta independence from the United Kingdom as the State of Malta, with Elizabeth II as its head of state and queen.

The country became a republic in 1974. It has been a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations since independence, and joined the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the Eurozone.

Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Archdiocese is claimed to be an apostolic see because, according to Acts of the Apostles, St Paul was shipwrecked on Melita, now widely taken to be Malta.

Catholicism is the official religion in Malta. Article 40 of the Constitution states that - All persons in Malta shall have full freedom of conscience and enjoy the free exercise of their respective mode of religious worship.

Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments.

These include three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta, and seven megalithic temples, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.

Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean in its eastern basin, some 80 km (50 mi) south of the Italian island of Sicily across the Malta Channel.

Only the three largest islands – Malta (Malta), Gozo (Għawdex) and Comino (Kemmuna) – are inhabited. The smaller islands are uninhabited.

The islands of the archipelago lie on the Malta plateau, a shallow shelf formed from the high points of a land bridge between Sicily and North Africa that became isolated as sea levels rose after the last Ice Age.

The archipelago is therefore situated in the zone between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates. Malta was considered an island of North Africa for centuries.

Numerous bays along the indented coastline of the islands provide good harbours. The landscape consists of low hills with terraced fields.

The highest point in Malta is Ta' Dmejrek, at 253 m (830 ft), near Dingli. Although there are some small rivers at times of high rainfall, there are no permanent rivers or lakes on Malta.

However, some watercourses have fresh water running all year round at Bahrija near Ras ir-Raheb, at l-Imtahleb and San Martin, and at Lunzjata Valley in Gozo.

Phytogeographically, Malta belongs to the Liguro-Tyrrhenian province of the Mediterranean Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Malta belongs to the ecoregion of Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands and Scrub.

The minor islands that form part of the archipelago are uninhabited and include:

- Barbaganni Rock, Gozo

- Cominotto,Kemmunett.

- Dellimara Island, Marsaxlokk.

- Filfla, Zurrieq or Siggiewi.

- Fessej Rock

- Fungus Rock, Il-Gebla tal-General, Gozo.

- Ghallis Rock, Naxxar.

- Halfa Rock, Gozo.

- Large Blue Lagoon Rocks, Comino.

- Islands of St. Paul/Selmunett Island, Mellieħa.

- Manoel Island, which connects to the town of Gzira, on the mainland, via a bridge.

- Mistra Rocks, San Pawl il-Bahar.

- Tac-Cawl Rock, Gozo.

- Qawra Point/Ta' Fraben Island, San Pawl il-Bahar.

- Small Blue Lagoon Rocks, Comino.

- Sala Rock, Zabbar.

- Xrobb l-Ghagin Rock, Marsaxlokk.

- Ta' taht il-Mazz Rock

According to Eurostat, Malta is composed of two larger urban zones nominally referred to as Valletta the main island of Malta and Gozo.

According to Demographia, state is identified as an urban area. According to European Spatial Planning Observation Network, Malta is identified as functional urban area (FUA).

According to United Nations, about 95 per cent of the area of Malta is urban and the number grows every year.

Also, according to the results of ESPON and EU Commission studies, the whole territory of Malta constitutes a single urban region.

In the media and official publications Malta is referred to as a city-state. Also, the Maltese coat-of-arms bears a mural crown described as representing the fortifications of Malta and denoting a City State.

Malta, with area of 316 km2 (122 sq mi) and population of 0.4 million, is one of the most densely populated countries worldwide.

Malta is classified as an advanced economy together with 32 other countries according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Until 1800 Malta depended on cotton, tobacco and its shipyards for exports.

Once under British control, they came to depend on Malta Dockyard for support of the Royal Navy, especially during the Crimean War of 1854. The military base benefited craftsmen and all those who served the military.

In 1869, the opening of the Suez Canal gave Malta's economy a great boost, as there was a massive increase in the shipping which entered the port.

Ships stopping at Malta's docks for refuelling helped the Entrepot trade, which brought additional benefits to the island.

Currently, Malta's major resources are limestone, a favourable geographic location and a productive labour force.

Malta produces only about 20 per cent of its food needs, has limited freshwater supplies because of the drought in the summer and has no domestic energy sources, aside from the potential for solar energy from its plentiful sunlight.

The economy is dependent on foreign trade, serving as a freight trans-shipment point, manufacturing especially electronics and textiles and tourism.

Film production is a growing contributor to the Maltese economy. The first film was shot in Malta in 1925 - Sons of the Sea.

Over 100 feature films have been entirely or partially filmed in the country since then. Malta has served as a double for a wide variety of locations and historic periods including Ancient Greece, Ancient and Modern Rome, Iraq, the Middle East and many more.

The Maltese government introduced financial incentives for filmmakers in 2005.

The current financial incentives to foreign productions as of 2015 stand at 25 per cent with an additional 2 per cent if Malta stands in as Malta; meaning a production can get up to 27 per cent back on their eligible spending incurred in Malta.

In preparation for Malta's membership in the European Union, which it joined on 1 May 2004, it privatised some state-controlled firms and liberalised markets.

For example, the government announced on 8 January 2007 that it was selling its 40 per cent stake in MaltaPost, to complete a privatisation process which has been ongoing for the past five years.

In 2010, Malta managed to privatise telecommunications, postal services, shipyards and shipbuilding.

Malta has a financial regulator, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), with a strong business development mindset.

The country has been successful in attracting gaming businesses, aircraft and ship registration, credit-card issuing banking licences and also fund administration.

Service providers to these industries, including fiduciary and trustee business, are a core part of the growth strategy of the island. Malta has made strong headway in implementing EU Financial Services Directives including UCITs IV and soon AIFMD.

As a base for alternative asset managers who must comply with new directives, Malta has attracted a number of key players including IDS, Iconic Funds, Apex Fund Services and TMF/Customs House.

Malta and Tunisia are currently discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for petroleum exploration. These discussions are also undergoing between Malta and Libya for similar arrangements.

Malta does not have a property tax. Its property market, especially around the harbour area, has been in constant boom, with the prices of apartments in some towns like St Julian's, Sliema and Gzira skyrocketing.

According to Eurostat data, Maltese GDP per capita stood at 88 per cent of the EU average in 2015 with €21,000.

The two largest commercial banks are Bank of Valletta and HSBC Bank Malta, both of which can trace their origins back to the 19th century.

The Central Bank of Malta or Bank Centrali ta' Malta has two key areas of responsibility: the formulation and implementation of monetary policy and the promotion of a sound and efficient financial system.

It was established by the Central Bank of Malta Act on 17 April 1968. The Maltese government entered ERM II on 4 May 2005, and adopted the euro as the country's currency on 1 January 2008.

FinanceMalta is the quasi-governmental organisation tasked with marketing and educating business leaders in coming to Malta and runs seminars and events around the world highlighting the emerging strength of Malta as a jurisdiction for banking and finance and insurance.

Traffic in Malta drives on the left. Car ownership in Malta is exceedingly high, considering the very small size of the islands; it is the fourth-highest in the European Union.

The number of registered cars in 1990 amounted to 182,254, giving an automobile density of 577/km2 (1,494/sq mi).

Malta has 2,254 kilometres (1,401 miles) of road, 1,972 km (1,225 mi) (87.5 per cent) of which are paved and 282 km (175 mi) were unpaved.

The main roads of Malta from the southernmost point to the northernmost point are these: Triq Birzebbuga in Birzebbuga, Ghar Dalam Road and Tal-Barrani Road in Zejtun, Santa Lucija Avenue in Paola, Aldo Moro Street (Trunk Road).

13 December Street and Ħamrun-Marsa Bypass in Marsa, Regional Road in Santa Venera/Msida/Gzira/San Gwann, St Andrew's Road in Swieqi/Pembroke, Malta, Coast Road in Bahar ic-Caghaq, Salina Road, Kennedy Drive, St. Paul's Bypass.

Xemxija Hill in San Pawl il-Bahar, Mistra Hill, Wettinger Street (Mellieha Bypass) and Marfa Road in Mellieha.

Buses - xarabank or karozza tal-linja are the primary method of public transport. Established in 1905, they operated in the Maltese islands up to 2011 and became popular tourist attractions in their own right.

To this day they are depicted on many Maltese advertisements to promote tourism as well as on gifts and merchandise for tourists.

The bus service underwent an extensive reform in July 2011.

The management structure changed from having self-employed drivers driving their own vehicles to a service being offered by a single company through a public tender in Gozo, being considered as a small network, the service was given through direct order.

The public tender was won by Arriva Malta, a member of the Arriva group, which introduced a fleet of brand new buses, built by King Long especially for service by Arriva Malta and including a smaller fleet of articulated buses brought in from Arriva London.

It also operated two smaller buses for an intra-Valletta route only and 61 nine-metre buses, which were used to ease congestion on high density routes. Overall Arriva Malta operated 264 buses.

On 1 January 2014 Arriva ceased operations in Malta due to financial difficulties, having been nationalised as Malta Public Transport by the Maltese government, with a new bus operator planned to take over their operations in the near future.

The government chose Autobuses Urbanos de Leon as its preferred bus operator for the country in October 2014.The company took over the bus service on 8 January 2015, while retaining the name Malta Public Transport.

It introduced the pre-pay tallinja card. With lower fares than the walk-on rate, it can be topped up online. The card was initially not well received, as reported by several local news sites.

During the first week of August 2015, another 40 buses of the Turkish make Otokar arrived and were put into service.

From 1883 to 1931 Malta had a railway line that connected Valletta to the army barracks at Mtarfa via Mdina and a number of towns and villages. The railway fell into disuse and eventually closed altogether, following the introduction of electric trams and buses.

At the height of the bombing of Malta during the Second World War, Mussolini announced that his forces had destroyed the railway system, but by the time war broke out, the railway had been mothballed for more than nine years.

Malta has three large natural harbours on its main island:

The Grand Harbour or Port il-Kbir, located at the eastern side of the capital city of Valletta, has been a harbour since Roman times. It has several extensive docks and wharves, as well as a cruise liner terminal.

A terminal at the Grand Harbour serves ferries that connect Malta to Pozzallo & Catania in Sicily.

Marsamxett Harbour, located on the western side of Valletta, accommodates a number of yacht marinas.

Marsaxlokk Harbour or Malta Freeport, at Birzebbuga on the south-eastern side of Malta, is the islands' main cargo terminal.

Malta Freeport is the 11th busiest container ports in continent of Europe and 46th in the World with a trade volume of 2.3 million TEU's in 2008.

There are also two-man-made harbours that serve a passenger and car ferry service that connects Cirkewwa Harbour on Malta and Mgarr Harbour on Gozo. The ferry makes numerous runs each day.

Malta International Airport or Ajruport Internazzjonali ta' Malta is the only airport serving the Maltese islands. It is built on the land formerly occupied by the RAF Luqa air base.

A heliport is also located there, but the scheduled service to Gozo ceased in 2006. The heliport in Gozo is at Xewkija.

Since June 2007, Harbour Air Malta has operated a thrice-daily floatplane service between the sea terminal in Grand Harbour and Mgarr Harbour in Gozo.

Two further airfields at Ta' Qali and Ħal Far operated during the Second World War and into the 1960s but are now closed. Today, Ta' Qali houses a national park, stadium, the Crafts Village visitor attraction and the Malta Aviation Museum.

This museum preserves several aircraft, including Hurricane and Spitfire fighters that defended the island in the Second World War.

The national airline is Air Malta, which is based at Malta International Airport and operates services to 36 destinations in Europe and North Africa.

The owners of Air Malta are the Government of Malta (98 per cent) and private investors (2 percent). Air Malta employs 1,547 staff. It has a 25 per cent shareholding in Medavia.

Air Malta has concluded over 191 interline ticketing agreements with other IATA airlines. It also has a codeshare agreement with Qantas covering three routes.

In September 2007, Air Malta made two agreements with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways by which Air Malta wet-leased two Airbus aircraft to Etihad Airways for the winter period starting 1 September 2007, and provided operational support on another Airbus A320 aircraft which it leased to Etihad Airways.

Maltese euro coins feature the Maltese cross on €2 and €1 coins, the coat of arms of Malta on the €0.50, €0.20 and €0.10 coins, and the Mnajdra Temples on the €0.05, €0.02 and €0.01 coins.

Malta has produced collectors' coins with face value ranging from 10 to 50 euro. These coins continue an existing national practice of minting of silver and gold commemorative coins.

Unlike normal issues, these coins are not legal tender in all the eurozone. For instance, a €10 Maltese commemorative coin cannot be used in any other country.

From 1972 until introduction of the Euro in 2008, the currency was the Maltese lira, which had replaced the Maltese pound. The pound replaced the Maltese scudo in 1825.

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.

In recent years, Malta has advertised itself as a medical tourism destination, and a number of health tourism providers are developing the industry.

However, no Maltese hospital has undergone independent international healthcare accreditation. Malta is popular with British medical tourists, pointing Maltese hospitals towards seeking UK-sourced accreditation, such as with the Trent Accreditation Scheme.

In 2018, popular video grapher Nas Daily started a tourism campaign - Oh My Malta - to draw more tourists to the island.

Malta conducts a census of population and housing every ten years. The census held in November 2005 counted an estimated 96 per cent of the population.

A preliminary report was issued in April 2006 and the results were weighted to estimate for 100 per cent of the population.

Native Maltese people make up the majority of the island. However, there are minorities, the largest of which are Britons, many of whom are retirees. The population of Malta as of July 2011 was estimated at 408,000.

As of 2005, 17 per cent were aged 14 and under, 68 per cent were within the 15–64 age bracket whilst the remaining 13 per cent were 65 years and over.

Malta's population density of 1,282 per square km (3,322/sq mi) is by far the highest in the EU and one of the highest in the world. By comparison, the average population density for the World - land only, excluding Antarctica was 54 pop./km² as of July 2014.

The only census year showing a fall in population was that of 1967, with a 1.7 per cent total decrease, attributable to a substantial number of Maltese residents who emigrated.

The Maltese-resident population for 2004 was estimated to make up 97.0 per cent of the total resident population.

All censuses since 1842 have shown a slight excess of females over males. The 1901 and 1911 censuses came closest to recording a balance. The highest female-to-male ratio was reached in 1957 (1088:1000) but since then the ratio has dropped continuously.

The 2005 census showed a 1013:1000 female-to-male ratio. Population growth has slowed down, from +9.5 per cent between the 1985 and 1995 censuses, to +6.9 per cent between the 1995 and 2005 censuses (a yearly average of +0.7 per cent).

The birth rate stood at 3860 a decrease of 21.8 per cent from the 1995 census and the death rate stood at 3025. Thus, there was a natural population increase of 835 compared to +888 for 2004, of which over a hundred were foreign residents.

The population's age composition is similar to the age structure prevalent in the EU. Since 1967 there was observed a trend indicating an ageing population, and is expected to continue in the foreseeable future.

Malta's old-age-dependency-ratio rose from 17.2 per cent in 1995 to 19.8 per cent in 2005, reasonably lower than the EU's 24.9 per cent average; 31.5 per cent of the Maltese population is aged under 25 compared to the EU's 29.1 per cent.

But the 50–64 age group constitutes 20.3 per cent of the population, significantly higher than the EU's 17.9 per cent. Malta's old-age-dependency-ratio is expected to continue rising steadily in the coming years.

Maltese legislation recognises both civil and canonical or ecclesiastical marriages. Annulments by the ecclesiastical and civil courts are unrelated and are not necessarily mutually endorsed.

Malta voted in favour of divorce legislation in a referendum held on 28 May 2011. Abortion in Malta is illegal. A person must be 16 to marry.

The number of brides aged under 25 decreased from 1471 in 1997 to 766 in 2005; while the number of grooms under 25 decreased from 823 to 311. There is a constant trend that females are more likely than males to marry young.

In 2005 there were 51 brides aged between 16 and 19, compared to 8 grooms.

At the end of 2007 the population of the Maltese Islands stood at 410,290 and is expected to reach 424,028 by 2025. At the moment, females slightly outnumber males, making up 50.3 per cent of the population.

The largest proportion of persons – 7.5 per cent – were aged 25–29, while there were 7.3 per cent falling into each of the 45–49 and 55–59 age brackets.

The total fertility rate (TFR) as of 2013 was estimated at 1.53 children born/woman, which is below the replacement rate of 2.1.

In 2012, 25.8 per cent of births were to unmarried women. The life expectancy in 2013 was estimated at 79.98 years - 77.69 years male, 82.41 years female.

The Maltese language or Malti is the constitutional national language of Malta, having become official, however, only in 1934.

Previously, Sicilian was the official and cultural language of Malta from the 12th century, and Tuscan dialect of Italian from the 16th century.

Alongside Maltese, English is also an official language of the country and hence the laws of the land are enacted both in Maltese and English.

However, article 74 of the Constitution states that, if there is any conflict between the Maltese and the English texts of any law, the Maltese text shall prevail.

Maltese is a Semitic language descended from the now defunct Sicilian-Arabic or Siculo-Arabic dialect from southern Italy that developed during the Emirate of Sicily.

The Maltese alphabet consists of 30 letters based on the Latin alphabet, including the diacritically altered letters ż, ċ and ġ, as well as the letters għ, ħ, and ie.

Maltese has a Semitic base with substantial borrowing from Sicilian, Italian, a little French, and more recently and increasingly, English.

The hybrid character of Maltese was established by a long period of Maltese-Sicilian urban bilingualism gradually transforming rural speech and which ended in the early 19th century with Maltese emerging as the vernacular of the entire native population.

The language includes different dialects that can vary greatly from one town to another or from one island to another.

The Eurobarometer states that 100 per cent of the population speak Maltese. Also, 88 per cent of the population speak English, 66 per cent speak Italian, and 17 per cent speak French.

This widespread knowledge of second languages makes Malta one of the most multilingual countries in the European Union.

A study collecting public opinion on what language was preferred discovered that 86 per cent of the population express a preference for Maltese, 12 per cent for English, and 2 per cent for Italian.

Still, Italian television channels from Italy-based broadcasters, such as Mediaset and RAI, reach Malta and remain popular.

Cities in Malta

- Birkirkara

- Saint Paul's Bay

- Mosta

- Sliema

- Qormi

- Zabbar

- Naxxar

- San Gwann

- Marsaskala

- Zebbug

The predominant religion in Malta is Roman Catholicism. The second article of the Constitution of Malta establishes Catholicism as the state religion and it is also reflected in various elements of Maltese culture, although entrenched provisions for the freedom of religion are made.

There are more than 360 churches in Malta, Gozo and Comino, or one church for every 1,000 residents. The parish church is the architectural and geographic focal point of every Maltese town and village, and its main source of civic pride.

This civic pride manifests itself in spectacular fashion during the local village festas, which mark the day of the patron saint of each parish with marching bands, religious processions, special Masses, fireworks especially petards and other festivities.

Malta is an Apostolic See; the Acts of the Apostles tells of how St. Paul, on his way from Jerusalem to Rome to face trial, was shipwrecked on the island of Melite, which many Bible scholars identify with Malta, an episode dated around AD 60.

As recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul spent three months on the island on his way to Rome, curing the sick including the father of Publius, the chief man of the island.

Various traditions are associated with this account. The shipwreck is said to have occurred in the place today known as St Paul's Bay.

The Maltese saint, Saint Publius is said to have been made Malta's first bishop and a grotto in Rabat, now known as St Paul's Grotto and in the vicinity of which evidence of Christian burials and rituals from the 3rd century AD has been found, is among the earliest known places of Christian worship on the island.

Further evidence of Christian practices and beliefs during the period of Roman persecution appears in catacombs that lie beneath various sites around Malta, including St Paul's Catacombs and St Agatha's Catacombs in Rabat, just outside the walls of Mdina.

The latter, in particular, were beautifully frescoed between 1200 and 1480, although marauding Turks defaced many of them in the 1550s.

There are also a number of cave churches, including the grotto at Mellieħa, which is a Shrine of the Nativity of Our Lady where, according to legend, St. Luke painted a picture of the Madonna. It has been a place of pilgrimage since medieval times.

The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon record that in 451 AD a certain Acacius was Bishop of Malta - Melitenus Episcopus. It is also known that in 501 AD, a certain Constantinus, Episcopus Melitenensis, was present at the Fifth Ecumenical Council.

In 588 AD, Pope Gregory I deposed Tucillus, Miletinae civitatis episcopus and the clergy and people of Malta elected his successor Trajan in 599 AD. The last recorded Bishop of Malta before the invasion of the islands was a Greek named Manas, who was subsequently incarcerated at Palermo.

Maltese historian Giovanni Francesco Abela states that following their conversion to Christianity at the hand of St. Paul, the Maltese retained their Christian religion, despite the Fatimid invasion.

Abela's writings describe Malta as a divinely ordained bulwark of Christian, European civilization against the spread of Mediterranean Islam.

The native Christian community that welcomed Roger I of Sicily was further bolstered by immigration to Malta from Italy, in the 12th and 13th centuries.

For centuries, the Church in Malta was subordinate to the Diocese of Palermo, except when it was under Charles of Anjou, who appointed bishops for Malta, as did – on rare occasions – the Spanish and later, the Knights.

Since 1808 all bishops of Malta have been Maltese. As a result of the Norman and Spanish periods, and the rule of the Knights, Malta became the devout Catholic nation that it is today.

It is worth noting that the Office of the Inquisitor of Malta had a very long tenure on the island following its establishment in 1530: the last Inquisitor departed from the Islands in 1798, after the Knights capitulated to the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte.

During the period of the Republic of Venice, several Maltese families emigrated to Corfu. Their descendants account for about two-thirds of the community of some 4,000 Catholics that now live on that island.

The patron saints of Malta are Saint Paul, Saint Publius and Saint Agatha. Although not a patron saint, St George Preca or San Gorg Preca is greatly revered as the second canonised Maltese saint after St. Publius Malta's first acknowledged saint canonised in the year 1634.

Pope Benedict XVI canonised him on 3 June 2007. Also, a number of Maltese individuals are recognised as Blessed, including Maria Adeodata Pisani and Nazju Falzon, with Pope John Paul II having beatified them in 2001.

Various Roman Catholic religious orders are present in Malta, including the Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans and Little Sisters of the Poor.

Most congregants of the local Protestant churches are not Maltese; their congregations draw on the many British retirees living in the country and vacationers from many other nations. There are approximately 600 Jehovah's Witnesses.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Bible Baptist Church, and the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches each have about 60 affiliates.

There are also some churches of other denominations, including St. Andrew's Scots Church in Valletta - a joint Presbyterian and Methodist congregation and St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, and a Seventh-day Adventist church in Birkirkara.

A New Apostolic Church congregation was founded in 1983 in Gwardamangia.

The Jewish population of Malta reached its peak in the Middle Ages under Norman rule. In 1479, Malta and Sicily came under Aragonese rule and the Alhambra Decree of 1492 forced all Jews to leave the country, permitting them to take with them only a few of their belongings.
Several dozen Maltese Jews may have converted to Christianity at the time to remain in the country. Today, there is one Jewish congregation.

There is one Muslim mosque, the Mariam Al-Batool Mosque. A Muslim primary school recently opened. Of the estimated 3,000 Muslims in Malta, approximately 2,250 are foreigners, approximately 600 are naturalised citizens, and approximately 150 are native-born Maltese. Zen Buddhism and the Baha'i Faith claim some 40 members.

In a survey held by the Malta Today, it was found that approximately 4.5 per cent of the population of Malta gives no preference to any religious belief.

The number of Atheists has exponentially grown, by doubling from 2014 to 2016. Non-religious people have a higher risk to suffer from discrimination, such as lack of trust by society and unequal treatment by institutions.

In the 2015 edition of the annual Freedom of Thought Report from the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Malta was in the category of severe discrimination.

In 2016, following the abolishment of blasphemy law, Malta was shifted to the category of systematic discrimination which is the same category as most EU countries.

Most of the foreign community in Malta, predominantly active or retired British nationals and their dependents, is centered on Sliema and surrounding modern suburbs.

Other smaller foreign groups include Italians, Libyans and Serbians, many of whom have assimilated into the Maltese nation over the decades.

Since the late 20th century, Malta has become a transit country for migration routes from Africa towards Europe.

As a member of the European Union and of the Schengen agreement, Malta is bound by the Dublin Regulation to process all claims for asylum by those asylum seekers that enter EU territory for the first time in Malta.

Irregular migrants who land in Malta are subject to a compulsory detention policy, being held in several camps organised by the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM), including those near Hal Far and Hal Safi.

The compulsory detention policy has been denounced by several NGOs, and in July 2010, the European Court of Human Rights found that Malta's detention of migrants was arbitrary, lacking in adequate procedures to challenge detention, and in breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In January 2014 Malta started granting citizenship for a €650,000 contribution plus investments, contingent on residence and criminal background requirements.

In the 19th century, most emigration from Malta was to North Africa and the Middle East, although rates of return migration to Malta were high.

Nonetheless, Maltese communities formed in these regions. By 1900, for example, British consular estimates suggest that there were 15,326 Maltese in Tunisia, and in 1903 it was claimed that 15,000 people of Maltese origin were living in Algeria.

Malta experienced significant emigration as a result of the collapse of a construction boom in 1907 and after the Second World War, when the birth rate increased significantly, but in the 20th century most emigrants went to destinations in the New World, particularly to Australia, Canada and the United States.

After the Second World War, Malta's Emigration Department would assist emigrants with the cost of their travel.

Between 1948 and 1967, 30 per cent of the population emigrated. Between 1946 and the late-1970s, over 140,000 people left Malta on the assisted passage scheme, with 57.6% migrating to Australia, 22% to the UK, 13% to Canada and 7% to the United States.

Emigration dropped dramatically after the mid-1970s and has since ceased to be a social phenomenon of significance.

However, since Malta joined the EU in 2004 expatriate communities emerged in a number of European countries particularly in Belgium and Luxembourg.

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.

While Maltese music today is largely Western, traditional Maltese music includes what is known as ghana.

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.

Maltese architecture has been influenced by many different Mediterranean cultures and British architecture over its history. The first settlers on the island constructed Ggantija, 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 Tigne Point have been or are being renovated.
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.

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

Traditional Maltese proverbs reveal a cultural importance of childbearing and fertility, a childless marriage cannot be a happy one. This is a belief that Malta shares with many other Mediterranean cultures.

Rural Malta shares in common with Mediterranean society a number of superstitions regarding fertility, menstruation and pregnancy, including the avoidance of cemeteries during the months leading up to childbirth, and avoiding the preparation of certain foods during menses.

Pregnant women are encouraged to satisfy their cravings for specific foods, out of fear that their unborn child will bear a representational birth mark.

Maltese and Sicilian women also share certain traditions that are believed to predict the sex of an unborn child, such as the cycle of the moon on the anticipated date of birth.

Whether the baby is carried high or low during pregnancy, and the movement of a wedding ring, dangled on a string above the abdomen, sideways denoting a girl, back and forth denoting a boy.

Traditionally, Maltese newborns were baptised as promptly as possible, should the child die in infancy without receiving this vital Sacrament; and partly because according to Maltese and Sicilian folklore an unbaptised child is not yet a Christian, but still a Turk.

Traditional Maltese delicacies served at a baptismal feast include biskuttini tal-maghmudija - almond macaroons covered in white or pink icing, it-torta tal-marmorata - a spicy, heart-shaped tart of chocolate-flavoured almond paste.

And a liqueur known as rozolin, made with rose petals, violets and almonds.

On a child's first birthday, in a tradition that still survives today, Maltese parents would organise a game known as il-quccija, 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.

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-gilwa. This custom along with many others has long since disappeared from the islands, in the face of modern practices.

New wives would wear the ghonnella, 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 Zurrieq.

This included il-gilwa, 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 (ghana) and dancing.

Local festivals, similar to those in Southern Italy, are commonplace in Malta and Gozo, celebrating weddings, christenings and, most prominently, saints' days, honouring the patron saint of the local parish.

On saints' days, the festa reaches its apex with a High Mass featuring a sermon on the life and achievements of the patron saint, after which a statue of the religious patron is taken around the local streets in solemn procession, with the faithful following in respectful prayer.

The atmosphere of religious devotion quickly gives way to several days of celebration and revelry: band processions, fireworks, and late-night parties.

Carnival has had an important place on the cultural calendar after Grand Master Piero de Ponte introduced it to the islands in 1535.

It is held during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, and typically includes masked balls, fancy dress and grotesque mask competitions, lavish late-night parties, a colourful, ticker-tape parade of allegorical floats presided over by King Carnival, marching bands and costumed revellers.

Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday. Numerous religious traditions, most of them inherited from one generation to the next, are part of the paschal celebrations in the Maltese Islands, honouring the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Mnarja, or l-Imnarja is one of the most important dates on the Maltese cultural calendar. Officially, it is a national festival dedicated to the feast of Saints Peter and St. Paul.

Its roots can be traced back to the pagan Roman feast of Luminaria, when torches and bonfires lit up the early summer night of 29 June.

A national feast since the rule of the Knights, Mnarja is a traditional Maltese festival of food, religion and music.

The festivities still commence today with the reading of the bandu, an official governmental announcement, which has been read on this day in Malta since the 16th century.

Originally, Mnarja was celebrated outside St. Paul's Grotto, in the north of Malta. However, by 1613 the focus of the festivities had shifted to the Cathedral of St. Paul, in Mdina, and featured torchlight processions, the firing of 100 petards, horseraces, and races for men, boys and slaves.

Modern Mnarja festivals take place in and around the woodlands of Buskett, just outside the town of Rabat.

It is said that under the Knights, this was the one day in the year when the Maltese were allowed to hunt and eat wild rabbit, which was otherwise reserved for the hunting pleasures of the Knights.

The close connection between Mnarja and rabbit stew or fenkataremains strong today.
Mnarja today is one of the few occasions when participants may hear traditional Maltese għana. Traditionally, grooms would promise to take their brides to Mnarja during the first year of marriage.

For luck, many of the brides would attend in their wedding gown and veil, although this custom has long since disappeared from the islands.

Isle of MTV is a one-day music festival produced and broadcast on an annual basis by MTV. The festival has been arranged annually in Malta since 2007, with major pop artists performing each year.

2012 saw the performances of worldwide acclaimed artists Flo Rida, Nelly Furtado and Will.I.Am at Fosos Square in Floriana. Over 50,000 people attended, which marked the biggest attendance so far.

In 2009 the first New Year's Eve street party was organised in Malta, parallel to what major countries in the world organise.

Although the event was not highly advertised, and was controversial due to the closing of an arterial street on the day, it is deemed to have been successful and will most likely be organised every year.

The Malta International Fireworks Festival is an annual festival that has been arranged in the Grand Harbour of Valletta since 2003.

The festival offers fireworks displays of a number of Maltese as well as foreign fireworks factories. The festival is usually held in the last week of April every year.

Malta's climate is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea and is similar to other Mediterranean climates. Winters are wet and windy. Summers are virtually guaranteed to be dry and hot.

The beach season spans about 6 months from the end of April to the end of October.

Regions Of Malta

- Malta Island, by far the largest of Malta's three islands which sees the most visitors by a huge margin.

- Comino, tiny island with a real feel of isolation; most of it is a nature reserve.

- Gozo, known for its scenic rolling hills and rich history.

Cities of Malta

Valletta — the capital, named for Jean Parisot de la Valette, a French nobleman who was Grand Master of the Order of St. John and leader of the defenders during the Turkish siege of Malta in 1565.

Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage site for the massive number of historical buildings found in a tiny space.

Cottonera or Three Cities — The name used when referring to the three historic and ancient cities of Birgu or Vittoriosa, Isla or Senglea and Bormla or Cospicua, three towns conglomerated by 16th century fortifications called the Cottonera lines. This is the area where the Great Siege was fought and won!

Marsaxlokk — fishing village south of the island. A big market is held every Sunday.

Mdina — Malta's well-preserved quiet old capital. Called the Silent City, Mdina sits in the center of the main island Malta and offers amazing views across the plans to the coast line.

Mgarr — A typical rural village, northwest of Malta.

Rabat — hosts numerous historical attractions such as St. Paul's catacombs and the Domus Romana previously known as Roman Villa.

St. Julian's — Includes the area North of Valletta and part of St. Julian's Bay crosses into Sliema. A great place to find tour boats.

Sliema — shopping area just north of Valletta. Sliema offers a wonderful sea side walking area that is popular to joggers. It is popular for its rock beach that is a great walking place, it is solid rock, not made of rocks.

Victoria — the capital city of Gozo.

More interesting destinations

Hagar Qim and Mnajdra - Two very beautiful stone age temples set on the cliffside of south west Malta. Their majesty is now protected by tents and a 2 storey new building nearby.

Built around 3600 BC these structures are older than the pyramids.

Mellieha - A locality in Malta surrounded by the largest and some of the most wonderful sandy beaches on the Islands. Two miles from Mellieha lies the Popeye Village which was built as a filming set for the 1980 film Popeye.

Golden Bay - One of Malta's most beautiful sandy beaches, on the northwest coast of the island.

Ghajn Tuffieha - Long Steps Bay, just behind Golden Bay. Just as beautiful, but less crowded during the high season.

Blue Grotto - A series of seven caves and inlets on the southern side of Malta famous for deep blue waters and spectacular natural rock formations.

The Blue Grotto may be accessed by small traditional boats, skippered by cheerful Maltese guides, which leave from a well-signposted pier just off the main road along the south coast. The boat ride costs €8 per person.

Clapham Junction - An area of western central Malta not far from Buskett woods where deep ruts in the bedrock appear to have been formed in the remote past by wagons or carts.

Some of these ruts cross rock-cut Punic tombs, proving that the ruts existed before the tombs. In the vicinity there are large caves which used to be inhabited by troglodytes.

Saint Thomas Bay - A quaint inlet, 1km beyond Marsaskala, with a sloping, built up area on one side, and barren Munxar white cliffs on the other. There are 2 small sandy beaches ideal for swimming in summer.

Beneath Munxar there is now a window at the cliff side. Beyond Munxar Point there are amazing, very high, white cliffs, with 2 large and deep caves in them. Many amateur fishermen own boathouses in the vicinity and go fishing whenever the sea is calm.

Saint Peter's Pool - A natural inlet located south of Malta, Delimara area. It looks like a natural swimming pool carved into the rocks.

Mosta Dome - the third largest dome in Europe and the ninth largest dome in the world. On 9 April 1942, a bomb struck the church whilst a religious ceremony was taking place with more than 300 people attending. Luckily the bomb didn't explode.

Malta is a member of the Schengen Agreement.

There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty.

The European Union, except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.

But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union.

This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country or you may have to clear immigration but not customs travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country.

Malta's own national carrier, Air Malta, has regular connections to many European, North African and Middle Eastern centres.

Ryanair flies from Liverpool JLA, Manchester, London Luton, Edinburgh, Eindhoven, Dublin, Dusseldorf Weeze, Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden, Madrid, Marseille, Porto, Turin, Trapani, Bristol, Pisa, Riga, Kaunas, Krakow, Stockholm (Skavsta).

Malmo, Gothenburg, Seville, Valencia, Venice (Treviso), Milan (Bergamo), Wroclaw,Poznan, Girona, Athens, Birmingham, Bari and Billund (Denmark).

Easyjet flies from Liverpool JLA , Belfast, Newcastle, Rome, Milan Malpensa and London Gatwick. However several of these routes do not fly during late fall / winter.

Wizzair flies from Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Gdansk , Skopje, Sofia, Warsaw and Katowice

Jet2 flies from London Stansted, East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle to Malta.

Thomas Cook flies from London Gatwick and Manchester.

Malta's international Airport is located between Luqa and Gudja.

Several public buses (€ 1.5) will take you from the airport. Note that the actual travel time is around an hour for Valetta (bus 71, 72, 73, and others), and may be as much as two hours in bad traffic to St. Julian / Paceville (Bus X2) - Google-maps' claim of a 17 minutes travel time in 2016 is erroneous.

Slightly quicker Bus X1, which also continues to the ferry in Cirkewwa, also holds at Pembroke Park one km from Paceville. The X4 bus goes to Valletta in around 20 minutes and is the best option from the airport.

Alternatively there are very cheap private transfers available. Warning: Do not use the white airport taxis in front / nearby the terminal. They are very expensive compared to private transfers. Uber is not available in Malta.
24 hours a day, pre-paid ticketed TAXI can be purchased at fixed rates from a booth in the airport Welcomers Hall.

There are ferries to the Sicilian port of Pozzallo, Italy (90 minutes). At present, only Virtu Ferries make the crossing. There are no sailings on some days, so do check their website for the schedule. The ferries also take vehicles.

However, discount airlines like Ryanair can be more convenient and the prices of their flights are often comparable or lower than those of the crossing by boat. In the high season, ferry ticket prices can skyrocket to above €100 per person, without a vehicle.

Malta has an extensive if extremely crowded island-wide bus network. Malta Public Transport maintains an online Journey Planner which provides information and route maps.

In most cases, buses will not run past 23:00 but a limited number of routes do now have a night service of sorts it operates about 3 times during the early hours.

Until 2011, Malta typically used many 1950s-era British buses, often with the driver's cab decorated, commonly with religious imagery. These have been replaced by a modern fleet.

Buses are generally regular between the main places of interest, but may not run precisely according to schedule.

The island's main bus station is located outside of the city walls of Valletta and will provide links to all points in the island. Be aware that traffic can often get heavy during the day, causing delays.

Many of Malta's buses are equipped with digital plans and automated announcements signalling stops. The digital plans always work, the automated announcements, most of the time do and the clock display is almost guaranteed to be incorrect.

As of May 201,8 50 buses have been fitted with free wifi on a trial. If you're lucky enough to get a bus with wifi then it's pretty fast.

Bus stops generally contain information on timetables and routes. It is necessary to wave or otherwise indicate for a bus to pull over at a bus stop if you wish to board, and press the stop button when you wish to depart.

Fares are cheap by European standards. As of May 2018, a two-hour ticket costs €1.50 during winter, €2 during summer and €3 for night services or 75 cents with a Tallinja card.

You can buy cash tickets from the driver but bear in mind, the bus is probably delayed, it will be packed full, the driver might well not speak much English or Maltese and the other passengers will most likely not appreciate it.

Prepay cards are available at bus terminals, post offices or online. Weekly tickets on Malta Island are priced at €21 for adults and €15 for children, or 12 single journeys can be prepaid for €15.

People staying in Malta for longer periods may be better applying for a Tallinja card online before visiting Malta.

This is a prepay card similar to an Oyster or Octopus card but is tied to a single user with photo ID which is never checked and caps your monthly bus fares night buses excluded at €26.

Hop-on-Hop-off Bus, this is simply one of the ways to see everything that Malta has to offer. Seeing Malta from an open topper bus is a great way to appreciate this magnificent island.

The open top bus tour of Malta starts from the Sliema Ferries and from Valletta. One can Hop on and Hop off at his or her leisure at conveniently located stops along the route.

In Malta, there are a number of hop-on hop-off providers which offer a practical tour service linking all the most popular places of interest on the island and more.

Each tour includes an multi-lingual commentary. A free harbour cruise is given with each ticket.

Renting a bike in Malta is not a very common and popular practice but it doesn't cost much, and offers enough flexibility to explore.

Bicycle rental shops are present all over the island but it is always better to book them from beforehand via their websites so as not to be disappointed.

Cycling is an original and fun way of discovering Malta and Gozo, known for their very small size.

It is a good idea to cycle on the West of Malta, in the areas of Dingli Cliffs and Fomm ir-Rih as they are far from congested cities and offer a pleasant view.

It should be known however that most roads in Malta are dangerous for cyclists; most Maltese motorists are not friendly towards cyclists and there are no bicycle lanes.

It is best to stick to country roads making sure to rent mountain bikes as country roads can get bumpy and uncomfortable for city bikes. In summer, do not go cycling 11:00-16:00 as the heat is unbearable.

Malta's white taxis are the ones that can legally pick you up off the street. They have meters that are uniformly ignored, figure on €15 for short hops and not much more than €35 for a trip across the island.

There are now Government approved fares for taxis from the airport ranging from €10-30.

For cheaper airport transfers and local taxis try using one of the local Black cab taxi firms such as Easy PrivateTaxi, Active Cabs Taxi by Sean Taxi Service, Peppin Transport with Cheaper Online Prices, Malta Airport Cabs or Malta Taxi Online.

Their rates are normally lower than white taxis but their services must be prebooked at least fifteen minutes' notice. The approx. cost of a transfer from Malta Airport to Valletta is €15-18 for a sedan and €17-25 for a minibus.

If you would like a taxi tour, it is a good idea to book it in advance with an agreed price and arrange to be picked up from your hotel or apartment. The tours are best kept short, around 3 to 4 hours should do it.

In a car you will be able to cover Mdina, Rabat, Mosta, Valletta and the Blue Grotto.

However, some people say that when visiting historical sights it is best to also hire a licensed tourist guide who will wear their license while on tour and accuse taxi drivers of often giving inaccurate information.

Renting a car in Malta is a fine way to see the country, since it's cheap and driving conditions have improved greatly in the last ten years.

Having your own car allows you to make a lot more of your trip and discover the many hidden charms these small islands have to offer.

It is always best to pre-book your car rental online as this works out cheaper than booking when you arrive.

Malta has very low rates for car rental pre-booked car rental for a week costs about as much as a taxi to and from the airport.

Any driver and additional drivers must take with them their driving licenses in order to be covered for by the insurances provided by the local car rental supplier.

Popular leading car hire companies in Malta include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, and First Car Rental. These companies also offer car hire at Malta International airport.

There is GPS coverage of the island by popular brands, however do check with your rental company as to whether they make this available to you or not.

Popular opinion states that the GPS mapping of Malta isn't altogether that accurate, where certain routes planned on the GPS, will send you up one way streets without warning, best to use common sense in conjunction with this technology.

Also the Maltese can be a very friendly bunch of people when giving directions are concerned.

Unlike most of Europe, traffic in Malta drives on the left. All road signs are in English, but most street names are in Maltese.

There are ferries operating from Valletta to Sliema and Valletta to the Three Cities. These take a few minutes and Tallinja cards are accepted. These are as much commuter as tourist boats so don't expect someone to start pointing out the sites.

There is a regular ferry service between Cirkewwa on Malta and Mgarr on Gozo, it goes every 45 minutes in the summer and almost as often in the winter. One-way journey takes about half an hour and a return ticket costs €4.65 the Standard passenger fare.

There are also irregular services to Comino. It's good to keep in mind that a bus trip to Cirkewwa from Valletta usually takes 80 minutes. Tallinja cards definitely not accepted here.

The ships are proper RORO Ferries as oppose to the little ones used on the Grand Harbour around Valletta. There are also little boats to Comino.

The boat charter industry has grown considerably in Malta over the last few years.

Malta's favourable tax regime for commercial yachting and its central location in the middle of the Mediterranean sea has meant that large, famous charter yachts such as the Maltese Falcon and a whole range of small and midsized yachts are now available for day and week charters.

The Grand Harbour Marina has become the principal centre for bare boating self-hire yacht chartering. It is the headquarter of such companies as The Sunseeker Experience, Yachthelp and Navimerian Malta Yacht Charters.

Everywhere in Malta is safe to walk, if you don't mind heat and hills. Hamrun, Marsa and the area around Notre Dame Ditch are pretty industrial looking but safe enough.

The official languages are Maltese a Semitic language closely related to Maghrebi Arabic and English. Italian is widely understood and spoken, and many modern words in Maltese are borrowed from Italian.

Some people have basic French, but few people can speak fluent French in Malta. By law, all official documents in Malta are in Maltese and English and many radio stations broadcast in both languages.

The vast majority of Maltese citizens speak English fluently, although this less true among the older generation. The majority of people in Malta will however speak Maltese in the home and Maltese placenames may be difficult to pronounce.

People are however very willing to help. Maltese people often speak with a slightly different intonation which may sound louder than usual to other English speakers.

Churches often hold separate Maltese and English services, and information on times for each will be posted at the entrance. Multilingual electronic guides are available at a number of attractions.

Like Arabic, Amharic, and Hebrew, Maltese is a Semitic language, though it is written in the Latin alphabet and has borrowed a substantial amount of vocabulary from the Romance languages particularly Italian.

The closest living relative of Maltese is the dialect of Arabic spoken in North Africa, which is known as Maghrebi Arabic or Darija spoken in Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria.

Since Maltese has a distant relationships to Hebrew and Amharic, if you speak any of these three languages, you'll recognise some similarities.

It also has substantial English elements in it, particularly for modern words. Knowing a few phrases in Maltese may be useful.

The ancient capital of Mdina, also known as the Silent City, rests at a high point in the heart of the island.

Surrounded by the scenic town of Rabat, this fortress is one of Malta's finest jewels, boasting architecture, history and a quality cup of coffee with a splendid view.

Mdina gets very peaceful and romantic in the evenings when the day trippers leave.

Valletta is similar in that it boasts a rich history, only being the modern capital, it is very much alive and much more modern, serving as both a shopping area during the day and offering an array of museums and cultural sites.

Of particular note is St John's Co-Cathedral, built by one of the earlier Grandmasters of the Knights Hospitaller. It contains the various chapels of the Knights' langues, with Caravaggio paintings, tapestries and various relics of immense value to the Maltese heritage.

The very floors of the Cathedral are the tombs of the most famous knights of the Order of St John, and a crypt, though off-limits to tourists, hosts the bodies of some of the most illustrious of Grandmasters, including the city's founder, Jean de Valette.

Must see attractions include the Unesco World Heritage sites such as the Hypogeum and the megalithic temples that can be admired on both Gozo and Malta and are the oldest in the world.

In Gozo, a rural atmosphere is predominant. Billy Connolly purchased a home in Gozo several years ago, owing to the island's quiet and relaxing nature.

Visitors will be interested in taking a look at the impressive geographical feature of the Inland Sea, carved out by the Mediterranean.

One is also obliged to visit the Citadel, Gozo's version of Mdina. Gozo is situated 5km north west of Malta and can be reached by a 25 minute crossing from Cirkewwa, the harbour of Malta.

For a look into more traditional Maltese life, the seldom seen south of Malta is a possible option for visitation. Townships like Ghaxaq often escape public notice, but some of the island's finest churches lie in the south.

The many churches of Malta are testaments to the style and design of their times. Many towns in the north were stripped of their culture due to rapid urbanisation, but this has been felt less in the south of Malta.

If you visit Malta in summer, be sure you visit one of the town/village feast. Every town or village has at least one feast dedicated to a saint. The feast usually lasts for one week in most cases from Monday to Sunday, with its peak being usually on Saturday.

During this week, the village or town will be decorated with several ornaments and work of arts such as statues, lights and paintings on tapestry.

In most cases, the feast would also be furnished with fireworks, both air and ground which are quite spectacular and rather unique to Malta.

Every feast has its own characteristics and rivaleries between certain village feasts are quite well-known. Some of the most famous feasts are those of Our Lady of the Lily in Mqabba in third Sunday of June.

Saint Philip in Zebbug in second Sunday of June, Mount Carmel in Zurrieq held the Sunday before the last of July, Saint Mary of Imqabba, Qrendi on the 15th of August.

Saint Catherine in Zurrieq first Sunday of September and the Nativity of Our Lady in Mellieha and Naxxar on the 8th of September.

Organized tours to village feasts for tourists are available as well.

During the month of April, a fireworks contest occurs in the Valletta/Floriana area, where different fireworks factories compete with each other exhibiting their finest works both ground fireworks and air fireworks. It is spectacular and above all its free to attend to.

Quite a few wine festivals are organized during summer, two of which are organized in Valletta and one in Qormi. It is a great experience to taste several Maltese wines at very cheap prices.

In the Qormi festival (September) and Delicata wine festival (August), you buy a 12 euro cup, and you can drink as much as you like; in the Marsovine wine festival (July), you buy a cup and 14 tokens for €10). A beer festival (Jul-Aug) is also organized in Ta' Qali.

Finally, Malta's megalithic temples are the oldest free-standing structures on Earth, and one should not forget to take walks in the countryside.

The most popular tourist destinations of Sliema and St. Julians probably have the least to offer as regards a taste of Malta, though they continue to be the most frequented.

They are the most modern of locations, with most old buildings having been knocked down due to the monstrous construction industry fueling the economy. Malta's main nightlife area can be found here, especially in Paceville.

Sample the local delicacies - gbejna, pastizzi, bigilla, hobz biz-zejt, timpana, oven-baked rice and macaroni, snail, rabbit, gozitan ftira (pizza), maltese ricotta, maltese sausage, twistees etc.

Try the sweets - imqaret, helwa tat-Tork, prinjolata, figolli (frosted almond cake), qaq tal ghasel, kannoli, qubbajd etc.

Drink Kinnie, Cisk a local beer, local wines - marsovin, delicata, meridiana, Ta Mena.

In Summer, the island is perfect for water sports and beach activities.

The island has been described as an open-air museum by some; one is unlikely to run out of things to see during a visit to Malta. Each township has its own unique sights to offer.

Hiking in the countryside offers a taste of rural Malta, especially if trekking along the coast of Gozo.

Sailing is a wonderful option, as Malta boasts an impressive array of caves, scenic sunsets, and other views.

Tennis is a popular activity in Malta and Gozo. Because of the warm weather on the islands you can play tennis all year around.

There are several courts and tennis clubs spread out across Malta that are open to seasoned players as well as beginners. There is also opportunity to take part as a spectator as there are professional games being played regularly.

Valletta Carnival- February/March. Malta Carnival national activities will be held in Valletta and Floriana. Dance and costume competitions will take place in the capital and Floriana followed by defiles which include triumphal floats, bands, grotesque masks and lots of dance.

Malta Carnival is an unforgettable experience of fun, colour, art and merriment. The most popular carnival event amongst young adults takes place in Nadur in Gozo.

Malta Free Walking Tours - Get a 90 minute free walking tour around the beautiful capital city of Valletta. Tours happen all year round.

Ghanafest - Malta Mediterranean Folk Music Festival in June. The Malta Mediterranean Folk Music Festival is a fabulous 3-day event of Mediterranean folk music, including Maltese folksongs (ghana), Maltese songwriters and folk ensembles, together with guest folk musicians from neighbouring Mediterranean countries.

Għanafest also hosts a series of workshops on traditional instruments and a special programme for children, and is complemented by traditional Maltese food and the marvellous surroundings of the Argotti Botanical Gardens in Floriana.

Malta Jazz Festival - July. The Malta Jazz Festival has a special place in Malta’s Cultural Calendar, attracting great stars of the international jazz scene to Malta.

It has become a hub for the exchange of musical experience, an encounter between musicians of international fame and gifted local artists.

The magnificent setting of the historic Ta’ Liesse wharf in Valletta’s Grand Harbour makes the Malta Jazz Festival a uniquely memorable experience.

Malta Arts Festival - July. The Malta Arts Festival is the highlight of Malta’s Cultural Calendar - a showcase of diverse top quality theatre, music and dance performances, and offers something from almost all artistic forms, including collaborations between Maltese and foreign artists.

The Festival events are held in various venues in and around Valletta, mostly open-air, taking advantage of Malta’s cool summer evenings.

The Festival’s joint performances and workshops, together with its specially-commissioned works, enhance local artistic development and provide impetus for cultural innovation.

Notte Bianca - September/October. Notte Bianca is held annually in Valletta and is a spectacular, night-long celebration of culture and the arts.

State palaces, historic buildings and Museums open their doors almost all night, playing host to visual art exhibitions and music, dance and theatre performances.

Streets and squares become platforms for open-air activities, and many cafes and restaurants extend their hours and run pavement stalls.

All areas of the Capital City, from the Entrance Gate to the far end of the peninsula, are involved and all events are free of charge.

Isle of MTV Malta Special - June. Held annually at the Fosos square in Floriana, it is the largest open air free concert in Europe.

Worldwide acclaimed artists take the stage in front of an enthusiastic crowd of over 50,000 people. 2012 saw the performances of Nelly Furtado, Flo Rida and Will.I.Am.

The Farsons Great Beer Festival - July/August. An annual festival hosted by the Farsons Brewery, known for the popular Cisk beer and Blue Label Ale.

Amongst the vast selection of alcoholic drinks presented, the festival is also a very important event for local musicians and music lovers.

This is because during the festival many local bands and a small number of international bands, take the opportunity to perform on the Main Stage or the Rock Stage.

Malta Film Tours. Known as the Los Angeles of the Med, Malta has played home to all manner of Hollywood blockbusters over the last forty years.

Maltese actors Malcolm and Elizabeth Ellul take you on a tour of key locations from shows and films such as Game of Thrones, Gladiator and Troy.

They provide detailed behind the scenes information and first-hand accounts of the productions featured. Check the website for more information on specific tours.

Malta is a great place to dive, with it being possible to dive all year around. The water temperature varies from a cool 14°C in February/March to warm 26°C in August.

The visibility of water is generally high, making it a good place to learn diving as well.

The dive sites are located close to shore. Consequently, most dives start there, making everything easier and cheaper. The dive sites include rocky reefs, some wrecks and cave diving especially interesting is the dive in the Inland Sea in Gozo.

There will tend to be more marine life during the warmer months, when you can hope to see tuna, octopus, moray eels, seahorses, fire worms, soft coral along with the usual sea grass and underwater ridges.

Snorkeling is a famous summer activity on the island of Malta. The Mediterranean Sea with its crystal clear water offers a lot to see underwater. The pleasant water temperature and sea conditions make Malta a great place for snorkeling!

Things to see: You can expect observing the undersea life of the Mediterranean Sea while snorkeling: wide variety of seaweed and algae, different fish, crabs, sea cucumbers, starfish, but cuttlefish, moray eels, octopus and rays also can be spotted.

Fireworms and jellyfish are also common. Best beaches/places to snorkel:

- Baħar ic-Caghaq beaches

- Anchor Bay by Popeye Village

- Ghajn Tuffieha

- Gnejna Bay

- Qawra Point

- Slugs Bay

- Armier Bay

- Mistra Bay

- Kalanka Bay

- St. Peters Pool

- Ghar Lapsi

- Cirkewwa

Being an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta offers up numerous amazing surf spots stretching all over the coastline.

In the summer air temperatures average at 31˚C and sea temperature is a comfortable 25˚C, creating perfect conditions for spending hours in the clear blue ocean.

Check out surf spots Ghallis, Palm Beach and St Thomas, they are all located close to the most popular tourist areas on the north shores of Malta.

Christmas is a largely religious affair on the Maltese islands. This is due to the fact that most Maltese people are Catholics.

During the festive season, various Christmas cribs, or Presepji, as they're called in Maltese, can be seen on display in churches, shopping centres, etc.

The Maltese people have many Christmas customs that are unique to the island. A very popular traditional Christmas dessert is Qaghaq ta' l-Ghasel. These are light pastry rings filled with honey.

Kayaking and Cycling in Malta. You will be impressed by the beautiful beaches and turquoise sea in Malta.

Malta is a top destination for climbing enthusiast. It is suggested to try climbing with companies. The Dinglie cliffs on the western coast of Malta is a popular place for climbing and gliding.

On a nice day one can watch para-gliders from the village of Dingli.

Malta has the euro (€) as its sole currency along with 24 other countries that use this common European money.

These 24 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain official euro members which are all European Union member states.

As well as Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and the Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. Together, these countries have a population of more than 330 million.

One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse, as well as all bank notes, look the same throughout the eurozone.

Every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.

Major currencies other than the Euro are not acceptable as an over the counter currency. In the past, they were widely accepted and changed on the fly at restaurants and bars.

So if you have dollars or pounds, it's best to change them at the plethora of exchange bureaus or banks across the island prior to going out.

Transportation is cheap by European standards. Food costs are very reasonable. Having a Maltese size pizza in a decent restaurant costs around €6.50.

Many restaurants in tourist areas provide standard western food, particularly with British influences. Maltese cuisine is in many cases similar to Italian, and restaurants catering to this may be slightly more difficult to find.

One of the island's specialities is rabbit or fenek, and small savoury pastries known as pastizzi are also ubiquitous.

Service in many Maltese restaurants is at a fairly leisurely pace, which may seem frustrating to some visitors. Try to use it as an opportunity to relax.

The Maltese celebratory meal is fenkata, a feast of rabbit, marinated overnight in wine and bay leaves.

The first course is usually spaghetti in rabbit sauce, followed by the rabbit meat stewed or fried with or without gravy. Look out for specialist fenkata restaurants, such as Ta L'Ingliz in Mgarr.

True Maltese food is quite humble in nature, and largely fish and vegetable based the kind of food that would have been available to a poor farmer, fisherman, or mason.

Thus one would find staples like soppa ta' l-armla or widow's soup which is basically a coarse mash of whatever vegetables are in season, cooked in a thick tomato stock.

Then there's arjoli which is a julienne of vegetables, spiced up and oiled, and to which are added butter beans, a puree made from broadbeans and herbs called bigilla, and whatever other delicacies are available.

Such as Maltese sausage, a confection of spicy minced pork, coriander seeds, garlic and parsley, wrapped in a hog casing or gbejniet, the simple cheeselets made from goats' or sheep milk and rennet, served either fresh, dried or peppered.

Maltese sausage is incredibly versatile and delicious. It can be eaten raw, the pork is salted despite appearances, dried, or roasted.

A good plan is to try it as part of a Maltese platter, increasingly available in tourist restaurants. Sun dried tomatoes and bigilla with water biscuits are also excellent.

Towards the end of summer one can have one's fill of fried lampuki (dolphin fish) in tomato and caper sauce.

Another popular dish to try is hobz biz-zejt, which is leavened Maltese bread, cut into thick chunks, or else baked unleavened ftira, and served drenched in olive oil.

The bread is then spread with a thick layer of strong tomato paste, and topped or filled with olives, tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and the optional arjoli which in its simpler form is called gardiniera.

A typical soft drink that originated in Malta is Kinnie, a non-alcoholic fizzy drink made from bitter oranges called Chinotto orange and slightly reminiscent of Martini.

The local beer is called Cisk or Chisk and, for a premium lager (4.2% by volume), it is very reasonably priced by UK standards. It has a uniquely sweeter taste than most European lagers and is well worth trying.

Other local beers, produced by the same company which brews Cisk, are Blue Label Ale, Hopleaf, 1565, Lacto a milk stout, and Shandy a typical British mixture pre-mixture of equal measures of lager and 7-UP.

Other beers have been produced in Malta in direct competition with Cisk such as 1565 brewed and bottled in the Lowenbrau brewery in Malta. Since late 2006 another beer produced by a different company was released in the market called Caqnu.

A lot of beers are also imported from other countries or brewed under license in Malta, such as Carlsberg, Lowenbrau, SKOL, Bavaria, Guinness, Murphy's stout and ale, Kilkenny, John Smith's, Budweiser, Becks, Heineken, Efes, and many more.

Malta has two indigenous grape varieties, Girgentina and Gellewza, although most Maltese wine is made from various imported vines.

Maltese wines directly derived from grapes are generally of a good quality, Marsovin and Delicata being prominent examples, and inexpensive, as little as 60-95ct per bottle.

Both wineries have also premium wines which have won various international medals There are also many amateurs who make wine in their free time and sometimes this can be found in local shops and restaurants, especially in the Mgarr and Siggiewi area.

Premium wines such as Meridiana are an excellent example of the dedication that can be found with local vineyards.

The main Maltese night life district is Paceville, just north of St. Julian's.

Young Maltese as young as high school-age come from all over the island to let their hair down, hence it gets very busy here, especially on weekends also somewhat on Wednesdays, for midweek drinking sessions.

Almost all the bars and clubs have free entry so you can wander from venue to venue until you find something that suits you.

However, visitors are advised to be vigilant as there are high instances of alcohol and drug fueled violence in the area.

The nightlife crowd becomes slightly older after about midnight, when most of the youngsters catch buses back to their towns to meet curfew.

Paceville is still going strong until the early hours of the morning, especially on the weekends.

Interestingly it does not rain much on Malta and almost all of the drinking water is obtained from the sea via large desalination plants on the west of the island or from the underground aquifer.

A great community exists in Malta that is able to host you. There are some Hostels in both Malta and Gozo. You can also find decent hotel prices in Sliema and St. Julians on the east coast.

Malta has promoted itself successfully as an entirely bi-lingual nation for Maltese and English. It counts for many educational institutes in the rest of the world as a country where English is the first language.

They therefore will often even subsidize students to go there to learn it. The vast majority of Maltese citizens speak English to a very high standard.

English language teaching is well established on the Maltese Islands, so schools have a pool of experienced teachers to cater for all ages and levels of English.

There are over 40 language schools in Malta and Gozo, offering a range of courses and leisure-time activities.

Malta offers the Institute for Tourism Studies as well. Malta boasts of year-round sunny weather, picturesque scenery, a bustling night life, safe neighborhoods and a competitive education system, all of which make for a perfect studying destination.

For those who are not Maltese, work is unfortunately often very hard to find as Maltese people are rather xenophobic and figures show that even in the tourist sector they are very reluctant to hire people who are not from Malta.

There is a sense that since joining the EU (2004) there is more willingness to hire professionals from abroad as the business sector diversifies.

Citizens of the European Union generally do not need a work permit but might need to register locally for tax, residence, etc. Non-EU citizens will have to comply with EU rules.

This makes it almost impossible to find a job as Maltese companies will have to prove that they cannot find anyone in the EU to fill the vacancy. The company will have to apply for a work permit. These cannot be bought.

The crime rate in Malta is generally considered to be low. Tourists should however take normal precautions, guarding against pickpocketing in busy areas and some overcharging scams.

In Paceville there is a high level of alcohol and drug fuelled violence in the evenings.

This is a holiday destination and rowdiness in bars and nightclubs is to be expected, as is the case in most European cities. There is generally a low police presence.

Despite prostitution being illegal in Malta, Testaferrata Street in Gzira has operated as a small red light district.

Recent construction and re-generation has reduced its notoriety and the development of this area has been intended to increase its attraction to tourists and clean up its image.

Homosexuality has been legal in Malta since 1979.

Same-sex civil unions and adoption have been in place since April 2014 and there are legal protections against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The law allows same-sex marriage, and divorce was only legalised in 2011 following a referendum.

Same-sex marriages conducted abroad are recognised. While Malta is generally tolerant, overt displays of homosexuality may attract negative gestures particularly outside of the usual tourist areas.

The main health risk in Malta is the fierce sun in the summer, which can scorch unsuspecting tourists. Apply sunblock liberally.

For ambulance, fire or police dial 112. The main hospitals are Mater Dei and Gozo General Hospital in Gozo.

While a bit reserved, Maltese people are friendly, generous, and helpful in nature.

Malta is a predominantly Roman Catholic country where faith is an important part of society.

Carousing by tourists, while tolerated to some extent, is not looked on very favourably, especially outside of St. Julian's and Paceville.

Some shops may be closed on Sundays. However increasingly discussions of sexuality, contraception and other issues are less taboo than they were twenty years ago.

Maltese people tend to speak more loudly than the mainlanders, so they may sound like they are shouting at you even if the volume is normal.

Dress respectfully when visiting churches and other important heritage sites. As a guide, remove any hats and sunglasses and make sure your knees and shoulders are covered.

Some churches, especially those on popular package tours, provide shawls and/or skirts for any inappropriately-dressed visitors.

You may be refused entry to a church if there is a service going on that has already started so make sure you arrive promptly if you wish to see them.

If you must leave during a service, do so discreetly. Avoid loud or intrusive behaviour in such places.

Maltese tend to take politics seriously and they are always interested to talk about ways to improve democracy and good governorship.

Many towns have Nationalist and Labour Party buildings which operate as bars and social clubs.

It is considered rude to shorten a Maltese name. If someone introduces themselves as Joseph or Mariella, don't call them Joe and Mary.

Smoking is banned indoors in bars and restaurants, although many have roof terraces or outside areas covered by a canopy where it is readily acceptable.

It may be difficult to tell where the indoor element of the building ends and the outdoor begins. In general, ashtrays will be placed where smoking is allowed.

Malta has three mobile phone networks available: Vodafone, Go Mobile, and Melita Mobile.

Due to international agreements with providers across the globe Vodafone, GO and Melita are sure to be a part of your carrier's roaming plan.

Internet cafés and Wi-Fi zones are quite abundant with connection rates peaking at 30Mb/s.

Tourism Observer

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