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Malta

Malta
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"Malta" is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea that lies south of the island of Sicily, Italy. The country is an archipelago, with only the three largest islands (Malta, Għawdex or Gozo, and Kemmuna or Comino) being inhabited.


Understand

History

Although small, Malta has a long and rich history, with evidence for habitation going back to the Neolithic era (4th millennium B.C.). The country boasts some of the world"s most ancient standing buildings (the Neolithic temples), and its strategic location and good harbours in the middle of the Mediterannean have attracted Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Crusaders, the French and finally the British, with the colonial period lasting until 1964.

The Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights Hospitallers and Knights of Malta, took over sovereign control of Malta in 1530, and by 1533 the Order had built a hospital at Birgu (one of the Three Cities) to care for the sick. In 1565, Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, mounted a great siege of Malta with a fleet of 180 ships and a landing force of 30,000 men. In response the Order, with only 8,000 defenders, drove the Ottoman Turks away after a hard siege of several months. After this siege, the Order founded the city of Valletta on a peninsula, and fortified it with massive stone walls, which even withstood heavy bombing during the Second World War. By 1575 the Order had built a new large hospital known as the Grand Hospital or Sacred Infirmary in order to continue with its primary mission of caring for the sick.

In 1798, the French under Napoleon took the island on 12 June, without resistance, when the Grand Master of the Order capitulated after deciding that the island could not be defended against the opposing French naval force. French rule lasted a little over 2 years, until they surrendered to the British Royal Navy, under Admiral Nelson"s command, in September 1800.

Great Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both World Wars.

The island was awarded the George Cross for its heroic resistance during the Second World War. An image of the cross is displayed on the flag.

; "Independence" : 21 September 1964 (from UK)
; "National holidays" : Freedom Day, 31 March (1979); Sette Giugno, 7 June (1919); Feast of Our Lady of Victories, 8 September (1565); Independence Day, 21 September (1964); Republic Day, 13 December (1974).

Malta remained in the Commonwealth of Nations when it became independent from Great Britain in 1964. It is still a member.

A decade later Malta became a republic. Since about the mid-1980s, the island has become a freight trans-shipment point, financial centre and tourist destination.

Malta gained pean Union membership in May 2004.

Climate

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.

Terrain

Mostly low, rocky, flat to dissected plains, with a coastline that has many coastal cliffs and numerous bays that provide good harbors. .
; "Highest point" : Ta" Dmejrek 253 m (near Dingli)



Regions
Map of Malta with regions colour-coded



Cities
*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
*Cottonera (Three Cities) — The name used when referring to the three historic and ancient cities of Birgu (aka Vittoriosa), Isla (aka Senglea) and Bormla (aka Cospicua), three towns conglomerated by 16th century fortifications called the Cottonera lines
*Marsaxlokk — fishing village south of the island
*Mdina — Malta"s well-preserved quiet old capital. pronounced "im-dina"
*Mgarr
*Rabat — hosts numerous historical attractions such as St. Paul"s catacombs and the Roman Villa
*St. Julian"s — perfect area for nightlife & entertainment
*Sliema — shopping centre just north of Valletta
*Victoria — the main town on Gozo

Other destinations
*"Hagar Qim and Mnajdra" - Two very beautiful stone age temples set on the cliffside of south west Malta. Their majesty has now been marred by protective tents and a 2 storey new building nearby.
*"Mellieħa" - A locality in Malta surrounded by the largest and some of the most wonderful sandy beaches on the Islands
*"Golden Bay" - One of Malta"s most beautiful sandy beaches, on the northwest coast of the island.
*"Għajn 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.
*"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 troglodites.
*"St.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 cliffside. 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.



Get in


Visitors from outside the EU, including Americans, must fill out a landing card, available on board some arriving flights (sometimes) or in the entrance hall of the airport from the small box between the customs agents.

By plane

Malta possesses its own national carrier, Air Malta , with regular connections to many pean, North African and Middle Eastern centres.

Ryanair flies to/from London Luton, Edinburgh, Eindhoven, Dublin, Madrid, Marseille, Trapani, Bristol, Pisa, Krakow, Stockholm (Skavsta), Seville, Valencia, Venice (Treviso), Girona, Birmingham and Bari. Easyjet flies to/from Belfast (beginning February 15th) Manchester, Newcastle, Rome, Milan Malpensa and London Gatwick.

The island"s international Airport is located at Gudja.

By boat
There are frequent fast ferries to the Sicilian port of Catania 3 hours and Pozzallo 90 min , Italy. but it can be turbulent with a heavy swell, if it"s windy.usually trip takes around twice the time on large passenger ships but fares are lot cheaper and easier which make it ideal for drivers of car,trucks,campers,etc , other destination includes from ,Livorno,Salerno,Rome (civitavechia),Palermo,Genoa and Tunis but usually with airlines like ryanair,windjet and efly are cheaper and easier.

Get around
Old Maltese Bus

By bus
Until the 2nd of July 2011, one of Malta"s joys (at least in small doses) was the wonderfully antiquated public bus system, consisting of 1950s-era exports from Britain usually kitted up with more chintz than a Christmas tree plus icons of every saint in the Bible and then some (as well as new chinese buses -king long-). Fares were very cheap and even the longest ride across the island cost less than €1.30; the only catch was that almost all buses radiate out from Valletta, so you might have had to detour back to the capital to reach your next destination. A short question - "To Valletta?" - to the driver when you got on helped you confirm your ending destination.

The only problem was there might have been smouldering heat during the summer but a typical bus ride is only around 20 minutes so it was fine. A typical bus fare was €0.47.

Also, most buses usually stopped running around 21.30 - 22.00. So you had to make sure you have an alternate means of transport for evening journeys. There was, of course, the exception of a Friday or Saturday night out in Paceville (ONLY LEAVING PACEVILLE).

On 3rd July 2011 Arriva took over the bus service in Malta. After more than a month of delayed and missing service, the new bus system is still far from being stabilized.
Buses pass very infrequently and when they do, they tend to be "full up" and thus pass by without stopping to pick up passengers. This results in people waiting for hours in the hot Maltese sun, unable to reach their destinations. As one bus driver joked, "Tourists now need 2 weeks to visit Malta - 1 week for the buses and 1 week to see everything else." The Arriva website for the timetables and routes is: http://www.arriva.com.mt/routes-and-timetables?l=1 A summary of the network on a "London Underground" style map is: http://www.maltabusroutes.com

The E.U. still has to rule regarding the bus fares since non residents have to pay a higher price. A one day ticket for a resident is €1.50 & €2.60 for a non resident.

By taxi
Malta"s white taxis are the ones you can 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.

For cheaper airport transfers and local taxis try using one of the local "Black cab" taxi firms such as Peppin Transport (Cheaper Online Prices) , Malta Airport Cabs or Malta Taxi Online with a high quality of Service allow you to book on line from UK or Malta Car Bookers . Their rates are normally lower than white taxis but their services must be prebooked (at least fifteen minutes notice).

Good advice is to book a taxi or tour in advance. In this way you will have an agreed price and can 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. Try Malta Taxi Online or Dacoby Transport Services

By car
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. According to the Mediterranean markets, Malta has very low rates for car rental. 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.

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.

By ferry
There is the regular ferry service between Ċirkewwa on Malta and Mġarr on Gozo, it goes every 45 minutes in the summer and almost as often in the winter. You buy a return ticket at the Gozo end for about €4.70 (no ticket required in Malta). There are also irregular services to Comino.

By seaplane
Regular flights between Valletta Grand Harbour and Mgarr by Harbourair started recently. There is also a planned service to Sicily.
The company also offers scenic flights for around 90EUR that take 30mins and provide beautiful views of the Maltese islands.
Flights start in Valletta"s grand harbor. Check-in and ticket office is at the sea passenger terminal, on the very end of the "Valletta waterfront", behind the cruise ship terminals.

By helicopter
Scheduled helicopter service between Malta and Gozo has been terminated.

By bike
Renting a bike in Malta is a very common and popular practice. It doesn"t cost much, but 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 orginal 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 pleasent view.

By charter boat
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 bareboating (self-hire yacht chartering). It is the headquarter of such companies as The Sunseeker Experience , Yachthelp and Navimerian Malta Yacht Charters .

Talk
Traffic safety billboard

The official languages are Maltese and "English". Italian is widely understood and spoken. 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. Virtually all Maltese citizens speak English fluently.

Maltese is a Semitic language, though it has borrowed a substantial amount of vocabulary from the Romance languages (particularly Italian). The closest living relative of Maltese is Arabic, particularly the dialect spoken in North Africa known as Maghrebi Arabic (spoken in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria) though Maltese is written in the Latin alphabet instead of the Arabic script. Maltese is also more distantly related to Hebrew and Amharic, so if you speak any of these three languages, you"ll recognise some similarities. It also has substantial English elements in it. Knowing a few phrases in Maltese may be useful. See the Maltese phrasebook for details.

Costs
Transportation costs are much cheaper by pean standards.
Food costs are very reasonable. Having a Maltese size pizza in a decent restaurant costs around €6.50.

See
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.
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.
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.

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. However, the south is less tourist friendly, and one is unlikely to be accomodated by tailored sites as in the north.

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 fuelling the economy.

Do
Sample the local delicacies.
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 if one pays close enough attention.
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.

Dive
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 so it is good place to learn diving as well.

The dive sites are located close to shore and most dives start from shore thus making it 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.

Christmas in 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.

Buy


Major currencies other than the are not acceptable as an over the counter currency. In the past, they were widely accepted years ago 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.

Eat
Distinctly Maltese cuisine is hard to find but does exist. The food eaten draws its influences from Italian cuisine. Most restaurants in resort areas like Sliema cater largely to British tourists, offering pub grub like meat and three veg or bangers and mash, and you have to go a little out of the way to find "real" Maltese food. One of the island"s specialities is rabbit ("fenek"), and small savoury pastries known as "pastizzi" are also ubiquitous.

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 rather 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" (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, like Maltese sausage (a confection of spicy minced pork,coriander seeds and parsley, wrapped in stomach lining) or "ġbejniet" (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. One must also try to have a bite of "ħobż biż-żejt", which is leavened Maltese bread, cut into thick chunks, or else baked unleavened "ftira", and served drenched in 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 "ġardiniera").

Drink
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" (pronounced "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 pean lagers and is well worth trying. Other local beers, produced by the same company which brews Cisk, are Blue Label Ale, Hopleaf, 1565, Lacto ("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 "Ġellewza", 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 Siġġiewi 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" (pronounced "pach-a-vil"), 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. The bustling atmosphere, cheap drinks, and lack of cover charges makes Paceville well worth a visit. 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.

Learn
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 and 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.

Work
For foreigners work is unfortunately often very hard to find, the Maltese are rather insular and figures show that even in the tourist sector they are very reluctant to hire people not from the island. There is a sense that since joining the EU there is more willingness to hire professionals from abroad as the business sector diversifies.

Stay safe
Malta is generally safe, in fact it"s considered as one of the safest in the world with little in the way of violent crime or political disturbances.

Regarding nightlife, the island is very safe. Due to Malta being a major Mediterranean port, sailors with shore leave tend to become quite rowdy after long voyages, as well as with the advent of low cost air travel coming to Malta has brought an influx of teens from across pe enjoying short cheap weekend breaks in the sun.

Stay healthy

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 Telephone: (+356) 2545 0000 and Gozo General Hospital in Gozo, tel. 2156 1600. For a complete list of government hospital services visit .

Respect

*While a bit on the reserved side, Maltese people are friendly, generous, and helpful in nature.
*Maltese tend to speak "louder" that those from the pean mainland, so they may sound like they"re shouting to you, but to them it"s a normal volume.
* Malta is a strictly "Roman Catholic" country and carousing by tourists, while tolerated to some extent, is not looked on very favorably, especially outside of St. Julian"s and Paceville.
* The native language is "Maltese", and many would take offence if told that their language is "Arabic" or an "Arabic dialect".
* Dress respectfully when visiting churches. 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, make sure you arrive promptly if you wish to see them.
* Homosexuality is tolerated, but the people do not fully accept it.

Contact

The country has three mobile phone networks available: Vodafone, Go Mobile, and Melita Mobile; as well as with other countries, you can find white labelled cell plans such as the Bay Mobiles plan that can offer alternative rates. Due to international agreements with providers across the globe, Vodafone, GO and Melita are sure to be apart of your carriers roaming plan.

Internet cafés and wi-fi zones are quite abundant with connection rates peaking at 30mbps.





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