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Holidays in Malta

Understanding Malta

History

Although small, Malta has a long and rich history, with evidence for habitation going back to the Neolithic era 4th millennium BC The country boasts some of the world's most ancient standing buildings the Neolithic temples, and its strategic location and good harbors 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 European 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


Talking in Malta

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 Getting around with English or Italian is very much possible

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

Note that the younger generations are less versed in Italian than past ones The passage of time has left a contempt for English due to the colonial era imprinted in the descendants of the working class, and the Second World War broke the tradition of centuries as regards speaking Italian, when the Italians bombed the island repeatedly The British additionally discouraged the use of Italian, favouring the populace to learn English instead After Maltese independence, a socialist period of isolationism followed, which contributed to the disregard of English in some cases However, in modern Malta, one is guaranteed that there will be no problems travelling in Malta if one can speak English It would simply make most Maltese people a great deal friendlier if approached in the Maltese language

Buy

The official currency of Malta is the euro

Major currencies, even though they were widely accepted years ago and changed on the fly at restaurants and bars are no longer acceptable as an over the counter currency 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

Costs

Transportation costs are much cheaper by European standards Food costs are very reasonable Having a Maltese size pizza in a decent restaurant costs around €650 A set at Mc Donald's will cost you €570 as of May 2009

What to see in Malta

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 some of the oldest in the world, 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

What to do in Malta

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

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

Buying stuff in Malta

There are plenty of great crafts in Mali Various ethnic groups have their own, trademark masks There are some great musical instruments; blankets; bogolas a type of blanket; silver jewelry, and leather goods The Touareg people, in particular, craft great silver and leather goods, including jewelery, daggers, spears, swords, and boxes Buying some local music makes also a good souvenir -- some of the world's best musicians are from Mali

ATMs are difficult to find in Bamako BDM banks have ATMs for VISA cards The only ATM for Maestro/Mastercard is Banque Atlantique, across the river, on the eastern bridge

Food and eating in Malta

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

Drinking in Malta

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

The local beer is called Cisk pronounced "Chisk" and, for a premium lager 42% 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 "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 13 and Delicata 14 being prominent examples, and inexpensive, as little as 60-95ct per bottle 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 15 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

Accommodation in Malta

There are various types of accommodation options of various prices and qualities You will pay $60-$100 per night and up for a what would be a decent to nice hotel by western standards At the other end of the spectrum you can pay about $5-$10 per night for a bed or mattress usually with mosquito net and sheets in a room or on the roof Such places will usually have toilets and showers in a shared facility think campsite camping with less gear All tourist areas have hotels or auberges and many places will also have homestays Sleeping on the roof terrace, if available, is not only the cheapest option but also usually the coolest and gives you the pleasure of sleeping under the stars which are incredibly bright outside of Bamako because there is so little light pollution - just use your mosquito net and be prepared to wake to prayer call at 5AM

Working in Malta

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

Cities in Malta

attard  birgu  birkirkara  bormla  dingli  fgura  floriana  gudja  gzira  isla  kalkara  kercem  kirkop  lija  luqa  marsa  marsaxlokk  mdina  mgarr  mosta  mqabba  msida  munxar  nadur  naxxar  paola  qala  qormi  qrendi  rabat  safi  san giljan  san gwann  san lawrenz  sannat  santa lucia  santa venera  siggiewi  sliema  tarxien  valletta  xewkija  zabbar  zebbug  zejtun  zurrieq  

What do you think about Malta?

How expensive is Malta?
(1 EUR = 1.12 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant10 EUR
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)47.5 EUR
McDonalds meal7.13 EUR
Local beer (0.5 draft)2.21 EUR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 2.2 EUR
Cappuccino1.51 EUR
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)1.26 EUR
Water (0.33 bottle)0.9 EUR
Milk (1l)0.78 EUR
Fresh bread (500g)1 EUR
White Rice (1kg)1.85 EUR
Eggs (12) 1.89 EUR
Local Cheese (1kg) 6.17 EUR
Chicken Breast (1kg) 5.93 EUR
Apples (1kg) 2.28 EUR
Oranges (1kg) 1.51 EUR
Tomato (1kg) 1.59 EUR
Potato (1kg) 1.06 EUR
Lettuce (1 head) 1.2 EUR
Water (1.5l)0.65 EUR
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 5.55 EUR
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)1.45 EUR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 1.36 EUR
Cigarettes4.66 EUR
One way local bus ticket1.49 EUR
Monthly pass for bus28.63 EUR
Taxi start7.92 EUR
Taxi 1km1.43 EUR
Taxi 1hour waiting7.84 EUR
Gasoline (1 liter) 1.58 EUR
Utilities for a "normal" apartment99.38 EUR
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 8.83 EUR
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 436.1 EUR
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 298.02 EUR
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre 876.63 EUR
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 569.22 EUR
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