Facts About Malta

Malta may only be a small island nation (at 316 square km), but if you look carefully you will note that Malta wears big boots. These are a few interesting facts about Malta.

Quick Malta facts

  • Population: Over 425,000
  • Size: 316 square km. Main Island - Malta stretches roughly 30 km.
  • Capital: Valletta
  • GDP - real growth rate: 4.3% (2008)
  • Language: Both Maltese and English are the country’s official languages.
  • Religion: Roman Catholic (over 90% of the population)
  • Currency: The Euro, since 1 January 2008
  • Climate: Mediterranean with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers
  • Terrain: mostly low, rocky, flat to dissected plains; many coastal cliffs
  • Money: Several banks (HSBC, BOV and Banif being the major ones) are located in the various localities and several ATMs are situated around commercial and tourist areas.
  • Government type: parliamentary democracy
  • Electricity: 230 Volts, 50Hz. UK-style three-pin square plugs are used
  • Telephony: The country code is +356 and outgoing code is 00, followed by the country code. The three major mobile phone network operators are Vodafone, Go Mobile and Melita
  • Time zone: GMT +1
  • Tap water is safe for drinking, though bottled water is preferred by most locals – an issue of taste mostly
  • EU: one of the latest additions to the European Union (joined on 1 May, 2004)
  • Public Holidays: the country with the most public holidays in the EU, 14 to be exact.

Malta historical facts

  • Around 17,000 years ago, the Maltese islands were the mountain tops of one landmass which connected current-day Malta to Sicily and even mainland Italy
  • The earliest evidence of human settlement found on Malta, Ghar Dalam cave structures in the south of the island, dates back around 7,400 years ago
  • The Megalithic temples that Malta is known for are the oldest free-standing stone structures in the world, older than Stonehenge
  • In 60 AD, St. Paul was shipwrecked in Malta and converted its inhabitants to Christianity
  • Malta used to be part of the British empire until its independence on 21st September, 1964
  • Still forms part of the British Commonwealth & Schengen

Etymology of “Malta”

The name “Malta” is said to have been derived from:

  • The Greek word ‘meli’ (‘honey’). The Greeks called the island Μελίτη (Melite) meaning “honey” or “honey-sweet”, which could possibly refer to the island’s historic production of honey, taken from a specific species of bee which can be found in Malta, or:
  • The Phoenician word Maleth meaning “a haven,” which refers to the many bays and coves that can be found along Malta’s coastline.

Village feasts

Malta hosts 75 local village feasts (or ‘festas’) between June and September, which is a festivity in honour of the town’s patron saint and is originally a religious celebration. The three phrases that summarise such events are fireworks, religious processions and band marches. A few local tour operators organise trips to some of the more popularly celebrated feasts or festa.

The Knights of Malta

The Knights of St John of Jerusalem were given control over Malta in 1530 by Charles V of Spain, and left their mark on the island, until capitulating to Napoleon’s advancement in 1798. The Knights of Malta are most remembered for successfully defending the island against the Ottomans during The Great Siege of 1565. The eight point Crusade cross often associated with the Knights of Malta later became known as the Maltese Cross.

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