; in Maltese
), officially known as the Republic of Malta
: Repubblika ta' Malta
) and formerly Melita
, 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
With a population of about 515,000
over an area of 316 km2
(122 sq mi),
Malta is the world's tenth smallest country in area
and fourth most densely populated
sovereign country. Its capital is Valletta
, which is the smallest national capital in the European Union
by area at 0.61 km2
(0.24 sq mi). The official and national language is Maltese
, which is descended from Sicilian Arabic
that developed during the Emirate of Sicily
, while English
serves as the second official language. Italian
also previously served as official and cultural languages on the island for centuries, with Italian being an official language in Malta until 1934 and a majority of the current Maltese population being at least conversational in the Italian language.
Malta has been inhabited since approximately 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 having contested and ruled the islands, including the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks
, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John
, French, and British.
Most of these foreign influences have left some sort of mark on the country's ancient culture.
Malta is a tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum
and seven megalithic temples
which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
The origin of the name Malta
is uncertain, and the modern-day variation is derived from the Maltese language.
The most common etymology is that the word Malta
is derived from the Greek
word μέλι, meli
The ancient Greeks called the island Μελίτη (Melitē
) meaning "honey-sweet", possibly for Malta's unique production of honey; an endemic subspecies of bees
live on the island.
The Romans called the island Melita
which can be considered either a Latinisation of the Greek Μελίτη or the adaptation of the Doric Greek pronunciation of the same word Μελίτα.
In 1525 William Tyndale used the transliteration "Melite" in Acts 28:1 for Καὶ διασωθέντες τότε ἐπέγνωμεν ὅτι Μελίτη ἡ νῆσος καλεῖται ("And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita")
as found in his translation of The New Testament that relied on Greek texts instead of Latin. "Melita" is the spelling used in the Authorized (King James) Version of 1611 and in the American Standard Version of 1901. "Malta" is widely used in more recent versions, such as The Revised Standard Version of 1946 and The New International Version of 1973.
Another conjecture suggests that the word Malta
comes from the Phoenician word Maleth
, "a haven",
in reference to Malta's many bays and coves. Few other etymological mentions appear in classical literature, with the term Malta
appearing in its present form in the Antonine Itinerary
(Itin. Marit. p. 518; Sil. Ital. xiv. 251).
Malta has been inhabited from around 5900 BC,
since the arrival of settlers from the island of Sicily
A significant prehistoric Neolithic
culture marked by Megalithic
structures, which date back to c. 3600 BC, existed on the islands, as evidenced by the temples of Bugibba
and others. The Phoenicians
colonised Malta between 800 and 700 BC, bringing their Semitic language
They used the islands as an outpost from which they expanded sea explorations and trade in the Mediterranean until their successors, the Carthaginians
, were ousted by the Romans
in 216 BC with the help of the Maltese inhabitants, under whom Malta became a municipium
After a probable sack by the Vandals
Malta fell under Byzantine rule
(4th to 9th century) and the islands were then invaded by the Aghlabids
in AD 870. The fate of the population after the Arab invasion is unclear but it seems the islands may have been repopulated at the beginning of the second millennium by settlers from Arab-ruled Sicily who spoke Siculo-Arabic
The French under Napoleon
took hold of the Maltese islands in 1798, although with the aid of the British the Maltese were able to oust French control two years later. The inhabitants subsequently asked Britain to assume sovereignty over the islands under the conditions laid out in a Declaration of Rights,
stating that "his Majesty has no right to cede these Islands to any power...if he chooses to withdraw his protection, and abandon his sovereignty, the right of electing another sovereign, or of the governing of these Islands, belongs to us, the inhabitants and aborigines alone, and without control." As part of the Treaty of Paris in 1814
, Malta became a British colony. It ultimately rejected an attempted integration with the United Kingdom in 1956 after the British proved reluctant to integrate.
were the only tribe known to have inhabited the island at this time
and are generally regarded as being closely related to the Iberians
The population on Malta grew cereals
, raised livestock and, in common with other ancient Mediterranean cultures, worshiped a fertility figure
represented in Maltese prehistoric artifacts exhibiting the proportions seen in similar statuettes, including the Venus of Willendorf
Pottery from the Għar Dalam phase is similar to pottery found in Agrigento
, Sicily. A culture of megalithic
temple builders then either supplanted or arose from this early period. Around the time of 3500 BC, these people built some of the oldest existing free-standing structures in the world in the form of the megalithic Ġgantija
temples on Gozo
other early temples include those at Ħaġar Qim
The temples have distinctive architecture, typically a complex trefoil design, and were used from 4000 to 2500 BC. Animal bones and a knife found behind a removable altar stone suggest that temple rituals included animal sacrifice
. Tentative information suggests that the sacrifices were made to the goddess of fertility, whose statue is now in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.
The culture apparently disappeared from the Maltese Islands around 2500 BC. Archaeologists speculate that the temple builders fell victim to famine or disease, but this is not certain.
Another archaeological feature of the Maltese Islands often attributed to these ancient builders is equidistant uniform grooves dubbed "cart tracks" or "cart ruts" which can be found in several locations throughout the islands, with the most prominent being those found in Misraħ Għar il-Kbir
, which is informally known as "Clapham Junction". These may have been caused by wooden-wheeled carts eroding soft limestone.
After 2500 BC, the Maltese Islands were depopulated for several decades until the arrival of a new influx of Bronze Age
immigrants, a culture that cremated
its dead and introduced smaller megalithic structures called dolmens
In most cases, there are small chambers here, with the cover made of a large slab placed on upright stones. They are claimed to belong to a population certainly different from that which built the previous megalithic temples. It is presumed the population arrived from Sicily
because of the similarity of Maltese dolmens to some small constructions found on the largest island of the Mediterranean sea.
Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans
colonised the islands sometime after 1000 BC
as a stop on their trade routes from the eastern Mediterranean
, joining the natives on the island.
The Phoenicians inhabited the area now known as Mdina
, and its surrounding town of Rabat
, which they called Maleth
, who also much later inhabited Mdina, referred to it (and the island) as Melita
During the First Punic War
, the island was conquered after harsh fighting by Marcus Atilius Regulus
After the failure of his expedition, the island fell back in the hands of Carthage, only to be conquered again
in 218 BC, during the Second Punic War
, by Roman Consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus
After that, Malta became Foederata Civitas
, a designation that meant it was exempt from paying tribute
or the rule of Roman law
, and fell within the jurisdiction of the province of Sicily
Punic influence, however, remained vibrant on the islands with the famous Cippi of Melqart
, pivotal in deciphering the Punic language
, dedicated in the 2nd century BC.
Also the local Roman coinage, which ceased in the 1st century BC,
indicates the slow pace of the island's Romanization, since the last locally minted coins still bear inscriptions in Ancient Greek
on the obverse (like "ΜΕΛΙΤΑΙΩ", meaning "of the Maltese") and Punic motifs, showing the resistance of the Greek and Punic cultures.
The Greeks settled in the Maltese islands beginning circa 700 BC, as testified by several architectural remains, and remained throughout the Roman dominium.
They called the island Melite (Ancient Greek
At around 160 BC coins struck in Malta bore the Greek ‘ΜΕΛΙΤΑΙΩΝ’ (Melitaion) meaning ‘of the Maltese’. By 50 BC Maltese coins had a Greek legend on one side and a Latin one on the other. Later coins were issued with just the Latin legend ‘MELITAS’. The depiction of aspects of the Punic religion, together with the use of the Greek alphabet, testifies to the resilience of Punic and Greek culture in Malta long after the arrival of the Romans.
In the 1st century BC, Roman Senator and orator Cicero
commented on the importance of the Temple of Juno
, and on the extravagant behaviour of the Roman governor of Sicily, Verres
During the 1st century BC the island was mentioned by Pliny the Elder
and Diodorus Siculus
: the latter praised its harbours, the wealth of its inhabitants, its lavishly decorated houses and the quality of its textile products. In the 2nd century, Emperor Hadrian
(r. 117–38) upgraded the status of Malta to municipium
or free town: the island local affairs were administered by four quattuorviri iuri dicundo
and a municipal senate, while a Roman procurator
, living in Mdina
, represented the proconsul
In 58 AD, Paul the Apostle
was washed up on the islands together with Luke the Evangelist
after their ship was wrecked on the islands. Paul the Apostle
remained on the islands three months, preaching the Christian faith.
The island is mentioned at the Acts of the Apostles
as Melitene (Greek
In 395, when the Roman Empire was divided for the last time
at the death of Theodosius I
, Malta, following Sicily, fell under the control of the Western Roman Empire
During the Migration Period
as the Western Roman Empire declined
, Malta came under attack and was conquered or occupied a number of times.
From 454 to 464 the islands were subdued by the Vandals
, and after 464 by the Ostrogoths
In 533 Belisarius
, on his way to conquer the Vandal Kingdom
in North Africa, reunited the islands under Imperial (Eastern
Little is known about the Byzantine rule in Malta
: the island depended on the theme of Sicily
and had Greek Governors and a small Greek garrison.
While the bulk of population continued to be constituted by the old, Latinized dwellers, during this period its religious allegiance oscillated between the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople
The Byzantine rule introduced Greek
families to the Maltese collective.
Malta remained under the Byzantine Empire
until 870, when it fell to the Arabs
Arab period and the Middle Ages
The Maymūnah Stone
, a Roman period marble stone, was reused as a 12th-century tombstone believed to have been found in Gozo
Malta became involved in the Arab–Byzantine wars
, and the conquest of Malta is closely linked with that of Sicily
that began in 827 after Admiral Euphemius
' betrayal of his fellow Byzantines, requesting that the Aghlabids
invade the island.
The Muslim chronicler and geographer al-Himyari
recounts that in 870, following a violent struggle
against the defending Byzantines, the Arab invaders, first led by Halaf al-Hadim, and later by Sawada ibn Muhammad,
looted and pillaged the island, destroying the most important buildings, and leaving it practically uninhabited until it was recolonised by the Arabs from Sicily in 1048–1049.
It is uncertain whether this new settlement took place as a consequence of demographic expansion in Sicily, as a result of a higher standard of living in Sicily (in which case the recolonisation may have taken place a few decades earlier), or as a result of civil war which broke out among the Arab rulers of Sicily in 1038.
The Arab Agricultural Revolution
introduced new irrigation, some fruits and cotton, and the Siculo-Arabic
language was adopted on the island from Sicily; it would eventually evolve into the Maltese language
The Christians on the island were allowed to practice their religion if they paid jizya
, a tax for non-Muslims for exemption from military service, but non-Muslims were exempt from the tax that Muslims had to pay (zakat
The kingdom passed on to the dynasty of Hohenstaufen
from 1194 until 1266. During this period, when Frederick II of Hohenstaufen began to reorganise his Sicilian kingdom, Western culture and religion began to exert their influence more intensely.
Malta was declared a county and a marquisate
, but its trade was totally ruined. For a long time it remained solely a fortified garrison
A mass expulsion of Arabs occurred in 1224, and the entire Christian male population of Celano
in Abruzzo was deported to Malta in the same year.
In 1249 Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
, decreed that all remaining Muslims be expelled from Malta
or compelled to convert.
Crown of Aragon rule and the Knights of Malta
Relatives of the Kings of Aragon
ruled the island until 1409 when it formally passed to the Crown of Aragon. Early on in the Aragonese ascendancy, the sons of the monarchs received the title Count of Malta
. During this time much of the local nobility was created. By 1397, however, the bearing of the comital title reverted to a feudal basis, with two families fighting over the distinction, which caused some conflict. This led King Martin I of Sicily
to abolish the title. The dispute over the title returned when the title was reinstated a few years later and the Maltese, led by the local nobility, rose up against Count Gonsalvo Monroy.
Although they opposed the Count, the Maltese voiced their loyalty to the Sicilian Crown
, which so impressed King Alfonso
that he did not punish the people for their rebellion. Instead, he promised never to grant the title to a third party and incorporated it back into the crown. The city of Mdina
was given the title of Città Notabile
as a result of this sequence of events.
The Knights Hospitaller were the rulers of Malta and Gozo between 1530 and 1798.
During this period, the strategic and military importance of the island grew greatly as the small yet efficient fleet of the Order of Saint John launched their attacks from this new base targeting the shipping lanes of the Ottoman
territories around the Mediterranean Sea.
The knights, led by Frenchman Jean Parisot de Valette
, Grand Master of the Order, withstood the Great Siege of Malta
by the Ottomans in 1565.
The knights, with the help of Spanish and Maltese forces, were victorious and repelled the attack. Speaking of the battle Voltaire
said, "Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta."
After the siege they decided to increase Malta's fortifications
, particularly in the inner-harbour area, where the new city of Valletta
, named in honour of Valette, was built. They also established watchtowers
along the coasts – the Wignacourt
and De Redin towers
– named after the Grand Masters who ordered the work. The Knights' presence on the island saw the completion of many architectural and cultural projects, including the embellishment of Città Vittoriosa (modern Birgu
), the construction of new cities including Città Rohan (modern Ħaż-Żebbuġ
) . Ħaż-Żebbuġ is one of the oldest cities of Malta, it also has one of the largest squares of Malta.
French period and British conquest
The Knights' reign ended when Napoleon
captured Malta on his way to Egypt
during the French Revolutionary Wars
in 1798. Over the years preceding Napoleon's capture of the islands, the power of the Knights had declined and the Order had become unpopular. Napoleon's fleet arrived in 1798, en route to his expedition of Egypt. As a ruse towards the Knights, Napoleon asked for a safe harbour to resupply his ships, and then turned his guns against his hosts once safely inside Valletta. Grand Master Hompesch
capitulated, and Napoleon entered Malta.
During 12–18 June 1798, Napoleon resided at the Palazzo Parisio
He reformed national administration with the creation of a Government Commission, twelve municipalities, a public finance administration, the abolition of all feudal rights and privileges, the abolition of slavery
and the granting of freedom to all Turkish and Jewish slaves.
On the judicial level, a family code was framed and twelve judges were nominated. Public education
was organised along principles laid down by Bonaparte himself, providing for primary and secondary education.
He then sailed for Egypt leaving a substantial garrison in Malta.
The French forces left behind became unpopular with the Maltese, due particularly to the French forces' hostility towards Catholicism and pillaging of local churches to fund Napoleon's war efforts. French financial and religious policies so angered the Maltese that they rebelled, forcing the French to depart. Great Britain, along with the Kingdom of Naples
and the Kingdom of Sicily
, sent ammunition and aid to the Maltese and Britain also sent her navy
, which blockaded the islands.
On 28 October 1798, Captain Sir Alexander Ball
successfully completed negotiations with the French garrison on Gozo
, the 217 French soldiers there agreeing to surrender without a fight and transferring the island to the British. The British transferred the island to the locals that day, and it was administered by Archpriest Saverio Cassar
on behalf of Ferdinand III of Sicily
. Gozo remained independent
until Cassar was removed from power by the British in 1801.
General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois
surrendered his French forces in 1800.
Maltese leaders presented the main island to Sir Alexander Ball, asking that the island become a British Dominion
. The Maltese people created a Declaration of Rights
in which they agreed to come "under the protection and sovereignty of the King of the free people, His Majesty the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". The Declaration also stated that "his Majesty has no right to cede these Islands to any power...if he chooses to withdraw his protection, and abandon his sovereignty, the right of electing another sovereign, or of the governing of these Islands, belongs to us, the inhabitants and aborigines alone, and without control."
British Empire and the Second World War
The heavily bomb-damaged Kingsway (now Republic Street) in Valletta during the Siege of Malta
In 1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris
Malta officially became a part of the British Empire
and was used as a shipping way-station and fleet headquarters. After the Suez Canal
opened in 1869, Malta's position halfway between the Strait of Gibraltar
and Egypt proved to be its main asset, and it was considered an important stop on the way to India, a central trade route for the British.
Between 1915 and 1918, during the First World War
, Malta became known as the Nurse of the Mediterranean
due to the large number of wounded soldiers who were accommodated in Malta.
In 1919 British troops fired into a crowd protesting against new taxes, killing four. The event, known as Sette Giugno
(Italian for 7 June
), is commemorated every year and is one of five National Days.
During the Second World War, Malta played an important role for the Allies
; being a British colony, situated close to Sicily and the Axis
shipping lanes, Malta was bombarded by the Italian and German air forces. Malta was used by the British to launch attacks on the Italian navy and had a submarine base. It was also used as a listening post, intercepting German radio messages including Enigma
The bravery of the Maltese people during the second Siege of Malta
moved King George VI
the George Cross
to Malta on a collective basis on 15 April 1942 "to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history". Some historians argue that the award caused Britain to incur disproportionate losses in defending Malta, as British credibility would have suffered if Malta had surrendered, as British forces in Singapore had done
A depiction of the George Cross now appears in the upper hoist corner of the Flag of Malta
and on the country's arms
. The collective award remained unique until April 1999, when the Royal Ulster Constabulary
became the second – and, to date, the only other – recipient of a collective George Cross.
Independence and Republic
Monument to the independence of Malta in Floriana
Malta joined the European Union in 2004 and signed the Lisbon Treaty
On 16 July 1990, Malta, through its foreign minister, Guido de Marco
, applied to join the European Union.
After tough negotiations, a referendum was held on 8 March 2003, which resulted in a favourable vote.
General Elections held on 12 April 2003, gave a clear mandate to the Prime Minister, Eddie Fenech Adami
, to sign the treaty of accession to the European Union on 16 April 2003 in Athens
Malta is a republic
whose parliamentary system
and public administration
are closely modelled on the Westminster system
. Malta had the second-highest voter turnout
in the world (and the highest for nations without mandatory voting
), based on election turnout in national lower house
elections from 1960 to 1995.
Parliament is made up of the President of Malta
and the House of Representatives
: Kamra tad-Deputati
). The President of Malta, a largely ceremonial position, is appointed for a five-year term by a resolution of the House of Representatives carried by a simple majority. Members of the House of Representatives are elected by direct universal suffrage through single transferable vote
every five years, unless the House is dissolved earlier by the president either on the advice of the prime minister
or through the adoption of a motion of no confidence carried within the House of Representatives and not overturned within three days. In either of these cases, the president may alternatively choose to invite another Member of Parliament who invariably should command the majority of the House of Representatives to form an alternative government for the remainder of the legislature.
The House of Representatives is nominally made up of 65 members of parliament whereby 5 members of parliament are elected from each of the thirteen electoral districts. However, where a party wins an absolute majority of votes but does not have a majority of seats, that party is given additional seats to ensure a parliamentary majority. The 80th article of the Constitution of Malta
provides that the president appoint as prime minister "... the member of the House of Representatives who, in his judgment, is best able to command the support of a majority of the members of that House".
Malta has had a system of local government since 1993,
based on the European Charter of Local Self-Government
. The country is divided into five regions
(one of them being Gozo), with each region having its own Regional Committee, serving as the intermediate level between local government and national government.
The regions are divided into local councils
, of which there are currently 68 (54 in Malta and 14 in Gozo
). The six districts
(five on Malta and the sixth being Gozo) serve primarily statistical purposes.
Each council is made up of a number of councillors (from 5 to 13, depending on and relative to the population they represent). A mayor and a deputy mayor
are elected by and from the councillors. The executive secretary, who is appointed by the council, is the executive, administrative and financial head of the council. Councillors are elected every four years through the single transferable vote
. People who are eligible to vote in the election of the Maltese House of Representatives
as well as a resident citizens of the EU
are eligible to vote. Due to system reforms, no elections were held before 2012. Since then, elections have been held every two years for an alternating half of the councils.
Local councils are responsible for the general upkeep and embellishment of the locality (including repairs to non-arterial roads), allocation of local wardens, and refuse collection; they also carry out general administrative duties for the central government such as the collection of government rents and funds and answer government-related public inquiries. Additionally, a number of individual towns and villages in the Republic of Malta have sister cities
The objectives of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) are to maintain a military organisation with the primary aim of defending the islands' integrity according to the defence roles as set by the government in an efficient and cost-effective manner. This is achieved by emphasising the maintenance of Malta's territorial waters and airspace integrity.
The AFM also engages in combating terrorism, fighting against illicit drug trafficking, conducting anti-illegal immigrant operations and patrols, and anti-illegal fishing operations, operating search and rescue
(SAR) services, and physical or electronic security and surveillance of sensitive locations. Malta's search-and-rescue area extends from east of Tunisia
to west of Crete
, covering an area of around 250,000 km2
(97,000 sq mi).
As a military organisation, the AFM provides backup support to the Malta Police Force (MPF) and other government departments/agencies in situations as required in an organised, disciplined manner in the event of national emergencies (such as natural disasters) or internal security and bomb disposal.
Topographic map of Malta
Malta is an archipelago
in the central Mediterranean
(in its eastern basin
), some 80 km (50 mi) from southern Italy
across the Malta Channel
. Only the three largest islands—Malta
(Għawdex), and Comino
(Kemmuna)—are inhabited. 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 located on the African tectonic plate.
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 Baħrija
near Ras ir-Raħeb
, at l-Imtaħleb and San Martin, and at Lunzjata Valley in Gozo.
Maltese landscape, Mġarr
The minor islands that form part of the archipelago are uninhabited and include:
The average yearly temperature is around 23 °C (73 °F) during the day and 15.5 °C (59.9 °F) at night. In the coldest month – January – the typical maximum temperature ranges from 12 to 18 °C (54 to 64 °F) during the day and minimum 6 to 12 °C (43 to 54 °F) at night. In the warmest month – August – the typical maximum temperature ranges from 28 to 34 °C (82 to 93 °F) during the day and minimum 20 to 24 °C (68 to 75 °F) at night. Amongst all capitals in the continent of Europe, Valletta – the capital of Malta has the warmest winters, with average temperatures of around 15 to 16 °C (59 to 61 °F) during the day and 9 to 10 °C (48 to 50 °F) at night in the period January–February. In March and December average temperatures are around 17 °C (63 °F) during the day and 11 °C (52 °F) at night.
Large fluctuations in temperature are rare. Snow is very rare on the island, although various snowfalls have been recorded in the last century, the last one reported in various locations across Malta in 2014.
The average annual sea temperature is 20 °C (68 °F), from 15–16 °C (59–61 °F) in February to 26 °C (79 °F) in August. In the 6 months – from June to November – the average sea temperature exceeds 20 °C (68 °F).
The annual average relative humidity
is high, averaging 75%, ranging from 65% in July (morning: 78% evening: 53%) to 80% in December (morning: 83% evening: 73%).
hours total around 3,000 per year, from an average 5.2 hours of sunshine duration per day in December to an average above 12 hours in July.
This is about double that of cities in the northern half of Europe
for comparison: London – 1,461;
however, in winter it has up to four times more sunshine; for comparison: in December, London
has 37 hours of sunshine
whereas Malta has above 160.
The main urban area of Malta. Valletta is the central peninsula.
According to Eurostat
, Malta is composed of two larger urban zones
nominally referred to as "Valletta" (the main island of Malta) and "Gozo". The main urban area covers the entire main island, with a population of around 400,000.
The core of the urban area, the greater city
of Valletta, has a population of 205,768.
According to Demographia
, the Valletta urban area
has a population of 300,000.
According to European Spatial Planning Observation Network
, Malta is identified as functional urban area (FUA) with the population of 355,000.
According to the 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
Occasionally in books,
government publications and documents,
and in some international institutions,
Malta is referred to as a city-state
. Sometimes Malta is listed in rankings concerning cities
or metropolitan areas.
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
The Maltese islands are home to a wide diversity of indigenous, sub-endemic and endemic plants.
They feature many traits typical of a Mediterranean climate, such as drought resistance. The most common indigenous trees on the islands are olive (Olea europaea
), carob (Ceratonia siliqua
), fig (ficus carica
), holm oak (Quericus ilex
) and Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis
), while the most common non-native trees are eucalyptus
. Endemic plants include the national flower widnet il-baħar
(Cheirolophus crassifolius), sempreviva ta' Malta (Helichrysum melitense), żigland t' Għawdex (Hyoseris frutescens
) and ġiżi ta' Malta
(Matthiola incana subsp. melitensis
) while sub-endemics include kromb il-baħar
(Jacobaea maritima subsp. sicula
) and xkattapietra
The flora and biodiversity of Malta is severely endangered by habitat loss, invasive species and human intervention.
, or carob tree, in Xemxija
, probably older than 1000 years.
Bajtar tax-xewk, or prickly pears, are commonly cultivated in Maltese villages.
Maltese sand crocus, commonly encountered on the Maltese steppe, which is
Orkida piramidali ta' Malta, Maltese Pyramidal orchid (
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (December 2019)
Valletta's maritime industrial zone
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 Entrepôt
trade, which brought additional benefits to the island. However, towards the end of the 19th century, the economy began declining, and by the 1940s Malta's economy was in serious crisis. One factor was the longer range of newer merchant ships
that required fewer refuelling stops.
The dolphin show at Mediterraneo Marine Park. Tourism generates a significant part of the GDP of Malta.
Malta's major resources are limestone
, a favourable geographic location and a productive labour force. Malta produces only about 20 percent of its food needs, has limited fresh water 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.
Access to biocapacity
in Malta is below the world average. In 2016, Malta had 0.6 global hectares of biocapacity per person within its territory, contrasted with a global average of 1.6 hectares per person.
Additionally, residents of Malta exhibited an ecological footprint
of consumption of 5.8 global hectares of biocapacity per person, resulting in a sizable biocapacity deficit.
has contributed to the Maltese economy.
The film Sons of the Sea
was the first shot in Malta, in 1925;
by 2016, over 100 feature films had been entirely or partially filmed in the country since. Malta has served as a "double" for a wide variety of locations and historic periods including Ancient Greece
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.
Malta has a financial regulator, the Malta Financial Services Authority
(MFSA), with a strong business development mindset, and 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
in 2006 discussed 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.
As of 2015, Malta did not have a property tax. Its property market, especially around the harbour area, was booming, with the prices of apartments in some towns like St Julian's, Sliema and Gzira skyrocketing.
The National Development and Social Fund from the Individual Investor Programme, a citizenship by investment programme
also known as the "citizenship scheme", has become a significant income sources for the government of Malta, adding 432,000,000 euro to the budget in 2018. This 'scheme' has a very low due-diligence and many doubtful Russian, Middle-eastern and Chinese have obtained a Maltese passport, which is also a European Union passport. In July 2020, the Labour government admitted this and has opted to stop it as from September 2020.
Banking and finance
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. As of recently, digital banks such as Revolut have also increased in popularity.
The Central Bank of Malta
(Bank Ċentrali 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.
Principal internal transportation
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
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 (as of December 2003).
The main roads of Malta from the southernmost point to the northernmost point are these: Triq Birżebbuġa in Birżebbuġa
, Għar Dalam
Road and Tal-Barrani
Road in Żejtun
, Santa Luċija Avenue in Paola
, Aldo Moro Street (Trunk Road), 13 December Street and Ħamrun
-Marsa Bypass in Marsa
, Regional Road in Santa Venera
, St Andrew's Road in Swieqi
, Coast Road in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq
, Salina Road, Kennedy Drive, St. Paul's Bypass and Xemxija
Hill in San Pawl il-Baħar
, Mistra Hill, Wettinger Street (Mellieħa Bypass) and Marfa Road in Mellieħa
or karozza tal-linja
) are the primary method of public transport, established in 1905. Malta's vintage buses 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 León (ALSA
subsidiary) 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
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:
There are also two man-made harbours that serve a passenger and car ferry service that connects Ċirkewwa
Harbour on Malta and Mġarr Harbour
. The ferry makes numerous runs each day.
Malta International Airport
(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
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
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 percent) and private investors (2 percent). Air Malta employs 1,547 staff. It has a 25 percent 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.
The mobile penetration rate in Malta exceeded 100% by the end of 2009.
Malta uses the GSM
900, UMTS(3G) and LTE(4G) mobile phone systems, which are compatible with the rest of the European countries, Australia and New Zealand.
Telephone and cellular subscriber numbers have eight digits. There are no area codes
in Malta, but after inception, the original first two numbers, and currently[when?]
the 3rd and 4th digit, were assigned according to the locality. Fixed line
telephone numbers have the prefix 21 and 27, although businesses may have numbers starting 22 or 23. An example would be 2*80**** if from Żabbar
, and 2*23**** if from Marsa
. Gozitan landline numbers generally are assigned 2*56****. Mobile telephone numbers have the prefix 77, 79, 98 or 99. Malta's international calling code is +356.
In early 2012, the government called for a national Fibre to the Home (FttH) network to be built, with a minimum broadband service being upgraded from 4Mbit/s to 100Mbit/s.
Malta has produced collectors' coins with face value ranging from 10 to 50 euros. These coins continue an existing national practice of minting of silver and gold commemorative coins. Unlike normal issues, these coins are not accepted in all the eurozone. For instance, a €10 Maltese commemorative coin cannot be used in any other country.
From its introduction in 1972 until the introduction of the Euro in 2008, the currency was the Maltese lira
, which had replaced the Maltese pound. The pound replaced the Maltese scudo
Mellieħa Bay beach
Malta is a popular tourist destination, with 1.6 million tourists per year.
Three times more tourists visit than there are residents. Tourism infrastructure has increased dramatically over the years and a number of hotels are present on the island, although overdevelopment and the destruction of traditional housing is of growing concern. An increasing number of Maltese now travel abroad on holiday.
Science and technology
Malta signed a co-operation agreement with the European Space Agency
(ESA) for more-intensive co-operation in ESA projects.
The Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) is the civil body responsible for the development of science and technology on an educational and social level. Most science students in Malta graduate from the University of Malta and are represented by S-Cubed (Science Student's Society), UESA (University Engineering Students Association) and ICTSA (University of Malta ICT Students' Association).
Valletta, Malta's capital city
Malta conducts a census of population and housing every ten years. The census held in November 2005 counted an estimated 96 percent of the population.
A preliminary report was issued in April 2006 and the results were weighted to estimate for 100 percent 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 percent were aged 14 and under, 68 percent were within the 15–64 age bracket whilst the remaining 13 percent 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/km2
(140/sq mi) 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 percent in 1995 to 19.8 percent in 2005, reasonably lower than the EU's 24.9 percent average; 31.5 percent of the Maltese population is aged under 25 (compared to the EU's 29.1 percent); but the 50–64 age group constitutes 20.3 percent of the population, significantly higher than the EU's 17.9 percent. Malta's old-age-dependency-ratio is expected to continue rising steadily in the coming years.
Maltese legislation recognises both civil and canonical (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.
In 2018, the population of the Maltese Islands stood at 475,701. Males make up 50.5% of the population.
The total fertility rate
(TFR) as of 2016 was estimated at 1.45 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 2018 was estimated at 83.
The Maltese language
) is one of the two constitutional languages
of Malta, having become official, however, only in 1934, and being considered as the national language. Previously, Sicilian
was the official and cultural language of Malta from the 12th century, and the Tuscan dialect
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 the only Semitic language
with official status in the European Union. 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.
states that 97% percent of the Maltese population consider Maltese as mother tongue. Also, 88 percent of the population speak English, 66 percent speak Italian, and 17 percent 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 percent of the population express a preference for Maltese, 12 percent for English, and 2 percent for Italian.
Still, Italian television channels from Italy-based broadcasters, such as Mediaset
, reach Malta and remain popular.
Religion in Malta (2019)
The St. Paul Polyptych
dates to the early 15th century and is associated with the medieval Università and the Mdina
cathedral. Featuring the style of the Catalan Gothic, it was probably made in the workshop of Lluis Borassa
and is a testament to the strong Pauline tradition
present on the islands since the Middle Ages
There are more than 360 churches in Malta, Gozo, and Comino, or one church for every 1,000 residents. The parish church (Maltese: "il-parroċċa"
, or "il-knisja parrokkjali"
) 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
) 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.
(1) The religion of Malta is the Roman Catholic apostolic religion.
(2) The authorities of the Roman Catholic apostolic church have the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and which are wrong.
(3) Religious teaching of the Roman Catholic apostolic faith shall be provided in all state schools as part of compulsory education.
Chapter 1, Article 2 of the Constitution of Malta
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 frescoed between 1200 and 1480, although invading 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 the medieval period.
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
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.
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 include St. Andrew's Scots Church
in Valletta (a joint Presbyterian
congregation) and St Paul's Anglican Cathedral
. There are several Charismatic, Pentecostal, and Baptist churches, including the Bible Baptist Church, Knisja Evanġelika Battista, and Trinity Evangelical Church
– a Reformed Baptist Church. The members of these churches are mainly Maltese.
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.
In a survey held by the Malta Today
, the overwhelming majority of the Maltese population adheres to Christianity (95.2%) with Catholicism as the main denomination (93.9%). According to the same report, 4.5% of the population declared themselves as either atheist or agnostic, one of the lowest figures in Europe.
According to a Eurobarometer
survey conducted in 2019, 83% of the population identified as Catholic
The number of atheists
has doubled from 2014 to 2018. Non-religious
people have a higher risk of suffering 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 centred 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.
Malta is also home to a large number of foreign workers who migrated to the island to try and earn a better living. This migration was driven pre-dominantly at a time where the Maltese economy was steadily booming yet the cost and quality of living on the island remained relatively stable.
In recent years however the local Maltese housing index has doubled
pushing property and rental prices to very high and almost unaffordable levels in the Maltese islands with the slight exception of Gozo. Salaries in Malta have risen very slowly and very marginally over the years making life on the island much harder than it was a few years ago.
As a direct result, a significant level of uncertainty exists among expats in Malta as to whether their financial situation on the island will remain affordable in the years going forth, with many already barely living paycheck to paycheck and others re-locating to other European countries altogether.
Since the late 20th century, Malta has become a transit country for migration routes from Africa towards Europe.
In January 2014, Malta started granting citizenship for a €650,000 contribution plus investments, contingent on residence and criminal background checks.
This 'golden passport' citizenship scheme has been criticized on multiple occasions as a fraudulent act by the Maltese Government since it has come under scrutiny for selling citizenship to a number of dubious and/or criminal individuals from non-European nation countries.
Concerns as to whether the Maltese citizenship scheme is allowing an influx of such individuals into the greater European Union have been raised by both the public as well as the European Council on multiple occasions.
On 8 September 2020, Amnesty International
criticized Malta for "illegal tactics" in the Mediterranean, against immigrants who were attempting to cross from North Africa
. The reports claimed that the government's approach might have led to avoidable deaths.
Child Migrants' Memorial at the Valletta Waterfront
, commemorating the 310 child migrants who travelled to Australia between 1950 and 1965
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 percent 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
Library in Valletta
Primary schooling has been compulsory since 1946; secondary education up to the age of sixteen was made compulsory in 1971. The state and the Church
provide education free of charge, both running a number of schools in Malta and Gozo
, including De La Salle College
, St. Aloysius' College
, St. Paul's Missionary College
in Rabat, Malta
, St. Joseph's School in Blata l-Bajda
and Saint Monica Girls' School
and Saint Augustine College
, with its primary sector in Marsa
and its secondary in Pieta
. As of 2006, state schools are organised into networks known as Colleges and incorporate kindergarten schools, primary and secondary schools. A number of private schools are run in Malta, including San Andrea School
and San Anton School
in the valley of L-Imselliet (l/o Mġarr
), St. Martin's College
in Swatar and St. Michael's School in San Ġwann
. St. Catherine's High School, Pembroke offers an International Foundation Course for students wishing to learn English before entering mainstream education. As of 2008, there are two international schools, Verdala International School and QSI Malta. The state pays a portion of the teachers' salary in Church schools.
Education in Malta is based on the British model
. Primary school lasts six years. Pupils sit for SEC O-level
examinations at the age of 16, with passes obligatory in certain subjects such as Mathematics, a minimum of one science subject (Physics, Biology or Chemistry), English and Maltese
. Upon obtaining these subjects, Pupils may opt to continue studying at a sixth form college
such as Gan Frangisk Abela Junior College
, St. Aloysius' College
, Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary, De La Salle College
, St Edward's College, or else at another post-secondary institution such as MCAST
. The sixth form course lasts for two years, at the end of which students sit for the matriculation examination. Subject to their performance, students may then apply for an undergraduate degree
Maltese and English are both used to teach pupils at the primary and secondary school level, and both languages are also compulsory subjects. Public schools
tend to use both Maltese and English in a balanced manner. Private schools prefer to use English for teaching, as is also the case with most departments of the University of Malta
; this has a limiting effect on the capacity and development of the Maltese language.
Most university courses are in English.
Of the total number of pupils studying a first foreign language at secondary level, 51 per cent take Italian whilst 38 per cent take French. Other choices include German, Russian, Spanish, Latin, Chinese and Arabic.
Malta is also a popular destination to study the English language, attracting over 83,000 students in 2019.
Medical student taking blood pressure during an event organised by the local medical student association
Malta has a long history of providing publicly funded health care
. The first hospital recorded in the country was already functioning by 1372.
The first hospital exclusively for women was opened in 1625 by Caterina Scappi
, known as "La Senese".
Today, Malta has both a public healthcare system, known as the government healthcare service, where healthcare is free at the point of delivery, and a private healthcare system.
Malta has a strong general practitioner-delivered primary care base and the public hospitals provide secondary and tertiary care. The Maltese Ministry of Health advises foreign residents to take out private medical insurance.
Malta also boasts voluntary organisations such as Alpha Medical (Advanced Care), the Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (E.F.R.U.), St John Ambulance and Red Cross Malta who provide first aid/nursing services during events involving crowds.
The Mater Dei Hospital
, Malta's primary hospital, opened in 2007. It has one of the largest medical buildings in Europe.
The Medical Association of Malta
represents practitioners of the medical profession. The Malta Medical Students' Association
(MMSA) is a separate body representing Maltese medical students, and is a member of EMSA
. MIME, the Maltese Institute for Medical Education, is an institute set up recently to provide CME to physicians in Malta as well as medical students. The Foundation Program
followed in the UK has been introduced in Malta to stem the 'brain drain' of newly graduated physicians to the British Isles. The Malta Association of Dental Students (MADS) is a student association set up to promote the rights of Dental Surgery Students studying within the faculty of Dental Surgery of the University of Malta. It is affiliated with IADS, the International Association of Dental Students.
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
While Maltese music today is largely Western, traditional Maltese music includes what is known as għana
. This consists of background folk guitar
music, while a few people, generally men, take it in turns to argue a point in a sing-song voice. The aim of the lyrics, which are improvised, is to create a friendly yet challenging atmosphere, and it takes a number of years of practice to be able to combine the required artistic qualities with the ability to debate
Documented Maltese literature is over 200 years old. However, a recently unearthed love ballad testifies to literary activity in the local tongue from the Medieval period. Malta followed a Romantic literary tradition, culminating in the works of Dun Karm Psaila
, Malta's National Poet. Subsequent writers like Ruzar Briffa
and Karmenu Vassallo tried to estrange themselves from the rigidity of formal themes and versification.
Lower Barrakka Gardens
Maltese architecture has been influenced by many different Mediterranean cultures and British architecture over its history.
The first settlers on the island constructed Ġgantija
, one of the oldest manmade freestanding structures in the world. The Neolithic temple builders 3800–2500
BC endowed the numerous temples of Malta and Gozo with intricate bas relief designs, including spirals evocative of the tree of life and animal portraits, designs painted in red ochre, ceramics and a vast collection of human form sculptures, particularly the Venus of Malta. These can be viewed at the temples themselves (most notably, the Hypogeum
and Tarxien Temples), and at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. Malta's temples such as Imnajdra are full of history and have a story behind them. Malta is currently undergoing several large-scale building projects, while areas such as the Valletta Waterfront
and Tigné Point
have been or are being renovated.
The Roman period introduced highly decorative mosaic floors, marble colonnades, and classical statuary, remnants of which are beautifully preserved and presented in the Roman Domus, a country villa just outside the walls of Mdina
. The early Christian frescoes that decorate the catacombs
beneath Malta reveal a propensity for eastern, Byzantine
tastes. These tastes continued to inform the endeavours of medieval
Maltese artists, but they were increasingly influenced by the Romanesque
and Southern Gothic
Towards the end of the 15th century, Maltese artists, like their counterparts in neighbouring Sicily, came under the influence of the School of Antonello da Messina
, which introduced Renaissance
ideals and concepts to the decorative arts in Malta.
The Siege of Malta – Flight of the Turks, by Matteo Perez d'Aleccio
Saint Jerome Writing, by Caravaggio, 1607. Held in St John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta.
The arrival in Malta of Caravaggio
, who painted at least seven works during his 15-month stay on these islands, further revolutionised local art. Two of Caravaggio's most notable works, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist
and Saint Jerome Writing
, are on display in the Oratory
of the Conventual Church of St. John. His legacy is evident in the works of local artists Giulio Cassarino (1582–1637) and Stefano Erardi
(1630–1716). However, the Baroque
movement that followed was destined to have the most enduring impact on Maltese art and architecture. The glorious vault paintings of the celebrated Calabrese artist, Mattia Preti
transformed the severe, Mannerist interior of the Conventual Church St. John into a Baroque masterpiece. Preti spent the last 40 years of his life in Malta, where he created many of his finest works, now on display in the Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta. During this period, local sculptor Melchior Gafà
(1639–1667) emerged as one of the top Baroque sculptors of the Roman School.
Francesco Noletti's Still Life of Pomegranates, Peaches and other Fruits
made some inroads among local Maltese artists in the late-18th century, but this trend was reversed in the early 19th century, as the local Church authorities – perhaps in an effort to strengthen Catholic resolve against the perceived threat of Protestantism during the early days of British rule in Malta – favoured and avidly promoted the religious themes embraced by the Nazarene movement
of artists. Romanticism
, tempered by the naturalism introduced to Malta by Giuseppe Calì
, informed the "salon" artists of the early 20th century, including Edward and Robert Caruana Dingli.
Parliament established the National School of Art in the 1920s. During the reconstruction period that followed the Second World War, the emergence of the "Modern Art Group", whose members included Josef Kalleya (1898–1998), George Preca (1909–1984), Anton Inglott (1915–1945), Emvin Cremona
(1919–1987), Frank Portelli
(1922–2004), Antoine Camilleri
(1922–2005), Gabriel Caruana
(1929–2018) and Esprit Barthet
(1919–1999) greatly enhanced the local art scene. This group of forward-looking artists came together forming an influential pressure group known as the Modern Art Group. Together they forced the Maltese public to take seriously modern aesthetics and succeeded in playing a leading role in the renewal of Maltese art. Most of Malta's modern artists have in fact studied in Art institutions in England, or on the continent, leading to the explosive development of a wide spectrum of views and to a diversity of artistic expression that has remained characteristic of contemporary Maltese art. In Valletta, the National Museum of Fine Arts
featured work from artists such as H. Craig Hanna
In 2018 the national collection of fine arts was moved and put on display in the new National Museum of Art, MUŻA, located at Auberge d’Italie
Maltese cuisine shows strong Sicilian
influences as well as influences of English
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). Potatoes are a staple of the Maltese diet as well.
A number of grapes are endemic to Malta, including Girgentina
. There is a strong wine industry
in Malta, with significant production of wines using these native grapes, as well as locally grown grapes of other more common varietals, such as Chardonnay and Syrah. A number of wines have achieved Protected Designation of Origin
, with wines produced from grapes cultivated in Malta and Gozo designated as “DOK” wines, that is Denominazzjoni ta’ l-Oriġini Kontrollata
Maltese folktales include various stories about mysterious creatures and supernatural events. These were most comprehensively compiled by the scholar (and pioneer in Maltese archaeology
) Manwel Magri
in his core criticism "Ħrejjef Missirijietna
" ("Fables from our Forefathers"). This collection of material inspired subsequent researchers and academics to gather traditional tales
from all over the Archipelago.
Magri's work also inspired a series of comic books (released by Klabb Kotba Maltin in 1984): the titles included Bin is-Sultan Jiźźewweġ x-Xebba tat-Tronġiet Mewwija
. Many of these stories have been popularly re-written as Children's literature by authors writing in Maltese
, such as Trevor Żahra
. While giants, witches, and dragons feature in many of the stories, some contain entirely Maltese creatures like the Kaw kaw
among others. The traditional Maltese obsession with maintaining spiritual (or ritual) purity
means that many of these creatures have the role of guarding forbidden or restricted areas and attacking individuals who broke the strict codes of conduct that characterised the island's pre-industrial society.
Traditional Maltese proverbs reveal cultural importance of childbearing and fertility: "iż-żwieġ mingħajr tarbija ma fihx tgawdija
" (a childless marriage cannot be a happy one). This is a belief that Malta shares with many other Mediterranean cultures. In Maltese folktales the local variant of the classic closing formula, "and they all lived happily ever after" is "u għammru u tgħammru, u spiċċat
" (and they lived together, and they had children together, and the tale is finished).
Rural Malta shares in common with the 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: xewqa
, literally "desire" or "craving"). 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-magħmudija
(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 rożolin
, 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-quċċija
, where a variety of symbolic objects would be randomly placed around the seated child. These may include a hard-boiled egg, a Bible, crucifix
or rosary beads
, a book, and so on. Whichever object the child shows the 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).
Re-enactment of a traditional Maltese 18th-century wedding
Traditional Maltese weddings featured the bridal party walking in procession beneath an ornate canopy, from the home of the bride's family to the parish church, with singers trailing behind serenading the bride and groom. The Maltese word for this custom is il-ġilwa
. This custom along with many others has long since disappeared from the islands, in the face of modern practices.
New wives would wear the għonnella
, a traditional item of Maltese clothing. However, it is no longer worn in modern Malta. Today's couples are married in churches or chapels in the village or town of their choice. The nuptials are usually followed by a lavish and joyous wedding reception, often including several hundred guests. Occasionally, couples will try to incorporate elements of the traditional Maltese wedding in their celebration. A resurgent interest in the traditional wedding was evident in May 2007, when thousands of Maltese and tourists attended a traditional Maltese wedding in the style of the 16th century, in the village of Żurrieq
. This included il-ġilwa
, which led the bride and groom to a wedding ceremony that took place on the parvis
of St. Andrew's Chapel. The reception that followed featured folklore music (għana
) and dancing.
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, in the morning, the festa
reaches its apex with a High Mass
featuring a sermon on the life and achievements of the patron saint. In the evening, then, 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 is preceded by several days of celebration and revelry: band marches, fireworks
, and late-night parties.
(Maltese: il-karnival ta' Malta
) 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 (Maltese: ir-Re tal-Karnival
), marching bands and costumed revellers.
(Maltese: il-Ġimgħa Mqaddsa
) 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 Easter celebrations in the Maltese Islands, honouring the death and resurrection of Jesus.
, or l-Imnarja (pronounced lim-nar-ya
) 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
. Its roots can be traced back to the pagan Roman
feast of Luminaria
(literally, "the illumination"), 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 St Paul's Cathedral
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
) remains strong today.
In 1854 British governor William Reid
launched an agricultural show at Buskett which is still being held today. The farmers' exhibition is still a seminal part of the Mnarja festivities 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
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.
The most widely read and financially the strongest newspapers are published by Allied Newspapers Ltd., mainly The Times of Malta
(27 percent) and its Sunday edition The Sunday Times of Malta
(51.6 percent).
Due to bilingualism
half of the newspapers are published in English and the other half in Maltese
. The Sunday newspaper It-Torċa
("The Torch") published by the Union Press, a subsidiary of the General Workers' Union
, is the widest Maltese language paper. Its sister paper, L-Orizzont
("The Horizon"), is the Maltese daily with the biggest circulation. There is a high number of daily or weekly newspapers; there is one paper for every 28,000 people. Advertising, sales, and subsidies
are the three main methods of financing newspapers and magazines. However, most of the papers and magazines tied to institutions are subsidised by the same institutions, they depend on advertising or subsidies from their owners.
There are eight terrestrial television channels in Malta: TVM
, Parliament TV
, NET Television
, Smash Television
, F Living
. These channels are transmitted by digital terrestrial, free-to-air signals on UHF
The state and political parties
subsidise most of the funding of these television stations. TVM, TVM2, and Parliament TV are operated by Public Broadcasting Services
, the national broadcaster
, and members of the EBU
. Media.link Communications Ltd., the owner of NET Television, and One Productions Ltd
., the owner of One, are affiliated with the Nationalist
parties, respectively. The rest are privately owned. The Malta Broadcasting Authority supervises all local broadcasting stations and ensures their compliance with legal and licence obligations as well as the preservation of due impartiality; in respect of matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy; while fairly apportioning broadcasting facilities and time between persons belong to different political parties. The Broadcasting Authority ensures that local broadcasting services consist of public, private and community broadcasts that offer varied and comprehensive programming to cater for all interests and tastes.
The Malta Communications Authority reported that there were 147,896 pay TV subscriptions active at the end of 2012, which includes analogue and digital cable, pay digital terrestrial TV and IPTV.
For reference the latest census counts 139,583 households in Malta.
Satellite reception is available to receive other European television networks such as the BBC
from Great Britain and RAI
from Italy.
Maltese public holidays
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