- An Overview
The Maltese archipelago consists of three inhabited islands, Malta,
Gozo and Comino, having a total area of 316km2. These islands are
situated in the centre of the Mediterranean sea, just 93km from the
southern tip of Italy and some 290km from the North African coast.
The archipelago's capital, Valletta, is situated on the main island,
Malta, which island denotes the name of the archipelago.
The topography of the Maltese islands is hilly towards the north-west
and low-lying towards the south east. There are no mountains or rivers
yet the Maltese coastline is picturesque with many harbours, bays
creeks, sandy beaches and rocky caves.
Malta enjoys a moderate Mediterranean climate characterised by warm
summers and mild winters. The mean temperature during the winter months
(November to April) is usually 14 C, whilst that prevailing during
the summer months (May to October) averages 23 C. The average annual
rainfall is approximately 550mm.
Malta's strategic position and its natural harbours have made it an
object of contest among competing powers. The Island, which was catholicised
by St. Paul some 2,000 years ago, has been occupied through the ages
by many different civilisations including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians,
Romans, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French and
British. This cross-fertilisation of cultures besides having imbued
Malta's name in history, has aided the development of a rich cultural
is in many ways a microcosm of Mediterranean history and within the
space of a few kilometres it is possible to see and visit anything
from prehistoric temples to spectacular fortifications and historic
towns. Exploring the Maltese countryside can also be very rewarding
as Malta has many scenic spots to be enjoyed.
After so many years of foreign occupation, Malta acquired its independence
in 1964, when it became a parliamentary democracy. The President of
the Republic of Malta, who is appointed by the House of Representatives,
is the titular Head of State.
executive power rests with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers.
The Prime Minister is usually the party leader commanding the greater
support in the House of Representatives.
power lies in the hands of the House of Representatives which currently
has sixty-five members drawn from two major political parties - Nationalist
Party and the Malta Labour Party.
are held every five years and the party currently in Government is
the Nationalist Party.
will become a full member of the European Union on 1 May 2004.
Malta's independent judicial system is backed by many years of experience.
The island's civil law is largely based on the Napoleonic Code. The
criminal code is Italian in origin, but a system of trial by jury
is modelled on English principles. Company and taxation law are also
based on their English counterparts. All laws are published in Maltese
In spite of the various historical influences, Malta acquired a unique
cultural identity and a language, which have survived centuries of
domination. Maltese is the national language but for official and
business purposes both Maltese and English are used. Besides being
very fluent in both the above two languages, many Maltese can also
speak one or more additional languages such as Italian, French and
Malta, renowned for its hospitality, has a homogeneous population
with no ethnic, racial, religious or linguistic problems. As at September
2000, the Maltese population amounted to 381,500 - 49.7% of whom were
males and 50.3% females. The average annual population growth rate
is 0.8%. Malta has a multi-lingual labour force which is very flexible
Malta is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (G.M.T.)
Malta is easily accessible by air within a few hours from most of
the major European countries. The national airline, Air Malta, currently
has scheduled direct services to all major European and North African
Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam,
Athens, Bahrain, Barcelona, Berlin, Birmingham, Brussels, Budapest,
Cairo, Casablanca, Catania, Damascus, Dubai, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt,
Geneva, Glasgow, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Istanbul, Larnaca, Lisbon, London
Gatwick, London Heathrow, Lyons, Manchester, Marseille, Milan, Monastir,
Munich, Oslo, Palermo, Paris, Rome, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Stuttgart,
Tel Aviv, Tunis, Vienna and Zurich.
are also provided by other international carriers. Destinations not
reached directly from Malta are usually accessed via London, Munich,
Frankfurt Zurich or Rome.
Malta is also
accessible by sea. A number of carriers, including Sea Malta, provide
scheduled services within a complete world-wide network. The Grand
Harbour is well equipped with a number of deep water quays providing
passenger, RoRo and container facilities. It is also the base for
the island's ship repair and ship building industry. Besides the Grand
Harbour there is also the Marsaxlokk Harbour, a Freeport which provides
a wide range of services.
Overseas calls, faxes and telexes can be made from Malta to virtually
all parts of the world. Direct dialling can be made to over 120 counties
in Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and the Far East.
The Maltese islands offer varied accommodation facilities in hotels,
guest houses, holiday complexes, in self-catering apartments and villas.
These facilities may be found in residential, entertainment and commercial
centres which, given the small size of the island, are a few minutes
drive from the most important industrial estates on the island.
Visitors can rest assured that Malta enjoys a high standard of medical
care. There are several public and private hospitals and clinics in
Malta and Gozo.
Malta's mild climate lends itself to many outdoor sports and activities
including golf, sailing, yachting, scuba-diving and windsurfing. For
those who enjoy night life, Malta has many bars, restaurants, cafes
and discotheques. The standard of food served in Maltese hotels and
restaurants is high and visitors can enjoy continental as well as
Mediterranean cuisine. For the theatre goers, various operas, concerts
and plays are staged during the season. In addition, there are various
places of historical interest.
Banks open from 8.30 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. or 5.00pm from Monday to Friday.
Foreign exchange facilities are available at the more popular tourist
areas up to 7.00 p.m. There are 24 hours foreign exchange facilities
in prime areas around the island including the Airport, Valletta,
Bugibba, St. Julians, Marsascala, Rabat and Victoria and Marsalforn
in Gozo. Some branches have their opening hours depending on the market's
day service. Banking facilities are also available through a wide
network of automated teller machines.
Shops are usually open between 9.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m. with a three
hour lunch break. Shops are not open on Sundays and Public Holidays.
Valletta and Sliema are the most well known shopping areas. Major
credit cards are accepted at most leading shops and restaurants.
Local and International
A number of local daily newspapers in Maltese and English are published.
Foreign newspapers, magazines and other periodicals are also widely
Malta television programmes feature a good number of British and American
productions. Daily news bulletins are shown on TV. Numerous Italian
television stations are received in Malta and there is also a Cable
Malta has the cheapest car hire rates in Europe and this is probably
one of the most cost effective means of getting around in Malta. Driving
is on the left and British or international driving licences are generally