About Malta

The Maltese archipelago consists of three islands - Malta, Gozo and Comino - all of which lie in the middle of the Mediterranean, 93km (57miles) south of Sicily and 350km (217miles) north of Libya. Malta, the largest, is shaped like a bottle of port, and is indented by many bays and harbors. Aside from a few low ridges and outcrops, Malta is pretty flat and composed mainly of limestone. Gozo is greener and hillier than Malta, and its coast has high rugged cliffs.

Malta has an excellent climate, reaching up to 30°C (86°F) in summer (July to August) and when the hot sirocco winds blow in from Africa. The lowest average daily high temperature, about 15°C (59°F), occurs during January. Rainfall is heaviest from November to February, although it is low year-round.

Mediterranean culture is dominant in Malta, but nearly 150 years of British rule have left their mark. English is an official language (along with Maltese) The Catholic Church is the custodian of national traditions, such as yearly feasts, and its churches are the biggest landmarks in most towns and villages.

Many linguists trace the origin of Maltese to the Phoenician occupation of the islands. Maltese, a Semitic language, has survived the influence of Romance languages for hundreds of years, though it bears traces of Sicilian, Italian, Spanish, French and English. Ironically, Malta is probably best known to the world through a book that isn't about Malta, Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, the title of which refers to a statuette of mysterious origin.

Malta has become a landmark for international film producers and directors. Gladiator, Troy, The Count of Monte Cristo, Cutthroat Island, U-571 and Agora are but a few blockbusters that were shot in the Maltese Islands.

Malta is noted for its fine crafts - particularly its handmade lace, hand-woven fabrics, blown glass and silver filigree. Folk traditions in music are also very strong.

Local food specialties include fresh sea fruits, a wide variety of savory cheese pastries and rabbit, which is usually fried or baked in a casserole or pie.

Malta is a member of the European Union and its currency is the Euro.

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