The Maltese archipelago lies virtually at the centre of the Mediterranean, with Malta 93km south of Sicily and 288km north of Africa. The archipelago consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino with a total population of 400,000 inhabitants over an area of 316sq km and a coastline of 196.8km (not including 56.01 km for the island of Gozo).
Malta is the largest island and the cultural, commercial and administrative centre. Gozo is the second largest island and is more rural, characterised by fishing, tourism, crafts and agriculture while Comino is largely uninhabited.
With superbly sunny weather, expansive beaches, a thriving nightlife and 7,000 years of intriguing history, there is a great deal to see and do. With a little help from any guidebook, captivating places of interest are immediately identified – the world famous Hypogeum selected as a place of World Heritage by UNESCO, prehistoric temples and grand palaces are but a few.
The long relationship between the Islanders and the various nationalities that occupied Malta over the centuries has created a marriage of styles and traditions, giving the Islands a fascinating eclectic culture.
Ever since the archipelago was first colonised thousands of years ago, they have never been far from the centre of events and have often played a crucial role in the making of history. Their strategic situation in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea makes up for all the lack of resources that nature endowed the rest of the globe. Malta, the largest island, and her sister islands of Gozo, Comino, Filfla and other very small islands, are strategically placed in the narrow channel joining the eastern and the western basins of the Mediterranean. Or if you like, a bridge between Southern Europe and North Africa, or between Western Europe and the Middle East. This had landed the Maltese Islands right in the middle of the most important historic events: the wars between Rome and Carthage, the rise of Islam, the Crusades, the wars between Christians and Moslems, the rise and fall of Napoleon, the rise and fall of the British Empire, the fight for democracy against Fascism and Nazism, the Cold War, the rise of a United Europe and the challenges of the Third Millennium.
Photos by Alison Fenech