In an effort to highlight places of interest in countries across the world, their varied culture, economy and history, The Statesman brings to you a Weekly Focus on countries with which India shares diplomatic ties and friendship. This week’s focus is on Malta. Know all about the country.
Capital: Valletta, Currency: Euro, Language: Maltese (official) 90.1 per cent, English (official) 6, multilingual 3, other 0.9 (2005 EST.) Religion: Roman Catholic (official) more than 90 per cent (2006 EST.), Ethnic groups: The Maltese are descendants of ancient Carthaginians and Phoenicians with strong elements of Italian and other Mediterranean stock.
Food and festivities: The cuisine borrows heavily from neighbouring Sicily and North Africa. Although food from every part of the globe is to be found on the island, local restaurants providing rustic homecooked family recipes are denitely worth seeking out.
Among secular celebrations you can join in are the pre-Lenten Carnival, Independence Day (21 September), Republic Day (13 December), and the Spring Show of Flowers, Vegetables, and Fruits at San Anton Gardens that dates back to the 17th century.
Sights worth seeing
Valletta: The entire city of Valletta is testimony to the grandeur of the Knights of Malta. Small city is bounded by two harbours, the Grand Harbor and Marsamxett Harbor. Highlights of the city are Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, Grand Master’s Palace (once the residence of the Knights of Malta), Upper Barracca Gardens and the Museum of Archaeology.
Gozo: With its quaint pastoral landscape, quiet towns, and pristine beaches, this little island is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing vacation while still discovering cultural attractions. Gozo is also famous for the Azure Window, a striking coastal formation. Most of the island is gently rolling hills covered with a patchwork of small farms, and the hillsides lead down to protected beaches and old fishing villages. A favorite beach is at Ramla Bay.
Tarxien Temples: Excavated in 1914, the site covers an area of 5,400 sq m and displays the artistic achievements of Malta’s mysterious prehistoric culture during the “Temple Period” (late Neolithic period) between 3600 BC and 2500 BC.