Malta was referred to as Maleth, which means ‘shelter’, by the Phoenicians when they settled there for the first time in 750 B.C. they had used it as a stop for their trade routes. The Phoenician period lasted until 480 B.C. when the Carthaginians arrived and ruled over Malta for the next two and a half centuries. The reign was then transferred to the Romans who had defeated the Carthaginians during the second Punic War in 210 B.C. The Romans ruled over Malta for the next centuries and during their reign Christianity was introduced in Malta by St. Paul after the shipwreck in 60 A.D. The possession was taken over by the Arabs in 870 A.D. who had influenced the language of the inhabitants. Then the Normans took over from the Arab after a long battle. It had even become a part of Spanish Empire under Charles V and under his rule, he granted Malta to the Knights of the Order of St. John in 1530. The Knights were considered the ‘saviours of Europe’ after they resisted the Turkish invasion in 1565 but they surrendered Malta to Napoleon in 1798. The Maltese revolted against the French rule and sought for help from the British Empire. The British liberated Malta from the French rule in 1800 and the British rule started which lasted till 1964 when the island was granted independence on 21 September.
Malta is another group of islands located in the Mediterranean Sea at the geographical coordinates of 35° 50’ N and 14° 35’ E. The group of islands have Sicily to its north at a distance of 93.3 kms and Tunisia at 312.5 kms towards the west. Amongst the islands, the three largest and only inhabited islands are Malta, Gozo and Comino. The total area of this archipelago of islands is 316 sq. kms and it has a coastline of 252.8 kms. Malta is the largest amongst all the other islands with an area of 245.7 sq. kms whereas Gazo and Comino have an area of 67.1 and 2.8 sq. kms. Rest of the islands have comparatively lesser areas. To top it, there are no forests, mountains, lakes rivers or streams. The highest point in Malta is 253 m above the sea level near the Dingli Cliff in the western Malta.
The people of Malta are known as Maltese. Maltese is also the most predominant ethnic group over there. They are the descendents of Carthaginians and Phoenicians. The official language is Maltese and English, though Maltese is more widely spoken. Roman Catholic is the official religion and the most predominantly followed.
A traditional meal of Malta starts with a bowl of thick vegetable soup known as minestra and followed by a heavy meal comprising of pasta, meat and vegetables which is then followed by a desert or fruit. Soppa Tal-Armla which translates Widow’s soup is another famous Maltese soup. The soup is named so because it is prepared with the cheapest vegetables. Ross fil-forn (baked rice), Imqarrun (baked macaroni) and Timpana (special rich pasta baked in pastry case) are some of the other favourite dishes that follow the meats in a family meal. Some of their favourite dishes are bragoli, which is a flattened beef steak mixed with minced beef, baon, hard-boiled eggs, parsley and carrot which are all cooked in a sauce of vegetables, tomato, potato and red wine. The next most famous delicacy is the rabbit stew. It is known as Stuffat Tal-Fenek. It is cooked after the rabbit meat is marinated in red wine. This is every family’s favourite traditional dish. The true flavour of traditional Maltese food can be tasted in a local bar where a glass of smooth local wine is accompanied with ġbejniet (local sheep's cheeses), zalzett (coriander flavoured Maltese sausage) with galletti (Maltese crackers) and some bigilla (broad bean pate) alongwith Maltese bread and olive oil. If it is a cold day, wine or coffee with hot pastizzi (savoury ricotta filled pastries) would be a perfect combination.
Some of their popular snacks are lampuki pie which contains fish, cauliflower, chestnuts, sultanas and spinach covered with pastry, street foods like imqaret (date pastries) and Qubbait (nougat – made up of roasted nuts, sugar, honey and whipped egg whites).
Malta has some of its art forms that reflect their tradition. One amongst it is Għana (pronounced 'ana') which was practised by housewives since the times of the Knights of St. John. It involves singing alongwith a musical supplement which they especially play during their household tasks. Though it has stopped to be an everyday practise in daily life, it has evolved as a more formal and professional form of entertainment. Usually accompanied by a guitar, it is performed by two to three people singing in the form of a debate or arguing over one point. Other form of music includes daqqaqa, which is entirely instrumental emphasising more on guitar and drums and the Maltese Calypso – it is a folk music which has extensively long song with different verses and usually played in bars.
Another fascinating tradition is the clock making. These clocks are designed in the most unique form that depicts Maltese. The makers involve all their skill and produces remarkable clocks with beauty and quality. It used to be nicknamed as ‘arloggtal lira’ clocks, meaning ‘clocks that cost one Maltese pound in the past, but today it costs more than a few hundred pounds’.
The Maltese people also own an art form known as filigree, which is the jewellery art of creating ornate motifs using the fine threads of gold or silver. This art was introduced to the Maltese by the Phoenicians. Another art form that many people in Malta and Gozo practise is lace making or bizilla. Almost every woman knows this art and can be found engrossed in it at their doorsteps.
They also have a custom which is believed to predict the future of a child. It is known as il-quccija. This tradition is practised on the first birthday of the child when some selected objects are placed in front of the child and the child is made to crawl towards any of the object. The object that the child picks represents the career he or she holds. The objects include rosary beads, indicating a spiritual call, a hardboiled egg symbolising prosperity, as well as more modern inclusions such as a calculator symbolising a career in finance and others.