“If I walked across the Gozo Channel my enemies would still call me a bad swimmer!”
Someone once said “Malta’s reputation of late has become a little dowdy, rather frumpy” – and went on to say that there was more to the island than “meets the eye”. The latter part of this description fits this wonderful nation like a glove.
The islands that make up the Republic of Malta are situated in the Mediterranean they are Malta, Gozo (Ghawdex)and Comino (Kemmuna)*. The population is about 404,000. Malta became independent from Great Britain on the 21st September 1964.
• Malta is the third most crowded country in the world, with a population density of 3,200 people per square mile. Only Monaco and Singapore are more crowded.
• First colonised by the Phoenicians, the Maltese fell under the rule of, successively, Carthaginians, the Roman and Byzantine empires, Arabs, Normans, the Knights of St John of Jerusalem and the French. Finally, the island volunteered to join the British Empire in 1814 before gaining its independence in 1964.
• The Maltese are intensely proud that their hospitality is recorded in the Bible. Acts 28 records that St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta and treated with “no little kindness” by the inhabitants.
• In 1942, King George VI awarded the George Cross to “the island fortress of Malta – its people and defenders” in recognition of their resistance to more than 3,000 German and Italian air attacks.
• The island survived another great siege. In 1565, it defied an invading force of 40,000 Turks. A far-Right political party has described the current influx of asylum seekers as Malta’s “third great siege” (source: The Telegraph)
Maltese is the main language but most speak English and many speak Italian. The history of the islands is as fascinating as the culture. Malta is now independent of the UK but the special relationship between the British and the Maltese remains strong today if a little prickly in previous decades.
I have been associated with Malta since 1988 during which time I have enjoyed a strong affiliation with many Maltese whom I call my friends and a very tiny few who I do not.
I appreciate the Maltese character and I also fully understand that “shabby treatment by colonial Britain still rankles” (addressed to me in The Times of Malta). Trust me when I say that it causes me certain irritation, resentment and especially embarrassment that certain matters were handled in such a high handed and seemingly uncaring fashion. But that was the past and in fact occurring before and just after I was born.
Some images on these pages are taken by Tim Lau, some by arrangement with iStock, others from my private collection.
If you would to see some really good images of the Maltese islands, I highly recommend this link to Michael Jurick a photographer from New York.
* My apologies for the mis-spelling of the Maltese name for Gozo – the progam I use for developing this website, frustratingly, does not recognise the Maltese alphabet.