Miss Malta Knight
Located in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Sicily, the Maltese archipelago basically consists of three islands: Malta
, Gozo and Com ino.
Their total population in 2000 was 382,525.
The largest island of the group is Malta
, from which the archipelago takes its name.
In 2000, it had a population of just over 352,835.
Valletta, the capital, is the cultural, administrative and commercial centre of the archipelago.
is well served with harbours, chief of which is the Valletta Grand Harbour.
international airport is situated five kilometres from the capital.
The second largest island, Gozo is topographically quite different from Malta
Quaintly attractive for its less industrialised way of life, Gozo can be reached from Malta
by ferry-boat from Cirkewwa and Pieta, near Valletta, and by helicopter from the airport.
Comino, Cominotto, Filfla and St Paul's Islet are the other major features of the archipelago.
Of these, only Comino, straddled between Malta
and Gozo, sustains a very tiny population.
Turned into a popular resort because of a couple of very fine beaches, Comino can be reached from Cirkewwa, either by boat or by excursion ferries during the summer months.
The distance between Malta
and the nearest point in Sicily is 93 km.
The distance from the nearest point on the North African mainland (Tunisia) is 288 km.
Gibraltar is 1,826 km to the west and Alexandria is 1,510 km to the east.
This strategic position has allowed Malta
to develop as an important trading post.
The Malta Freeport is one of the Mediterranean's leading ports for container transhipments.
has no mountains or rivers.
The terrain is low and rocky with coastal cliffs.
has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters.
has many thriving family farms and vineyards.
The island has many species of wildflowers and trees include the almond, fig, olive and the evergreen oak.
has a variety of birds and over two hundred species have been recorded in the Ghadira nature reserve.
The wetlands of the Ghadira reserve are also the home to many species of plants and small animals.
has examples of Neolithic and Bronze Age structures that are on the World Heritage List.
These include the Hal Saflien Hypogeum, an enormous underground burial chamber, dating back to around 3600 BC and the seven Megalithic Temples of Malta
on the islands of Malta
Mdina and Rabat date back to the Bronze Age.
Built on one of Malta's
highest points, Medina has a number of medieval buildings: palaces, houses and a baroque cathedral.
The historic city of Valetta, Malta's
capital, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It has over three hundred historical monuments including the Palace
of the Grand Masters, the Cathedral of St John and beautiful churches
built by the Knights of Malta
(the Order of St John).
The population of Malta
was 400,420 in 2003.
Lampuki pie, made using dorado fish, is one of Malta's
and Gozo have been inhabited for over five thousand years.
In 1530 the Spanish passed Malta
to the Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem.
The French arrived in 1798 and after the Napoleonic Wars Britain acquired the island.
The British remained in Malta
until the island became independent in 1964.
Ten years later Malta
became a republic.
Malta retained its links with the UK becoming a member of the British Commonwealth.
In December 2002 Malta took part in EU accession negotiations with nine other countries (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia).
The Accession Treaty was signed on 16 April 2003 with 1 May 2004 the formal entry date.
is an important centre for shipping services, finance and tourism.
The service sector provides employment for over seventy percent of Malta's working population and just over twenty-five percent work in industry (shipbuilding and repair, construction, furniture, electronics, textiles, clothing, footwear, food and beverages).
Around three percent of the labour-force work in the agricultural sector and some of Malta's
food is imported.
Agricultural products include wheat, barley, potatoes, green peppers, tomatoes, figs, grapes, oranges, lemons, melons, strawberries and honey.
Poultry, goats, pigs, sheep and cattle are reared.
Fishing plays a minor part in the overall economy but has a traditional role in the provision of food for the Maltese family.
is well known for its arts and crafts: handmade lace, wrought ironwork, filigree silver and pottery.
Pottery is the oldest of Maltese crafts and there are examples of pottery from early times, such as "The Sleeping Lady" found at the ancient burial chamber of Hypogeum.
Among Malta's best-known artists are the ceramist and sculptor Gabriel Caruana (1929) and the modern artist Alfred Chircop (1933).