'Magical Malta,' the Tiny Mediterranean Wonder
Bartruff, Dave, The World and I
Though just a dot in the vast waters of the Mediterranean, the tiny island republic of Malta thoroughly surprises and entertains a growing audience of visitors today.
Although its stage is small, just three tiny islands, historians date its civilization back 7,000 years! Its prehistoric megalithic temple of Hagar Qim, they say, predates the Pyramids of Egypt and England's Stonehenge.
It is also a landmark of Biblical Christianity. Here, St. Paul was shipwrecked and miraculously rescued, thus enabling him to bring the salvation message of Jesus Christ to the islanders.
The island republic's capital, Valletta, can also boast as being the largest walled city in all of Europe and has been distinguished as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Its Port of Valletta, and the Maltese capital, is a favorite stopover on Mediterranean cruise itineraries welcoming over a million passengers a year, more than twice its local population of nearly 400,000.
On shore, tourist resources are plentiful and tours are professionally run enabling visitors to experience all the islands' many amazing landmarks.
The cosmopolitan destination is composed of three islands; Malta, (capital home and the largest), rugged Gozo, and pristine Comino are in the heart of the Mediterranean commanding access not only to Europe but also North Africa and the Middle East. Thus it's always been an ancient cultural crossroads.
### Therefore the Maltese language is a m-lange of diverse influences. Derived from Arabic, it is the only Semitic language written with the Roman alphabet.
Phoenicians and Romans, Normans and Swabians, French and English have all left their marks here. In fact, historians say Malta's first inhabitants were from nearby Sicily and were originally cave dwellers.
Later arrivals from parts unknown followed from mid 3000 to 2000 B.C. and built the megalithic Maltese temples that predate England's Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.
It is now known that North African Carthage ruled Malta during the third to first centuries B.C. Roman domination followed, but in the 4th century with the split in the empire, Malta became attached to the Byzantine Empire.
In the 9th century, Arabs captured and occupied the islands. Norman Crusader knights ousted them in AD 1090. Still other invasions followed.
In 1530, the three islands were given in perpetuity to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem by the Holy Roman Emperor. There was just a single condition, that a peregrine Maltese falcon be gifted annually to the sovereign in return.
The pope's own master architect designed the knights' island fortress of Valletta. It was named after the Grand Master of the Knights, Jean de la Valletta. Construction was completed just in time: in 1565, as the citadel was about to be besieged by the Ottomans under the command of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his 30,000-man amphibious force. …