The Republic of Malta, besides being an archipelago of immense beauty, is important to historians for the Biblical importance attached to it. Malta is actually a group of seven islands, of which only three- Malta, Gozo and Comino are inhabited. This group of islands are located in the Mediterranean Sea, and lie within Southern Europe. Although these islands came under British rule, it gained importance in 1964. The origin of the word Malta, is linked to the Phoenician word’ Maleth’, meaning a haven, whereas the Greeks called the island ‘ Melita’, meaning honey. The capital city is Valetta, while the official languages are Maltese and English.
Malta is home to the oldest megalithic temples in the world, which date back to 3500 BC and dedicated to the goddess of fertility. There is even an ancient temple called Hagar Qim which also dates back from 3200 BC to 2500 BC. In the Bible, there is an apostle called St Paul who was responsible for preaching Christianity to far off lands. It is believed that he had visited Malta too in 60 AD, and today Roman Catholicism, is widely followed throughout the land. One of the islands here is even called St Paul’s island. Malta used to be an important center of culture and arts, inspiring famous names such as Caravaggio. Although Malta has very few industries, limestone is found in abundance here and is hugely exported. Tourism however is another growing industry in the region. The culture, which prevails here, is actually a mix of cultures from neighbouring countries and from the colonizers who ruled here. The music played here, is folk like in nature and relies a lot on the guitar.
As the islands are surrounded by clear blue waters on all sides, beaches and secluded bays are found here in plenty. In other countries where Christianity is the main religion followed, it is not uncommon to find churches and cathedrals, with good architectural designs. Here one can see many citadels too, which say a lot about the history of the island. The capital city of Valletta is usually the preferred starting point for a tour.
This beautiful town built at the end of the 16th century by the Knights of St John as the island’s new capital, serves as a showcase of the island’s culture. Many examples of Maltese-style Baroque architecture can be seen here. The Co-Cathedral of St John, with a lovely interior of marble mosaic floors and a lapis lazuli altar is a favourite tourist destination. The famous painting by Caravaggio of the beheading of St John is also here. Another place of interest called The Grand Master’s Palace in Republic Street was built 500 years ago and many paintings depicting the great siege of 1565, painted by a pupil of Michelangelo. There is also an extensive armory collection. The Manoel Theater, situated here is the second-oldest theater in Europe and performances of opera, theater, music and ballet are often staged. One of the best museums here called The National Museum of Fine Art, housed in an 18th-century palace, is a must see for the collection of furniture, paintings and treasures displayed. In Auberge de Provence one can visit the National Museum of Archaeology, which has exhibits from the area dating back to prehistory.
In Malta there is much more to see in other places. Mdina, which used to be the capital earlier, is located on a high plateau, overlooking the island. The palazzo Falzon, has a collection of antique weapons and pottery and even has a museum where more treasures of art can be seen. Mdina is famed for the flower festivals held here annually. If you have a passion for history and would like to see more of the ancient world, then Malta will not disappoint you. The Neolithic temple of Tarxien, the underground burial chambers dating back more than 3000 years at Hypogeum, and the Ghar Dalam, where remains of extinct birds and animals can be seen; are a few of the archaeological sites that should not be missed out. The Temple of Juno, which was used by the Greeks, to worship their goddess of fertility has also just been excavated at Marsaxlokk.
The islands of Gozo and Comino, too have a lot for tourists to see. Since the islands are not very modern in nature, it is perfect for those who want to stay in a natural environment. In Rabat, one can visit the St Paul’s and St Agatha’s Catacombs. The southwest shore is full of grottos or caves, of which the Blue Grotto is the most beautiful and interesting one. The caves themselves reflect the unusual colors of the corals and minerals in the limestone. The Museum of Roman Antiquities and catacombs are also found here. The Gran Castello citadel, with many old houses is worth a visit. Underground caves full of stalactites and stalagmites, go by the name of Xerri’s Grotto and Ninu’s Grotto. The basilica at Ta’Pinu, is one of the most beautiful of Maltese churches and has even been declared an official Vatican place of pilgrimage. Ggantija, which is a World Heritage Site, is the site of some of the oldest temples in the world. The beautiful scenery is not to be missed. The coastline full of creeks, red sandy beaches, high cliffs and limestone caves, is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. The nightlife on this island is also made more exciting by the presence of good restaurants, and hotels. There are many fishing villages here, which are quiet and serene. There are also two good spas here, which have modern facilities, and are an ideal place to unwind.
Comino, the third island, is the least inhabited of all three islands, and is the best getaway for anybody who wants a holiday away from the world. Except for a few inhabitants, there are many bays and coves, which are the real attraction. Malta, opens your eyes to new discoveries in history, and allows you to refresh your senses, in a different way.