Malta’s strategic location and good harbours in the middle of the Mediterranean have attracted Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Crusaders, the French and finally the British, with the colonial period lasting until 1964, which have attracted a rich tapestry of cultural influences. This resulted in a rich legacy stretching back some 7,000 years offering a cultural and historical wealth second to none. The islands can be described as a fascinating mix of ancient Jerusalem, ancient Rome and the Greek Islands.
The official language is Maltese, which is spoken in a distinguished dialect that amazingly differs slightly from one village to another, while the English language stands as the second official language. The Maltese alphabet is based on the Latin one but includes the letters ż, ċ, ġ, ħ, and għ. The language is a mixture of Italian and Arabic-language influences. Various localities speak a different dialect. Gozitans (people living on the island of Gozo) speak a dialect. Italian is widely understood and spoken. Some people can also speak French and German. Getting around with English or Italian is very much possible. There is no language barrier in Malta.
Religion in Malta is predominantly Catholic however non practicing catholics are on the increase. Catholic religion is reflected in the local culture. Church bells ring every day and is part of Maltese tradition.
The islands offer its visitors a good number of Theatres including one of the oldest in Europe, the Manoel Theatre. A number of performing art festivals are held throughout the year. Folklore has always been given importance on Gozo and Malta especially the art of lace making. It is not uncommon to encounter old women displaying lace making skills in various streets in Malta and especially Gozo. Maltese lace is sold in all souvenir shops of the islands and can be found in various decorative items including tablecloths, serviettes, doilies or other handmade items.
Common sports in Malta include horse racing, football, water polo and ‘Boċċi’, the latter being a local variety of the game of bocce.
Picture shows typical hand-painted colourful Gozitan boat known as 'Dgħajsa tal-Latini'.