Got a long weekend? Try Malta
THE Middle East’s footprints in Malta are so old that they can be found embedded in their Phoenician derived language that is similar to Arabic.
Malta, is a city, that derives it myth, mystery and magic both from its pristine Mediterranean location and the indelible imprints of Christian, Phoenician, and Muslim civilisations that are such an intrinsic part of its 7,000 year heritage.
For a more modern age link with the region, a visit to SmartCity establishes that the island nation’s connection with the Middle East is still alive. This 311,000 sq m development is a joint venture between TECOM Investments and Sama Dubai in association with the government of Malta.
Visiting Malta for the first time leaves you with a sense of déjà vu. That’s because the picturesque nation has for long been a hotspot film location and as you walk along the city of Valetta and the streets of Gozo and Mdina, its settings seem familiar and prop up as mental images from blockbusters such as Gladiator, and Troy to name a few.
Megaliths, medieval dungeons and Calypso’s Cave – The Maltese Islands are positively mythic. The narrow meandering streets of their towns and villages are crowded with Renaissance cathedrals and Baroque palaces. As the countryside is dotted with the oldest known human structures in the world, the islands have rightly been described as an open air museum.
The Maltese archipelago lies virtually at the centre of the Mediterranean, with Malta 93 kms south of Sicily and 288 kms north of Africa. The archipelago consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino with a total population of 400,000 inhabitants over an area of 316 sq km and a coastline of 196.8 kms (not including 56.01 kms for the island of Gozo).
Malta is the largest island and the cultural, commercial and administrative centre. Gozo is the second largest island and is more rural, characterised by fishing, tourism, crafts and agriculture while Comino is largely uninhabited.
With superbly sunny weather, expansive beaches, a thriving nightlife and 7,000 years of intriguing history, there is a great deal to see and do. With a little help from any guidebook, captivating places of interest are immediately identified – the world famous Hypogeum selected as a place of World Heritage by UNESCO, prehistoric temples and grand palaces are but a few.
The long relationship between the Islanders and the various nationalities that occupied Malta over the centuries has created a marriage of styles and traditions, giving the Islands a fascinating eclectic culture.
Sampling Malta delights is now easier, thanks to the daily Emirates airlines departures to Malta by Emirates which is conveniently timed. Allowing for an early morning departure, you can actually conceive of a long weekend break to the nation and not feel the strain.
By Manisha Koshy