A Backpacker’s Guide To 10 Random Facts On Malta – Mediterranean Sea Chronicles 4

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Valetta Grand Harbor, Valetta, Malta

Valetta Grand Harbor of which is a favorite location site for James Bond films (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977) and other blockbusters like Gladiator, Troy and Midnight Express

For many centuries, Valetta Grand Harbor has been the epicenter of Malta’s maritime industry with an exceptional backdrop – the waterfront of Valetta. This harbor is a natural deep-water port that extends about 3-6 km inland. It lies mainly beneath Valetta (capital of Malta) and the 3 cities of Cospicua, Vittoriosa and Senglea. Over the years, Valetta Grand Harbor has been modified with extensive docks, wharves and fortifications. Its breakwaters assure that all vessels can enter and leave the archipelago safely each day regardless of the weather. This port is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to provide many kinds of maritime services including ship repair. Due to its very good Mediterranean climate and superb history, Valetta Grand Harbor is also a popular tourist destination (cruise ships). It welcomes more than half a million passengers to Valetta, a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen.

Right at the heart of Mediterranean and floating on the sea between Sicily (Italy) and Libya is Malta. An archipelago of 3 islands (Malta, Gozo and Coumino), this country is made up of photogenic, ancient cities and sapphire lagoons that keep travelers coming. It was settled first by an ancient temple-building (Neolithic) civilization then occupied later on by Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans (Normandy, France) and Agaronese (Aragon, Spain) who all made their indelible mark on Maltese culture. In 1530, the Order of the Knights of St. John arrived and put Malta on world map. These noble gentlemen furnished the island-nation with Europe’s creme de la creme architecture and transforming Malta into a maritime power. In later centuries, Napoleon Bonaparte occupied the archipelago. But the Catholic-Maltese grew tired of anti-clerical French rule. They asked UK for help to overthrow the French and Malta volunteered to become a British colony for 164 years. In 1964, Malta was free at last from British rule and in 2004, this country joined the European Union.

Map of Malta at the navel of Mediterranean Sea

Right after leaving Algiers in Algeria, the M/T Adafera (2012) sailed to Malta for ship repair and signing-in (joining) crews. This country is found at the middle of Mediterranean Sea. Officially known as Republic of Malta, this island-nation is the smallest in the world but densely populated. People love to come and live in this tax-free haven country. It actually is a 7-island nation but only 3 of them are inhabited such as Malta (which the country is named after), Gozo and Coumino. One of the most special islands at the Mediterranean, it has attracted all the major powers from the well-learned Phoenicians to the stiff upper lip English. The capital of Malta is Valetta, an imposing bastion of incredible views. It is one of the most picturesque capital cities of the world. A trip to Malta is like traveling back in time. It showcases influences from various periods of its history. This may sound mysterious but if you are in Malta for the first time, there is a feeling of deja vu as soon as you set your feet on its shores. You will recognize many locations because of their appearance in Hollywood movies (Gladiator) and TV series (Game of Thrones). Choosing this island-country as a destination is a perfect choice, however when it comes to awesome stuff, here is a backpacker’s guide to 10 random facts on Malta.

1. You Can’t Go Wrong With Either Maltese, English or Italian

Hello, buongiorno or kif inti? Either of these three and Maltese people speak various languages but Maltese and English are the official forms of communication. A backpacker’s guide to one of the random facts on Malta, Italian is also spoken by about 66% of the population. So getting around is easy if you have a good grip with either Maltese, English or Italian.

2. A Church A Day, Keeps The Devil Away

There are 365 Churches in Malta, one for every day of the year. A predominantly Catholic country, there is a Church for every 1,000 residents. A backpacker’s guide to one of the random facts on Malta, many of the Churches have 2 clocks showing different hours. It is said that the one on the right side shows the true time while the one on the left side has the wrong time. It is to confuse the devil from disturbing the Mass. Every town and village in Malta has its own patron saint. And local festivals (feste) are celebrated on the feast day of the patron saint of that particular parish which often occur during summer time. One such feste event is the national festival dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul in Mnarja, Malta.

A feste in Mnarja, Malta.

3. With Their Maltese Blood and Celebrity Status

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex

A backpacker’s guide to one of the random facts on Malta, there are international celebrities with Maltese blood in them. Britney Spears‘ maternal great-great-grandfather was Edward Portelli from Malta, born in 1873. The Canadian superstar, Bryan Adams’ maternal grandmother came from the town of Florianna but lived in Valetta. Kerry Ingram, a British actress whose role was Princess Shireen in the Game of Thrones has a Maltese grandfather from Imqulfa. Even the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle claimed that her great-great-grandmother was from Malta. Before he met Prince Harry, she had traveled to the island-nation to try tracing her Maltese ancestry. Well, they may not have a Maltese passport, but surely they have Maltese blood running through their veins.

Irene Portell, grandmother of Britney Spears who was part Maltese.

Bryan Adams’ concert in Malta in 2007.

Kerry Ingram

4. Everybody Knows Everyone Here

It is a nosy state. In Malta, everybody knows everyone. Words spread quickly like wildfires. A backpacker’s guide to one of the random facts on Malta, even if you do not care to know for any rumor- that’s highly unlikely. Malta, being so densely populated and small, it is easier to get to know a lot of people. Heard from the grapevine? Or might as well be a little birdie told me….

5. It’s A Land Where Forests And Rivers Do Not Exist

Christian culture is all over the country and it is full of amazing architecture. But the most interesting observation in Malta is that it does not have forests and rivers. A backpacker’s guide to one of the random facts on Malta, the archipelago has few natural resources due to its stony landscape.

6. Absolutely A Low To Zero Crime Rate Nation

Is Malta safe for tourists? Yes, it is, still like all the rest of the tourist destinations in Europe, you have to be watchful. A backpacker’s guide to one of the random facts on Malta, crime rate in this island-nation is very low as compared to other EU member countries. It has also managed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

7. St. Paul Has Been Shipwrecked in Malta

In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 27), St. Luke tells us about the story of St. Paul traveling to Rome on an Alexandrian cargo vessel that carries grain, in order to appeal his case to Julius Ceasar. The ship however has encountered a terrible storm and the mighty waves smashed the freighter into pieces. St. Paul and his men sought refuge on an island by the Mediterranean Sea . That island was Malta. A backpacker’s guide to one of the random facts on Malta, it was actually St. Paul who introduced Christianity to that country when he was shipwrecked in 60 A.D. Later on, he managed to sail to Rome but received an order of house arrest as he faced trial (for spreading the Good News).

8. Valletta, A UNESCO World Heritage Site City

Valletta is the capital of the Maltese group of islands. When the Knights of the Order of St. John arrived in 1530, Mdina was the capital of Malta then. But this Neolithic era settlement on the hills did not serve their needs. They wanted a city by the harbor and they settled in Valletta. Grand Master of the Knights, Jean Pairot de Vallette (of whom Valletta got its name) led the building of this fortified city and fought against Ottoman raids. He envisioned it as the center for political, economic and cultural activity in 16th century Europe. And he commissioned around 8,000 men (or knights) to design and work for 5 years in creating “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen.” A backpacker’s guide to one of the random facts on Malta, Valletta today is a Renaissance city with auberges (inns), palaces and forts that bear witness to its magnificent past. Alongside millenial life, Valletta showcases 450 years of living history on every nook of its streets. It has 320 monuments in an area of 55 hectares reputedly the most concentrated historic area in the world, based on UNESCO. It may be small in size but colossal on attractions.

Monuments at every nook.

Inside the St. John Co-Cathedral in Valetta.

9. Wied il-Bassasa In Southern Malta Is Literally Translated As “Valley Of The Farters”

It is a valley of hidden secrets that offer an interesting landscape. A nature preserve in Zurrieq, Malta. Of course, it is also the best place to be when you want to pass off your “gas” silently. And no one won’t mind. (Ha, ha) Seriously now. A backpacker’s guide to one of the random facts on Malta, Wied il-Bassasa when literally translated means “Valley of the Farters” but actually it is a hikers’ paradise with a captivating “lunar” look landscape in its bareness and a mighty cliff wall at the other end.

10. And Don’t Forget To Check Out On Kinnie, Cisk and Pastizzi


The Maltese people love food and their cuisine is full of flavors with passion, love and dedication as the key ingredients. A backpacker’s guide to one of the random facts on Malta, long before Burger King, KFC, and McDonalds came to this island in the ’90s, fast food for the Maltese was pastizzi with cisk or kinnie to wash off. A pastizzi is a ricotta-cheese filled pastry and sometimes stuffed with peas and spinach together with the ricotta. Kinnie is to Malta, as Marmite is to the UK and Vegemite is to Australia. Now what is common with the three? It’s either you hate or love them. Kinnie is a softdrink endemic in Malta that has a bittersweet flavor made from a bitter orange that grow only in this island-nation. Marmite and vegemite are sandwich spreads with an acid-rich yeast extract taste which you either love or hate. Cisk is the local beer in Malta which has a gentle flavor and very refreshing on a hot (or warm) day.

Spinach and cheese pastizzi


Good things come in small packages, and in Malta it truly is. Take it from this seasoned seafarer who has visited the island twice, I assure you there is something enchanting about this nation. I recommend all globetrotters to go and visit this country someday. Narak iktar tard! Arrivederci and good luck.

Location filming of the Game of Thrones at the Azure Window in Malta

Reference: Wikipedia