malta text


Valetta is a perfect Renaissance planned city, built after the Great Siege of 1565 when under the leadership of Jean Parisot de La Valette (1497-1566, for whom the city is named) Malta resisted the might of the Turkish Sultan Soleiman the Magnificent and halted the advance of Islam into Europe.

Malta is one of the most incredibly photogenic places on earth. You can shoot the oldest ruins on the planet, or just about any historical period since; the gorgeous Mediterranean light and colour; tiny back roads; World Heritage sites; beaches; and just about anything else. In 1565 it was the turning point in Islamic world domination, when the Turkish hordes of Suleiman the Magnificent were repulsed at the Great Siege. We have to stop ourselves going there more often, because our editors complain there are too many Maltese pictures in our books.

And yet, most Europeans think of it as primarily a destination for cheap package tours, and few Americans even know where it is (slap in the middle of the Mediterranean, rather south of Sicily). In the summer it can be stinking hot (Roger lived there as a boy, and remembers one night at 100°F, 38°C, on the roof, at midnight) but in the spring or autumn it is delightful: we normally go in March or April, though we have been as early as January, or in October.

Malta today is a full member of the European Union with the usual easy border formalities and customs regulations. It was a tightly integrated part of the British Empire for over 150 years from the early 19th to mid 20th centuries: indeed, there was talk of political union with Britain in the 1950s. This was supported by a majority of the Maltese who voted in a referendum, but they were turned down by the English.

The Feast of St. Joseph (San Guizepp, Jiew-sepp) on March 19th, Frances's birthday, is one of the major Festas of Malta with bands and the most remarkable firework displays. We would aim to be at this Festa during the first workshop if at all possible.

The result of this long association is that English is widely spoken, which is as well as the Maltese language is pretty fiendish. How fiendish? Well, 'ten' is 'ghaxar', pronounced 'asha' and 'artichoke' (one of our favourite words) is 'qaqocc' pronounced more or less 'ah!-otch': the q is a glottal stop. Then there's 'flour' which is 'dqiq' and you pretty much need to be Maltese to pronounce that one.

There are lots of hotels at all levels; the food is good (those who remember Malta under the British may be surprised at this); and car hire is cheap, but be warned, Maltese roads are among the worst in the world and the Maltese themselves say that they drive neither on the left (the nominally preferred side) nor the right, but in the shade...

We have seriously been considering giving workshops there, and if you are interested. please click on this. And for further information on the islands generally, click for a link to the official Maltese Tourist Authority web site.

The neolithic temples of Malta are among the most amazing in the world. Mnajdra (Im-nye-dra) is our favourite on the island of Malta (we like Ggantija on Gozo even better). No-one knows how old they are: at least 5,000 years, but a recent theory that cannot be dismissed suggests that they may be over 13,000 years old.

last updated: 17/01/05

© 2004 Roger W. Hicks