Nestled at the Southern-most tip of Europe, hidden away just beneath Sicily, Malta is barely visible on the world map. So you may be excused for knowing very little about the country or even where it is. A common response to the statement, ‘I live in Malta’ is ‘Oh, is that in Africa?’ Having even had to reassure a doctor or two that you don’t have to take Malaria tablets or have your jabs to go to Malta, it became apparent that this island’s colourful and proud history is little known to its European neighbours let alone the world.
Malta TodayMalta joined the EU on the 1st of May, 2004, adopting the Euro as their sole currency on the 1st of January 2008. While the effects of the latest recession have been global, the air in Malta is laced with optimism and positivity. Since joining the EU, more and more businesses have been relocating to Malta to take advantage of perks such as tax breaks, gaming licences and the great lifestyle on offer to employees. Evidence of Malta’s EU membership also seems apparent in the improvements that are being made to roads, buildings and general services. It is this feeling of positivity and pride that makes living in Malta an uplifting and liberating experience; you don’t often hear a Londoner say ‘I really love my country’. To fully understand where this attitude has come from, it’s well worth a trip back into Malta’s unique history, and a great, bite-size way of doing that is by visiting the Malta Experience in Valletta.
The Malta Experience
Located on Valletta’s waterfront about a ten minute walk up the road from the Grand Harbour, The Malta Experience is a purpose-built auditorium designed to bring 7000 years of this tiny island’s turbulent and violent past back to life. Built into the rock in the fortified walls that have protected Valletta valiantly through the ages, you access the Malta Experience auditorium via a dimly lit, and pretty long, tunnel underground. Tickets are bought in the gift shop at the end of the tunnel and the shows start on the hour, every hour from 11am until 4pm every day of the week. The shows last for a manageable 45 minutes each, which means that you won’t miss out on too much valuable tanning time if you’re on a sun-seeking holiday. The show is also available in around 15 different languages so visitors of all nationalities can attend.
As you take your place in front of the large cinema screen and choose your language for your headphones, sit back and prepare to be impressed. You’re about to learn just how much history can be crammed into one tiny group of islands stranded in the Med.
Malta by any other name
Indeed, Malta has been known by many rulers and by many names. Following the temple period, that started around 3600 BC, and the Bronze Age, the Phoenicians (Lebanese) landed on Malta and named it ‘Maleth’ meaning ‘safe haven’. They used Malta as a base to explore the Mediterranean and expand trading routes. The Greeks followed, calling their Maltese colony ‘Melite’ meaning ‘sweet honey’ or ‘honey bee’ due to the bee species they found there. In less peaceful times, Malta earned the name, ‘Nurse of the Mediterranean’ as the island became hospital and healer to wounded soldiers of the Crimean War and World War 1.
Malta’s many mastersThe Maltese islands have been seized, sold and sabotaged by many great powers. The Malta Experience will take you through this menacing history from the Neolithic era to the modern day, and demonstrate why the Maltese are so proud of their nation. You’ll come away realising what a tough little cookie Malta really is and possibly be surprised at how welcoming and friendly the Maltese seem to be to foreigners, given their history.
Paying tribute to their hardiness is the fact that the entire island was awarded the George Cross in 1942, for their gallantry and defence of their country in the face of relentless bombing by the Italians and Germans in WW2. You can imagine being a British colony stranded in the middle of the Axis shipping lanes made Malta a sitting duck, but with meagre defences, the Maltese refused to be beaten and starved into submission. It was Roosevelt that said about this grim war period that Malta was ‘a tiny bright flame in the darkness’, which gives you a sense of the pluck and determination of the island. Plaques from King George VI and Roosevelt can be seen on the walls outside the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta. You can also visit the WW2 Shelters in Mellieha to experience what it must have been like for the islanders driven underground.
Plan your sight-seeing with The Malta Experience
The Malta Experience will help you recognise the different cultural influences on the island and give you some ideas of what to see while you are visiting Malta. Many Empires and nations left their cultural footprint on the islands; The Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Italians, French, British, not to mention the infamous Knights of St John. All introduced something new to Malta, from farming techniques to language to religion. All these influences have combined together in the melting pot of time to make Malta the truly unique country it is today. From some of the oldest temples in the world, Roman townhouses, cart tracks and catacombs to cathedrals, grand palaces and fortifications built by the knights, Malta has a wealth of sights for the historically minded.
Pay them a visit
Visiting the Malta Experience will open your mind and, gushing as it may sound, your heart to Malta. It will put context around your sight-seeing excursions and give you plenty of ideas on what to see and do during your holiday. What’s more, as the island is so small, it’s easy to see a number of sights in one day. Malta is so much more than a package holiday in the sun, if you want to find out more, the Malta Experience is a good place to start and at the very least you’ll walk away with a fuller understanding and respect for the Malta archipelago and its people.
Address: The Malta Experience, St Elmo Bastions, Mediterranean Street, Valletta VLT06
Telephone: +356 21243776, +356 21251284
Admission rates: Adults €9.50, Children €4.50, Students €6.50