Malta: Country and Foreign Investment
History, Population, Language and Culture
Civilisation on Malta is one of the oldest in the Mediterranean, dating back to c. 5000 BC. The ancient Ġgantija monuments on Gozo, a World Heritage Site, are testament to this. St. Paul is believed to have been shipwrecked on Malta.
The island group’s strategic position in the Mediterranean has made it an important cultural and commercial centre. The crusading order of the Knights of St. John established their base in Malta. In the 16th century they famously withstood a siege by 30,000 of Suleiman the Magnificent's Ottoman soldiers. The islanders' stout defence against the Germans in the Second World War is an equally famous chapter in history; it earned the island a collective George Cross from the British.
The islands' architecture, language and culture are an intriguing, distinctive blend of Mediterranean and Arabic influences. Catholicism is dominant, and there are many churches built from local stone. Fiestas with loud fireworks is a marked feature of Maltese life.
After almost 150 years as a British colony, Malta was granted its independence in 1964. Ten years later, Malta became a republic within the British Commonwealth. The economy slumped after the withdrawal of the British military in 1979, and for a while local political conditions were not propitious for business development. Tourism however continued to thrive, and in the last ten years Malta has made an effort to become more business-friendly, making use of the institutions, infrastructure and public administration left behind by the British.
The total population of the islands is estimated at 432,000 (January 2018); of this, approximately 33,000 live on Gozo. The official languages are Maltese and English; Italian is also widely spoken. Maltese derives from an Arabic dialect but has been strongly influenced by Italian, and, more recently, English.