7 Things the Guidebooks Won’t Tell You About Malta

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In most parts of Europe, Malta is known and promoted as a summer holiday destination that enjoys sunny and warm Mediterranean weather. If you dig a little deeper though, and peel back a few layers you’ll find that there’s much more to this small island nation that makes it a great addition to your travel bucket list. Below are some of the things about Malta that you might not find in any guidebook.

1. Megalithic Temples in Malta


A few of the Megalithic Temples in Malta, such as the Tarxien Temples, date back to around 5000-3000 BC, making them the oldest free-standing man-made structures in the world, older than Stonehenge. Most of the temples undergo regular restoration and preservation works and are open to the public, with guided tours offered in various languages. Archaelogists have it that the megalithic complex came up due to local innovations in a cultural evolution process.

2. Movie production – Popeye, Troy and parts of Gladiator were filmed in Malta

Malta, a very beautiful Island is well known to draw big budget film makers who are attracted to the beauty of this city. Over 50 film makers have used Malta as a backdrop for their movies. Some examples of movies shot in Malta include:

  • Popeye (1980)
  • Pinocchio (2002)
  • Swept Away (2002)
  • Alexander (2004)
  • Troy (2004)
  • Munich (2006)
  • The da Vinci Code (2006)

Filmmaking in Malta dates back to 1964 when the Mediterranean Film Studios were opened. The studios have extraordinary deep and shallow water tanks, which offer an exceptional backdrop for any filmmaker. Apart from filmmakers, TV advertisers, commercials and series also use the water tanks for filming. Malta is both scenic and historic with picturesque shorelines and open seas for quality filmmaking. The distinctive integration of Malta’s sunny shorelines and architectural history create an exceptional ‘Hollywood’ of the Mediterranean.

2. Maltesers were not invented in Malta

Maltesers are spherical malt honeycombs sorrounded by thin milk chocolate layers. Commonly found in Japan, Ireland and the United Kingdom, maltesers are simply a more lighter way of enjoying chocolate. Originally, they were referred to as Energy Balls, an invention of Forrest Mars back in 1936. They derive their name from two words ‘malt’ and ‘teasers’. Regardless of the spelling, Maltesers have no connection with the Maltese people or the Malta city. Maltesers remain popular to people of all generations who value their great taste.

4. Culture of Opposites

A big part of Maltese culture is choosing a side and opposing the other. Whether it be politics (Malta has two major political parties, the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party), soccer/football (it’s either England or Italy that gets the support from the majority of the Maltese) or local band clubs (as part of annual village feasts, originally a religious celebration). The Arabs, Romans and Phoenicians have all left a touch on the traditions and customs of Malta’s history. Malta is generally a nation of opposition and opposites and while the people are mainly welcoming and friendly, they have a level of opposition of sides majorly in local band clubs, sports and politics.

5. 98% Of the Maltese are Catholic

Despite popular belief that Malta is an Arab nation (and its population therefore largely Muslim), the vast majority are raised as Catholics, although the number of Maltese who actively practise their religion is rapidly declining. The only link to Middle Eastern countries is possibly the Maltese language, which is strongly influenced by Arabic. Malta Island is commonly known as the Island of the Catholic “Arabs” with 98% of the entire population being Roman Catholics. While 98% of the country recognizes the freedom of religion, Roman Catholicism is identified as the state religion in Malta’s constitution.

6. A popular local softdrink: Kinnie

Malta is famed for its locally-prepared non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks especially the Maltese beer and Maltese wine. Kinnie is a popular local softdrink that has reigned on since 1952.  There’s no other way to put it – Either you love Kinnie or you hate it. This soft drink is produced locally, has a bitter sweet flavour and is made up mostly of bitter oranges and herbs. Kinnie can be bought from any supermarket or bar and makes for a great mixer with several  types of liqour.  Kinnie could be referred to as Malta’s national drink because its recipe is purely Maltese and it sells out more than any other drink on the Malta Island.

7. Delicacies in Maltese cuisine

Although probably a little unusual to most of us, typical delicacies prepared in Malta include rabbit, quail and horse meat. Rabbit is widely prepared and considered a traditional dish. Maltese cuisine is characteristically mediterranean comprising fresh seafood. The cuisine is the outcome of a long-standing relationship between the Maltese and many invaders who inhabited the Islands for many years. This assimilation of tastes  has given Malta an assorted mix of Mediterranean cooking. Though many restaurants offer speciality foods, many eateries offer local foods served in different versions. Some of the common traditional Maltese foods you will not miss out on the menus include the fish pie (Lampuki pie), rabbit stew, beef olives (Bragioli), Maltese ratatouille (Kapunata) and widow’s soup that includes goat and sheep cheese (Gbejniet) among others.

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by Edward Penza

Edward is the creator of GuideToMalta.net, a travel guide to Malta

5 Responses to “7 Things the Guidebooks Won’t Tell You About Malta”

Sam

Says:

All True! SPent 2 days of my honeymoon in Malta a few weeks ago! 1 more thing the author doesn’t mention – travel : Malta is connected to europe by cheap flights and connected to Sicily expensive but highly efficient ferrys

Migrationology

Says:

I’ll be looking forward to sampling Kinnie along with a host of other Maltese delicacies like rabbit stew, when I have a chance to visit Malta! Great list!

Nelly

Says:

I love Malta. I was there for a week and i love the beach. But the pictures you have shown here, i have yet to see them. They look beautiful and i have to put them in my list the next time I visit the place. Of course i love Maltese cuisine.

Matthew

Says:

Malta is a great place as one may have a mixed holiday. At Malta one finds great nightlife and beautiful beaches but one may also find great historical sites that will keep your mouth wide open……

Nathan Prather

Says:

Malta is a European, not an Arab country. The last Arabs were expelled in 1224. There may be minor admixtures due to Muslim invasions of Europe, but genetically, Maltese are overwhelmingly European.

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