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National Node of the BCH

Malta

The Republic of Malta is a small and densely-populated island nation comprising an archipelago of seven islands with a total area of 315sq km. Three of the islands Malta, Gozo and Comino,are inhabited. It is located in the Mediterranean Sea within Southern Europe just thirty-seven miles south of Sicily, further south is North Africa giving the country a warm climate. The largest island of the group is Malta with a maximum length of 27.3km and a max width of 14.4 km. Valletta, the capital, is the cultural, administrative and commercial centre of the archipelago.

Malta's strategic central position on the main Mediterranean trading routes have made it an ideal stepping stone between Europe and North Africa. Its natural deep water harbours have been a safe haven for seafarers from the Phoenicians, followed through by the Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Germans, Angovinians, Aragonese, Knights of St John, French and British.

Malta uniquely possesses the oldest man-made standing structures dating to 5000BC , which are dispersed across the whole archipelago and are believed to have been places of worship coupled with an important time measuring device as is construed from the alignment of the altars which indicate the summer solstice.

The island is commonly associated with the Knights of St. John who ruled it, this along with the historic Biblical shipwrecking of St. Paul on the island, ingrained the strong Roman Catholic legacy which is still the official and most practiced religion in Malta today.

Malta is a former British Colony and became independent in 1964 and a Republic in 1974. The two offical languages are Maltese and English, however, most Maltese also speak fluent Italian. The President is the Head of State and the Head of the Legislature and is chosen by a resolution passed by Parliament every 5 years. The Maltese parliament is unicameral and consists of 65 members, chaired by the Speaker. Malta is currently a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as the European Union which it joined in 2004.

Climate

The climate is Mediterranean, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. There is no real thermal dormant season for plants, although plant growth can be checked briefly by abnormal cold in winter and summer heat and aridity may cause vegetation to wilt. Effectively there are only two seasons, which makes the islands attractive for tourists especially during the drier months.

Water supply poses a problem on Malta, as the summer is both rainless and also the time of greatest water use, and the winter rainfall often falls as heavy showers and runs off to the sea rather than soaking into the ground. Malta depends on underground reserves of fresh water, drawn through a system of water tunnels called the Ta' Kandja galleries, which average about 97m below surface and extend like the spokes of a wheel. More than half the potable water of Malta is produced by desalination through huge desalination plants, which creates further issues of fossil fuel use and pollution.

Lowest temperature ever recorded was in January 1905, at +1.1C, and the highest temperature was +43.8C recorded in August 1999. Snow is virtually unheard of on the island.