VALETTA – It is an inhospitable rock floating in the Mediterranean Sea. A piece of coralline limestone blown by the winds and burned by the sun with a layer of earth so thin that nothing much can grow on it.
Welcome to Malta, a simple and unpretentious place. Yet, this archipelago comprising eight islands – only two of which are populated – was disputed by every great civilization surrounding it for over 5,000 years. The firsts to lay foot on it were from nearby Sicilia. Then came the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines but also the Arabs and the Normans. They all came to get a piece of this poor land, whose strategic geographical position made it a crucial gateway in the Mediterranean.
The ones who truly left their mark on Malta were the Knights of St. John, from Jerusalem, who ruled the islands from 1530 to 1798.