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Location of the Week: Malta

Malta’s Language and History – “Merħba, ħabib!” Hello, friend!

It may sound like it but Malta is not located in the Middle East. Although it’s not far from the Arabic-speaking Maghreb, this small island archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea has a rich cultural history dating back to the Stone Age. It’s no wonder then that it has the highest concentration of UNESCO world heritage sites in the world. Aside from the great weather and beaches, tourists flock to Malta for the prehistorical temples – including the only known prehistoric underground temple in the world – and the medieval city of Valletta, Malta’s capital and the first planned city in Europe.

Balconies in Valletta
Balconies in Valletta, Malta’s Capital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Maltese language (Malti) and the island’s culture, is closely tied to the Arabic conquests of southern Europe in the 800s. But the island’s history also owes a lot to its proximity to the Italian island of Sicily, where the ancestors of Malta’s modern inhabitants originate. As a result, the language is mostly influenced by Arabic, Sicilian, a bit of French, and, due to more recent history, English. It is, however, the only official Semitic language in the EU as well as the only one written in the Latin alphabet.

Food in Malta – “Ghandi l-guh!” I’m hungry!

Thanks to the island’s multi-ethnic cultural background, there’s something for every taste. But the national dish is quite special, and deceptively simple. Fenkata, a rich rabbit stew, uses every part of the rabbit except for the hop.  It is served in two courses, starting with a spaghetti ragout, followed by the hearty stew with potatoes. The Maltese like to make big and loud social gathering out of it – not unlike Valencians and paella – which is why it’s special and maybe not all that simple.

Fenkata rabbit stew from Malta - Image by Bellyfirst
Maltese Fenkata rabbit stew – Image by Bellyfirst

There are other popular local dishes,  of course: bigilla, a savoury bean spread, zalzett, the small, coriander flavoured sausages, minestra, which, you may have guessed, is the Maltese version of Italy’s minestrone soup, and the omnipresent pastizzi pastries

Pastizzi from Malta
Pastizzi from Malta – Image by hecktictravels.com

With all this fine Mediterranean food, the important words to know are, “L-Ikla it-tajba” (‘Bon Apetit’) and “Grazzi!” (‘Thank you’).

Now that we’ve added Maltese on FreeTranslation.com, you can start translating between English and Maltese text and documents right away. If you want to learn more about Malta, or the Maltese language, the internet is a great place to start, but if you really want to get to know Malta, book a trip to this stunning place and meet its people.

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