in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Sicily, the Maltese
archipelago basically consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and
Comino. Their total population in 2003 was 399,867.
The largest island of the group is Malta, from which the archipelago
takes its name. In 2003, it had a population of just over 388,867.
Valletta, the capital, is the cultural, administrative and
commercial centre of the archipelago. Malta is well served with
harbours, chief of which is the Valletta Grand Harbour. Malta's
international airport is situated five kilometres from the capital.
The second largest island, Gozo is topographically
quite different from Malta. Quaintly attractive for its less
industrialised way of life, Gozo can be reached from Malta by
ferry-boat from Cirkewwa and Pieta, near Valletta, and by helicopter
from the airport.
Comino, Cominotto, Filfla and St Paul's Islet are the
other major features of the archipelago. Of these, only Comino,
straddled between Malta and Gozo, sustains a very tiny population.
Turned into a popular resort because of a couple of very fine
beaches, Comino can be reached from Cirkewwa, either by boat or by
excursion ferries during the summer months.
The distance between Malta and the nearest point in Sicily is 93 km.
The distance from the nearest point on the North African mainland
(Tunisia) is 288 km. Gibraltar is 1,826 km to the west and
Alexandria is 1,510 km to the east.
This strategic position has allowed Malta to develop
as an important trading post. The Malta Freeport is one of the
Mediterranean's leading ports for container transhipments.
The Maltese Islands fall
within the following co-ordinates:
Northern Latitude 36o00'00"
Eastern Longitude 14o36'00"
Area of the Maltese Islands: 316 km2
Physical Features: Malta has
no mountains or rivers. A series of low hills with terraced fields
on the slopes characterise the Island.
The coastline of Malta is well
indented, thus providing numerous harbours, bays, creeks, sandy
beaches and rocky coves. The length of the shoreline round Malta is
136 km, and 43km round Gozo.
Climate: It is the climate,
more than anything else, that has made Malta an important tourist
resort in the centre of the Mediterranean. The total annual rainfall
is about 50cm (20 ins). The average winter temperature is 12o C (54o
F.) There are really only two seasons in Malta: the dry summer
season, and the mild winter season. The average rainfall is 578 mm
(22.756 ins). Rain rarely, if ever, falls during the summer months.