September 4, 2019 – September 8, 2019 all-day

Time to visit a new country, see new sites and make new friends.  I’ve been wanting to see Malta for awhile now.  Officially known as the Republic of Malta, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea.  It lies 50 miles south of Italy, 176 miles east of Tunisia and 207 miles north of Libya.  With a population of about 475,000 over an area of 122 square miles, Malta is the world’s 10th smallest and 5th most densely populated country.

Malta has been inhabited since approximately 5900 BC. Its location in the centre of the Mediterranean[17] has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers having contested and ruled the islands, including the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French, and British.[18] Most of these foreign influences have left some sort of mark on the country’s ancient culture.
Malta became a British colony in 1815, serving as a way station for ships and the headquarters for the British Mediterranean Fleet. It played an important role in the Allied war effort during the Second World War, and was subsequently awarded the George Cross for its bravery in the face of an Axis siege,[19][20] The British Parliament passed the Malta Independence Act in 1964, giving Malta independence from the United Kingdom as the State of Malta, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and queen.[21] The country became a republic in 1974. It has been a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations since independence, and joined the European Union in 2004; it became part of the eurozone monetary union in 2008.
Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Archdiocese is claimed to be an apostolic see because Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on “Melita”, according to Acts of the Apostles,[22] which is now widely taken to be Malta. While Catholicism is the official religion in Malta, Article 40 of the Constitution states that “all persons in Malta shall have full freedom of conscience and enjoy the free exercise of their respective mode of religious worship.”[23][24]

Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Hypogeum of ?al-Saflieni,[25] Valletta,[26] and seven megalithic temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.[27][28][29]

A significant prehistoric Neolithic culture marked by Megalithic structures, which date back to c. 3600 BC, existed on the islands, as evidenced by the temples of Mnajdra, Ggantija and others. The Phoenicians colonised Malta between 800–700 BC, bringing their Semitic language and culture.[39] They used the islands as an outpost from which they expanded sea explorations and trade in the Mediterranean until their successors, the Carthaginians, were ousted by the Romans in 216 BC with the help of the Maltese inhabitants, under whom Malta became a municipium.[40]
After a period of Byzantine rule (4th to 9th century) and a probable sack by the Vandals,[41] the islands were invaded by the Aghlabids in AD 870. The fate of the population after the Arab invasion is unclear but it seems the islands may have been repopulated in the beginning of the second millennium by settlers from Arab-ruled Sicily who spoke Siculo-Arabic.[42]
The Muslim rule was ended by the Normans who conquered the island in 1091. The islands were completely re-Christianised by 1249.[43] The islands were part of the Kingdom of Sicily until 1530, and were briefly controlled by the Capetian House of Anjou. In 1530 Charles I of Spain gave the Maltese islands to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease.
The French under Napoleon took hold of the Maltese islands in 1798, although with the aid of the British the Maltese were able to oust French control two years later. The inhabitants subsequently asked Britain to assume sovereignty over the islands under the conditions laid out in a Declaration of Rights,[44] stating that “his Majesty has no right to cede these Islands to any power…if he chooses to withdraw his protection, and abandon his sovereignty, the right of electing another sovereign, or of the governing of these Islands, belongs to us, the inhabitants and aborigines alone, and without control.” As part of the Treaty of Paris in 1814, Malta became a British colony, ultimately rejecting an attempted integration with the United Kingdom in 1956.
Malta became independent on 21 September 1964 (Independence Day). Under its 1964 constitution, Malta initially retained Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Malta, with a Governor-General exercising executive authority on her behalf. On 13 December 1974, (Republic Day) it became a republic within the Commonwealth, with the President as head of state. On 31 March 1979, Malta saw the withdrawal of the last British troops and the Royal Navy from Malta. This day is known as Freedom Day and Malta declared itself as a neutral and non-aligned state. Malta joined the European Union on 1 May 2004 and joined the Eurozone on 1 January 2008. [45]

Pottery found by archaeologists at the Skorba Temples resembles that found in Italy, and suggests that the Maltese islands were first settled in 5200 BC mainly by Stone Age hunters or farmers who had arrived from the Italian island of Sicily, possibly the Sicani. The extinction of the dwarf hippos and dwarf elephants has been linked to the earliest arrival of humans on Malta.[46] Prehistoric farming settlements dating to the Early Neolithic period were discovered in open areas and also in caves, such as G?ar Dalam.[47]

The Sicani were the only tribe known to have inhabited the island at this time[38][48] and are generally regarded as being closely related to the Iberians.[49] The population on Malta grew cereals, raised livestock and, in common with other ancient Mediterranean cultures, worshiped a fertility figure represented in Maltese prehistoric artifacts exhibiting the proportions seen in similar statuettes, including the Venus of Willendorf.[citation needed]

Pottery from the G?ar Dalam phase is similar to pottery found in Agrigento, Sicily. A culture of megalithic temple builders then either supplanted or arose from this early period. Around the time of 3500 BC, these people built some of the oldest existing free-standing structures in the world in the form of the megalithic ?gantija temples on Gozo;[50] other early temples include those at ?a?ar Qim and Mnajdra.[29][51][52]
The temples have distinctive architecture, typically a complex trefoil design, and were used from 4000 to 2500 BC. Animal bones and a knife found behind a removable altar stone suggest that temple rituals included animal sacrifice. Tentative information suggests that the sacrifices were made to the goddess of fertility, whose statue is now in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.[53] The culture apparently disappeared from the Maltese Islands around 2500 BC. Archaeologists speculate that the temple builders fell victim to famine or disease, but this is not certain.
Another archaeological feature of the Maltese Islands often attributed to these ancient builders is equidistant uniform grooves dubbed “cart tracks” or “cart ruts” which can be found in several locations throughout the islands, with the most prominent being those found in Misra? G?ar il-Kbir, which is informally known as “Clapham Junction”. These may have been caused by wooden-wheeled carts eroding soft limestone.[54][55]
After 2500 BC, the Maltese Islands were depopulated for several decades until the arrival of a new influx of Bronze Age immigrants, a culture that cremated its dead and introduced smaller megalithic structures called dolmens to Malta.[56] In most cases there are small chambers here, with the cover made of a large slab placed on upright stones. They are claimed to belong to a population certainly different from that which built the previous megalithic temples. It is presumed the population arrived from Sicily because of the similarity of Maltese dolmens to some small constructions found on the largest island of the Mediterranean sea.[57]