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origins of the name Malta are unknown. The name likely comes from the Greek word
meli, which means "honey," as the island was renowned for making
excellent honey. Another belief is that the name comes from the Phoenician word
maleth, which means "haven," which could refer to the many harbors
on the islands.
Malta has been the crossroads of the Mediterranean for centuries and the people,
culture, and lifestyle of the people even today reflect this past. While many people
and cultures have changed rapidly in recent years due to advances in technology,
Malta's culture experienced the same rapid change millennia ago and has again
undergone such changes in recent years.
With the rise and fall of empires in the Mediterranean area, Malta has always been
situated in the middle of this network, from the Phoenicians and Greeks to the Carthaginians,
Italians, and others. As these empires rose and fell the people regularly saw the
importance of Malta as settlers arrived and intermarried. These influences developed
a unique ethnicity and culture, although the lifestyle became focused on the seas
and trade and the language is related to the other Semitic languages.
As trade and influence in the region rose and fell so too did Malta's power
and influence. At times of great transportation the culture became ever-evolving,
but the lifestyle remained tied to the seas, either as traders or fishers. One of
the greatest early influences that arrived to the islands came in the form of Christianity,
which is still the most common religion today. This influence arrived when the islands
were taken over by European powers, but ever since independence Christianity has
remained and due to this Malta has remained more closely tied to Europe culturally
and historically than to North Africa or the Middle East.
Over time the ties and importance of Europe on the islands of Malta have grown as
the Maltese have been viewed as a pinnacle of hope for Christianity time and time
again. Unfortunately, this also left Malta susceptible to European invaders and the
islands have been taken over by the French and British, both of whom left their
cultural marks, including the prevalence of English as a second language.
Today Malta remains a unique country as the people still speak a Semitic language
and are ethnically tied to all parts of the Mediterranean, but the culture is rooted
in Europe and the lifestyle remains tied to the seas. Even as the economy shifts
from trade and fishing to tourism, the focus is based on the seas and the historic
buildings constructed to cater to this trade and tumultuous past are among the country's
top sites. Culturally, the people have changed dramatically over time, but today
share many similarities to Europe including in religion, dress, behavior, and to
some degree also in terms of food and technology.
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