Ask most American travelers what they know about Malta, or even where it is,
and they're likely to draw a blank.
When I was invited to visit these islands last May, all I could conjure up
were images of Crusaders, the Maltese Cross, and the Maltese Falcon. It
certainly wasn't on my radar screen of potentially interesting vacation
destinations. And it isn't on most Americans'—even the well traveled.
In fact, only about 11,000 Americans visit Malta in any given year, despite
the fact that the country has played a strategic role in the development of
western culture, commerce, and politics. Among its claims to fame are:
- The world's oldest man-made edifices;
- A history of occupation by most of the peoples that have defined western
civilization: the Phoenicians in 800 BC, the Carthaginians, Romans (218 BC),
Byzantines, Arabs (870 AD), Normans (1090), Castillians, Knights of St. John
(1530), French (1798), and the British (1800);
- The first planned-from-scratch city in Europe.
Malta is a living museum. Wherever you go, its history seems to surround and
envelop you, making you a part of it. And, when you tire of history, there are
plenty of sports and other attractions to pursue on this scenic and tranquil
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