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The Island of Malta includes the sister island of Gozo. It is situated in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, 80.5 kilometres south of Sicily and 289.7 kilometres from the North Africa coast. The island of Gozo is only a few kilometres northwest of Malta.

Size and Population
The total area is 316 sq. km., of which Malta, the larger island, occupying 246 sq. km. A regular ferry boat (half an hour's trip) and helicopter services exists between the two islands. The population of Malta is around 381,600.

Malta has a typical Mediterranean climate, dry warm summers and mild winters. The maximum temperature is about 30.6 C (87 F) and the minimum 9.4 C (49 F). The average annual rainfall is 521 mm.

The first settlers of Malta were the Phoenicians, followed by the Carthaginians and the Romans. In A.D. 60 St. Paul was shipwrecked in the Maltese Islands and converted the islanders to Christianity. The Arabs came to Malta in 870 and with the arrival of Count Roger of Normandy in 1090, it became part of Sicily until 1530, when the Knights of Jerusalem came to Malta. The knights were pushed out by Napoleon in 1798, and in 1800 Malta became a British Crown Colony. In 1964 it became an independent sovereign state and in 1974, declared itself a Republic but remained within the Commonwealth. Malta boasts of numerous historic buildings and temples some of which date back to Megalithic times.

The official language is Maltese, but English is used in official correspondence and is spoken by most Maltese. Laws are published in Maltese and English, but the official version is Maltese. There are daily newspapers in Maltese and English. Being so close to Italy, Italian is also freely spoken.

School attendance is compulsory between the age of 5 to 16 years. The majority of children attend Government and Catholic Schools which are free of charge. There are also a number of Private Schools.

Tertiary education is provided by the University of Malta which runs courses in business management, accountancy, banking and finance, information technology, engineering, architecture, medicine, dental surgery, pharmacy, nursing, science, arts, diplomacy and law. Post graduate courses are also offered by the University of Malta.

The basic unit currency is the Maltese Lira (Lm). The exchange rate of the Maltese Lira is established by the Central Bank of Malta on the basis of a basket of currencies comprising the European Currency Unit (ECU), Sterling and US dollar weighed to Malta's trade relationship.

Malta is a Republic within the Commonwealth. The president is the Head of the State and is elected by the Parliament. The responsibility for enacting laws lies with Parliament. Parliament consists of a single house i.e. the House of Representatives. Its members are elected every five years by General Elections on a proportional representation system. Every citizen over 18 years is eligible to vote. The party with the highest first preference number of votes will hold a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, headed by the Prime Minister, leader of the winning party.

Telecommunications and Transport
An extensive national and international public telecommunications service is available and includes telegrams, telex, telephones, telefax, data communications, maritime telegrams, etc.

Internal transport is provided by regular and inexpensive public bus services. Metered taxis and a full range of car rentals are also available.

Malta is efficiently served by sea, air and travel communications. Sea Malta Company Limited, provides regular containerised services both for full container loads and groupage cargoes, from and to the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy and Libya and regular RoRo services to Genova, Tunisia, Marseilles, Reggio Calabria and Catania. It also provides container feeder services to all Western Mediterranean ports, connecting the main Transshipment Hub Ports of Marsaxlokk in Malta, Gioia Tauro, Voltri Genova, La Spezia and Salerno. Through its connections with other major shipping lines, such as National Shipping Company of South Arabia, Sea Malta provides regular containerised services to the Arabian Gulf and the Far East.

Air Malta Company Limited, the national airline, operates scheduled and charter services. Scheduled services of varying frequencies link Malta with Amsterdam, Athens, Bahrain, Barcelona, Berlin, Birmingham, Brussels, Budapest, Cairo, Casablanca, Catania, Copenhagen, Damascus, Dubai, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Genoa, Glasgow, Hamburg, Istanbul, Larnaca, Lisbon, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Lyons, Madrid, Manchester, Marseilles, Milan, Monastir, Munich, New York, Oslo, Palermo, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Tunis, Vienna and Zurich. Foreign airline operators provide scheduled services, these include Aeroflot, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Balkanian, Condorflug, Corsain, Eqyptair, LTU, Lufthansa, Swissair, Transavia and Tuninter.

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