Category Archives: Maltese History

Malta: the Land of Honey

Malta is well renowned for its pure honey. In fact beekeeping in Malta has a long history. Proof of this is the name the Greeks gave Malta. They called the island ‘Melite’ (Μελίτη) which derives from the Greek word ‘meli’ (μέλι) that means honey.

bees

Photo credits: Times of Malta

A sub species of the honey bee (Apis Mellifera Ruttneri) is endemic to the Maltese Islands. This type of bee used to live in the wild. Nowadays you can still find some but they have become very rare due to diseases.

In the past Maltese honey was considered a delicacy and it also used to be exported from the island. It is believed that the Phoenicians introduced the domestication of beekeeping in apiaries and earthenware jars. In fact some Punic apiaries remain. In the Maltese countryside one can still find apiaries called ‘Miġbħa’ that date back to Punic times. One of them is the Xemxija apiary that is one of the oldest in the world. In theory this apiary is still in a state of use, however nowadays the beekeeping technique is different with movable frame hives.

Apiary - Honey making in Malta

Photo credits: Cordyline on Panoramio.

In Malta, until the 1950’s bees were kept in earthenware jars. These type of jars were made of clay and without a bottom. At the top they had a closure with small holes. These jars were kept under carob trees in order to get a good shading from the sun. Sometimes they were also placed in niches in rubble walls made especially for these jars. But those who had the means used to build apiaries in their fields. These apiaries were specially built rooms or caves which had their opening closed by a wall. An opening in the wall would allow the bees to enter the cave.

Honey was gathered once a year after the wild thyme honey season, usually around the Feast of St. Anne which falls on the 26th July. The honey making process is quite a busy one for the beekeeper. He needs to observe the bees at work in order to add extensions to the jar. The gathering of the honey was a little messy too. A long knife was used in order to cut off the combs with honey. The liquid was then placed in a pail or a pot and covered. Before bee smokers were available, the beekeepers used to burn some grass in old cooking pans and extinguish it to make some smoke in order to enter near the bees and not be stung.

These techniques started to change in the 50’s as the first movable frame hives and other tools began to appear. These were generally imported from Britain. The hives were then copied from them and crafted locally. Till today the British Standard hive is common in Malta.

Maltese Honey

Photo credits: Viewing Malta & Mario Galea

In old times honey was a commodity for the general household. Before the invention of sugar refining, honey was the only means of sweetener. It was also cheaper than cane sugar. Although nowadays the whole process has changed, one cannot forget our fathers that without any modern knowledge and tools managed to place Malta in the world map of honey. In fact Maltese honey is still regarded as one of the best around the world.

If you would like to witness some local traditions during your holidays in Malta be sure to speak to our Transport desk during your stay and they will guide you through our list of self guided tours and excursions.

Photo credits: Times of Malta, Viewing Malta & Mario Galea and on Panoramio.

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Things to do when in Malta

Marsaxlokk - Fishing village

Marsaxlokk – Fishing village

  • Go to the fishing village of Marsaxlokk on Sunday and experience the fish market with the rowdy vendors selling fresh fish and other fresh produce
  • Jog or walk along the Sliema promenade and watch the sunrise
  • Visit the Ta’ Qali Crafts Village
  • Visit and shop at Malta’s largest shopping mall, The Point at Tigne Point, Sliema
  • Go to Ghar Lapsi, a cove and small fishing village
  • Visit the Second World War Shelter located in Mgarr
  • Visit the church of St. Nicholas in the village of Siggiewi
  • People-watch whilst having a coffee at a Sliema cafè
  • Check out the Mtarfa ex-British military buildings
Mosta Dome

Mosta Dome

  • Visit the Mosta Church which is famous for having one of the largest domes in the world
  • Play a round of golf at The Royal Malta Golf Club
  • Discover an underwater world – dive in Maltese clear waters
  • Go parakiting from one of our sandy beaches and get a bird’s eye view of Malta
  • Wander around San Anton Gardens in Attard
  • Hop on and off the Malta Sightseeing bus
  • Get the ferry from Valletta Marsamxetto to Sliema Strand
  • Go to Fort Rinella and see one of the world’s largest canons
  • Visit Corradino, Old Military Prison
Hypogeum

Hypogeum – © Clive Vella

  • Experience Malta’s colourful history through a ‘new generation’ 5D cinema effect Hypogeum
    Temple
  • Go to the Ghar Dalam, a prehistoric cave
  • Walk around the exhibits at the St John’s Cavalier Centre for Creativity
  • Charter a yacht and sail around the islands
  • Go to Comino by the traditional Maltese boat Luzzu
  • Visit the Hagar Qim Temples
  • Visit the Kordin 111 Neolithic Temples
  • See the Fat Lady at the Tarxien Temples
  • Visit Popeye’s Village
  • Hike around the Victoria lines

Whilst staying at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Malta visit our concierge desk and our team will assist you in planning your visits around Malta. And for a great memorable experience this luxury 5 star hotel in Malta offers a selection of self guided tours around Malta. Be sure to check our chauffeur driven service during your stay.

Photos courtesy of www.viewingmalta.com

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What makes Malta unique to locals?

It is often the tourists who are asked what makes Malta unique for them. Have you ever wondered what would locals consider special about their own country?

The size and connection: In Malta wherever one goes and whoever they meet, they will always find out that they are somehow connected either through family, friends, workmates etc. Malta is also unique due to it’s short distances, great weather, beautiful sea and the fact that no one is more than 30 minutes away. Wherever on the island, you are always only a maximum of 20 minutes away from the beautiful sea and coast. Due to the island’s size, travelling abroad is very easy – the Malta International Airport is easily accessible from all around the island, so travelling for even a short break is a worthwhile.

Malta boasts a diverse multi-faceted history, combined with a geographical location, excellent weather and relatively a safe destination. The megalithic structures are claimed of being the oldest free standing edifices in the world, predating Stonehenge.

St. John's Co Cathedral

St. John’s Co Cathedral, Valletta

Other unique Maltese characteristics include:

  • Malta is also renowned for its old character houses with the colourful Maltese balconies and local traditional food.
  • Malta’s historic bastions which give beautiful scenes to Malta’s landscapes.
  • A church on every street corner with people actually still going to church in great numbers.
  • No matter how much Maltese complain about the way they do things, they are truly good at heart.
  • Maltese also consider themselves to be hardworking, generous and compassionate.
  • As in other countries in the South of Europe, the Maltese are also known for living with their parents well into their twenties and thirties.

If you would like to know more about Malta’s history and culture and would like to visit some interesting places during your holidays in Malta feel free to check out our self-guided Malta tours. Kindly also contact our chauffeur driven service and they will be able to assist you.

Photo courtesy of Viewing Malta

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