It’s late 2009 and IT professional and photography fanatic Pierre Axiaq is tinkering with his latest project – a 360 degree panoramic photo. Confiding in his friend and fellow IT professional George Borg, the two history buffs set about perfecting the images and the process behind them and to putting the idea to good use. They decide to place the images online for all to see, and also so as to dispel the widely held myth that there is nothing much to see in Malta that can’t be visited and done in a day or two’s sightseeing.
So began maltain360.com. Today, the site features over two hundred 360 degree panoramic images of historical, scenic or otherwise interesting locations from across the Maltese archipelago. Maltain360 has proved immensely popular and its success has been recognised more officially too with the site having scooped the Most Promising Innovation Award in the Malta Innovation Awards 2012.
Among the most popular of the 360 images on the maltain360 site are those of the Cottonera Lines, Għar il-Kbir, Lascaris War Rooms, the War Hospital Shelters under the Police Headquarters, the Medieval Chapel at Ħal-Millieri. However, in this article, Pierre and George are sharing a few of their particular favourites.
Situated on Manoel Island in Marsamxett harbour, construction on Fort Manoel started in 1723 after it was rightly pointed out that the almost brand new city of Valletta could suffer heavy damage from an undefended island flanking it. The fort was intended to act as an outpost for Valletta while covering the city’s western flank. Fort Manoel is one of Pierre’s favourite 360 degree images as the seaward entrance shows the awe inspiring western side of Valletta to great advantage. The fort was also military engineer François de Mondion’s magnum opus and he had expressed his desire to be buried in the Chapel of St Anthony of Padua located in this same fort. He died of a heart attack on Christmas Day 1733, however his tombstone was sadly lost through the ages.
Summer Solstice at Mnajdra Temples
The 360 degree image of the Summer Solstice at Mnajdra Temples is one of George’s favourite images for the simple reason that so very few people ever have the opportunity to enjoy the momentous twice yearly occasion. The solstice at Mnajdra demonstrates the advantage of having such happenings digitized and available all year round on a website for all to see and this thought motivates always George. While it is it is not known for certain whether the Mnajdra temple’s orientations with the solstices and equinox were intentional, they are so precise that it is very probable, also as in prehistoric agricultural societies the observation of the motion of the stars, the moon and sun could have been related to the changing seasons and times of planting and harvesting crops.
Mġarr ix-Xini Tower in Gozo
The Mġarr ix-Xini bay in Ta’ Sannat, Gozo can be found on the island’s south-west shoreline. The Mġarr ix-Xini Tower is the largest of the handful of coastal watch-towers erected by the Knights of St John on the island of Gozo which it is to be noted was much less fortified than Malta. Built in 1661, one year after Grandmaster De Redin’s death, the tower has no inscriptions as to who erected it, however, similarities in its design to other towers in Malta, as well as the fact that it was De Redin who built a network of 13 towers on the larger network all point towards the same Grand Master as the hand behind the Mġarr Ix-Xini Tower. The Mġarr ix-Xini Tower was jointly restored during the year 2000 by the Ministry for Gozo and Wirt Għawdex.
It is one of Pierre and George’s favourite images not just because of how heavily set in stone the tower is, but also because of the supremely panoramic vantage point it enjoys, as demonstrated by the picture below, snapped from the 360 degree panorama from the tower’s roof.
George and Pierre are out there constantly collecting more 360 degree images of these fascinating Islands. Check back on their site for more panoramas and stay updated with the latest news from Maltain360 on their Facebook page.
Digital nomad lifestyles are not for everyone. However, if you like traveling, meeting people and the freedom to work whenever and wherever you want, it might be a working lifestyle to opt into. It can offer new ways to manage a work-life balance that allow you time to learn new skills such as exploring cultures and cuisines, or the chance to simply chill out meditating, exercising and so on.
Maltese Internet specialist Jean Galea recently returned from a four-month spell as a digital nomad travelling in Asia, primarily in Thailand. He talks to us about how the lifestyle enabled him to live out his dreams. Jean feels that not only should more Maltese try out a digital nomadic lifestyle, but also that Malta can be a place where digital nomads come to fulfill some of their own ambitions. He sees a mentality shift as key to inspiring both ends of the digital nomad spectrum. We intend our interview with Jean to spark discussion about the viability of Malta as a viable digital nomad destination, providing a new type of visitor stay on the islands and the chance for greater interaction among local and overseas digital cultures and creatives.
Digital nomads have tended to avoid Europe for obvious reasons – developed tourism industries, cost, lack of opportunities to live a different way of life, less exciting destinations, and so on. Malta may be easy to move to and live in – English speaking, relatively good value etc – but on paper it seems not to check boxes on the digital nomad’s wishlist. Why do you feel it could fit the bill as an ideal digital nomad location?
In my opinion Malta may be the best place for a digital nomad in Europe, although it remains relatively unknown especially among non-European nomads. Most digital nomads look for a new cultural immersion, affordable cost of living, a beautiful location and excellent climate. I believe Malta can deliver on all counts. The only thing that Malta misses is of course a digital nomad community and a different mentality when it comes to jobs and careers. But then that’s the reason why I’m talking about Malta in the first place, in order to change this status quo.
Would it be fair to say that your interest in promoting Malta as a suitable digital nomad destination is tinged perhaps by a sense of nostalgia for homeland after a good few months on the road as a nomad yourself? What motivates you to promote Malta among the nomadic ‘tribes’ out there?Rather than a sense of nostalgia, I think my interest in promoting Malta as a suitable digital nomad destination stems from my vision for a more modern attitude towards work and career in Malta.
I have always disliked the pigeon-holing of our education, which also comes from most parents’ mentalities unfortunately. From a young age, our youngsters are pushed and pushed to perform well at exams, and are then expected to secure a ‘good job’ as soon as they graduate (or sometimes even earlier) and ‘live happily ever after’.
Don’t get me wrong, I very much value education and spent a good five years at University in Malta and UK. What I want to challenge is the mentality and one-dimensional approach to education and life in general. Being a digital nomad is definitely not for everyone, but I want to make sure that those who have it in them to do such a thing are not restrained and have their ‘course corrected’ until they end up unhappy on the career ladder.
The digital nomad lifestyle is one that can be lived perpetually or just for a year or two. What’s more, you can do it at any point in life. I’ve met digital nomads who are 20 years old and others who are in their 50s and 60s, and of course all the ages in between. That’s the great thing about being a digital nomad, it’s a flexible lifestyle and it gives you a lot of freedom.
You’ve recently set up a Facebook Group – Malta Digital Nomads – to act as a hub for those interested in experiencing ‘nomadism’ on the islands or in promoting it. How do you see the group/initiative developing? What, if any, infrastructure would you need here and what entities would you perhaps need to galvanise into action to enable this new niche of ‘tourism’ to get going here?
I am not so inclined to look for official support for digital nomads but rather I want to foster the development of such a mentality on a personal level with other people. That is why I set up the Facebook group. I would like the group to act as a source of information for digital nomads coming to Malta, a means of communication and organisation for those who are already in Malta, and a place where Maltese people who entertain the idea to find support and information from others who have lived/are living the digital nomad lifestyle.
On the other hand, having more and more cafes providing good internet access would definitely help us digital nomads. My mind boggles as to why, in 2013, it is so hard to find a cafe with free Wi-fi access in Malta. And I’m not talking about intermittent connections and 1 megabit speeds. Very close to where I lived in Chiang Mai, in Thailand, I came across what could be more aptly described as a haphazardly-built shack than a cafe; but take note of this, they provided 24 megabit free Wi-fi access. That’s just one example. You’d be hard pressed to find a cafe in Thailand’s digital nomad hubs which doesn’t have free Wi-fi of that ilk. And, of course, digital nomads appreciate that and gravitate to these centres.
Would putting Malta on the map as a digital nomad destination be good for the country? A sweeping statement, I know, but perhaps there would be spin-offs in terms of ie. internationalising our local digital culture as people rub shoulders, sparking innovation among Maltese young people, or giving the country a different edge in certain online circles?
I think the Maltese are very interested in mingling and exchanging ideas with people coming from other countries. I definitely see a growth in the presence of digital nomads being positive for the country. One must remember that many digital nomads tend to be very interesting, well-traveled people who have loads of experiences to share. From my own experience, you can learn a lot and widen your horizons by having discussions with other digital nomads.
Photo: courtesy of Leslie Vella.
Launched in May 2011 in Vittoriosa, Malta Artisan Fairs have taken place six times in beautiful historic settings in Malta including Senglea and Kalkara. The next fair takes place 6-7 April in Malta’s capital Valletta. The fairs are the place to be if you’re a budding artist or if you would like to showcase a lifetime hobby. Lisa Grech, the name behind the fairs, talks about how her passion for the arts and markets spawned an initiative that’s been a springboard for many a local artisan and artist.
How did the idea of the Malta Artisan Fairs come about?
Several years ago I saw that there was a gap in the Maltese market for an authentic market where locals and tourists could find artisan products including arts, crafts and foods in an interesting historic setting. I felt that this would be good not only from a local perspective but also for tourists who may wish to experience local culture and gastronomy. I started to research markets overseas and then created a market concept specific to Malta. I knew I had to showcase some of the best fare in some of our best locations!
The idea is to create a social hub where you can meet up in a family-friendly context and where you can make a day of it – browsing and purchasing beautiful local arts and crafts while tasting local artisan foods at the market. It’s also a great place where kids can get some first-hand experience on the art of making.
Why is it important to have such a place for budding and established Maltese artists/makers?
Markets provide an excellent platform for budding artists and artisan-entrepreneurs to test the market and sell their products with very few overheads while allowing them to research their product and glean immediate, face-to-face feedback from market-goers.
How has the Malta Artisan Fairs initiative grown?
It has grown considerably since we started two years ago. We now feature around 60 stalls each market and the demand from stallholders and public interest keeps growing. The feedback from stallholders is extremely enthusiastic and shoppers are keen to attend our markets knowing they will enjoy a good day out and get some different gifts and items from those on the high street.
How do you see the Fairs developing?
Presently, local legislation does not allow people to set up markets in Malta on a regular basis and the Ministry is aware that this legislation needs amendments and hopefully this will be addressed very soon. In the meantime, we are a market on tour of Malta’s beautiful locations. Ultimately, I would like to see a regular market in one or two venues that you know that you can just turn up at any weekend and buy local products while meeting up with friends and family.
The next Malta Artisan Fair will be held at the Phoenicia Ballroom, Phoenicia Hotel in Floriana (outskirts of Valletta, nr. bus rotunda) on the 6th and 7th April, 2013. There will be other fairs this year held in June, July, September, November and December in various locations.
If you are an upcoming artist, are looking for an ‘outlet’ for your expression or know of others who would like a place to showcase their talent, we would like to hear from you. You can email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information refer to maltaartisanmarkets.com or keep posted through Facebook.
As a prelude to the Easter weekend and its considerable street festivities and events, we’re posting up some evocative photos taken a week ago at the official start to Easter: Our Lady of Sorrows day.
This was Valletta’s renowned event which saw streets closed as hundreds of participants filed to Our Lady of Sorrows church in the city. If you missed these street processions or are flying into Malta only now for your Easter holiday, these photos give you a good idea of the religious mood. The photos depicted here are sombre and will be echoed tomorrow in many of the Good Friday events (see our Guide to Holy Week) and in personal celebrations of Easter as people make a type of pilgrimage visiting seven churches.
About the photographer
Imsouchivy Suos (G.V.) is a street photographer originally from Phnom Penh, Cambodia who recently moved to Malta as a transferred student from USA. This makes the sequence all the more fascinating as we see a well-known Maltese event captured by the lens of an outsider looking in on this timeless scene. To find out more about him and his work click here.
Why Learn English in Malta?
So why do so many students, of all ages, come to learn English in Malta? Is it the crystal clear waters of the southern Mediterranean? The almost unbroken summer sunshine? Or are the language schools here actually just very good?
It’s a little bit of all these things, and more. Malta has a unique and winning combination of factors that attract language students: English is spoken as an official language in Malta; there are over 300 days of sunshine a year here; and the seas around the islands were recently voted as some of the cleanest in Europe. Added to that, Malta is a safe destination and renowned for giving visitors a warm welcome. Malta is rightly portrayed in language school brochures as a little jewel in the southern Mediterranean, where hopeful students flock in their thousands with their flip-flops, sun-tan lotion and notebooks.
The language study boom
For over two decades, language tourism has been a staple of the Maltese economy. A vast and sprawling area of economic activity touching everyone from the language schools themselves to catering, hospitality and all manner of tourism-related industries. In recent years, Malta has diversified its major sources of GDP, but language tourism is still high on its list of national priorities.
Quality schools: Malta’s checks and balances
Malta has a good system for monitoring schools – the national EFL (English as a Foreign Language) monitoring board checks and reviews each school each year, ensuring standards are kept high.
With the advent of mass internet communication and the rise of social media, any school giving a poor service is soon sifted out from the bunch by a vast array of student testimonial and community-based evaluation sites. You can’t get away with poor quality, and Malta’s language schools rank high in the world arena.
Where do Malta’s English language students come from?
Everywhere. Traditionally, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, France and other European countries sent great numbers of students to Malta, with the hot sun, good schools, English speaking locals, and cheaper prices all making it a really attractive option. These days, however, the island is drawing students from far further afield, with Japanese, Brazilian, and Russian students all arriving in significant, and increasing numbers. All parts of the globe, it seems, have heard of this little island in the sun, and are busily booking English courses all year round.
The EFL Malta survival Kit – bring a towel
So you’re coming to learn English in Malta – what do you bring? Clothes-wise it depends when you’re coming. Winter means it can be cold sometimes, so bring a jacket from December to March, although it’s often going to feel like Spring compared to most of Northern Europe. The summer months – late May to the end of September – mean almost unbroken sunshine and temperatures soaring to 36 degrees at times during July and August. Expect hot days, hot nights and plenty of time spent outside.
As soon as it gets warm (May onwards) the entire island moves outdoors, with the beaches and coastline becoming a communal living room. If you’re not at work, asleep, or in the shower, chances are you’ll be outdoors meeting new people, swimming, eating or just lounging around enjoying your holiday. It’s this culture of socialising and meeting new people which students really love. It’s also why so many come back time and again to make new friends, learn more English and generally enjoy that special something that’s often missing in colder countries.
How do I pick the right school?
It’s a good question, and one many students need to know the answer to. Look for information about a school’s teachers, experience, size, facilities, accommodation, location and activities. Has the school been in business for long? Do they have good reviews? Price is obviously an important factor for many would-be students, but a low or high price doesn’t always tell you very much about the school’s quality. Check out the their website and maybe have a chat with them and see how it goes.
With so much to see and do, so many ways to practice your English, and such an array of facilities, Malta’s a great choice for any language student, whether young or old. So if you’re thinking of booking a language course, give yourself a break, grab your books, and see just how much this little sunny island has to offer.
Elanguest Language School is celebrating 22 years in business. It is one of Malta’s leading language schools and offers quality courses at all levels – informal leisure courses as well as a full range of internationally-recognised exam programmes.
Higher education in Malta, is it really a possibility for overseas students who traditionally view the country as a Mediterranean holiday island? Can one really attain an internationally-regarded degree over several years where other people spend two weeks in the sun? To most of us, this sounds like a dream come true. So far, Malta’s education system enjoys international popularity mainly among the thousands of language students from all over Europe that descend upon the archipelago every year. After all, brushing up your English skills near the sandy beaches of Ghadira Bay or the weekend parties in the aptly named Paradise Bay is far more tempting a prospect than cramming vocabulary in Bournemouth or Brighton.
The numerous language schools aside, the tiny island state has a national university with an impressive history. Founded as a Jesuit collegium in the 16th century and raised to full university status about two hundred years later, the University of Malta is actually the oldest Commonwealth university outside the United Kingdom. Up until the 1960s and 1970s, it used to be a fairly small institution catering to Malta’s social and academic élite.
However, in the past 40 or 50 years, the student population has exploded from a few hundred to over 11,000 today and 7-8% of Malta’s students come from overseas. About one third of them participate as visiting students in international exchanges, especially in the Erasmus programme that’s become a veritable cultural phenomenon for students across the European Union.
The other 600 overseas students at the University of Malta are enrolled in full degree courses, both on the undergraduate and the postgrad level. It certainly helps that the language of instruction is English in all subjects, even if interested students can take Maltese-language classes at the University of Malta Language School. The latter also offers intensive English courses for international students who’d like to bring their English proficiency up to scratch for their coursework.
Some of the international alumni – who move to Malta from other European countries, but also from the United States, China, India, and the Middle East – fall in love with their new home and try to stay after graduation. Their familiarity with the local economy and Maltese culture, perhaps even the Maltese language, may help them to find work and give them a certain edge over other self-made expats who have never stayed long in Malta before. So, if you are interested in studying abroad and in starting out your career overseas, acquiring your degree at the University of Malta could prove a wise start to expat life in a country that’s an ideal manageable size place to test out your expat cabilities.
For non-Maltese students from EU member states, the tuition fees are really affordable. For a three-year Bachelor of Arts, you will pay less than €300 a year, while a Bachelor of Science in the field of ICT is a little more expensive, at €1,100 per semester. However, the fees for overseas admissions are somewhat steeper. Students from non-EU countries have to fork over an annual €8,500 for a bachelor’s course and nearly 11,000 Euros for an M.A. programme. Unfortunately, there aren’t scholarships or bursaries available at all, and you also have to take the cost of living into account. Still, for well-to-do students, Malta’s considerable charms more than make up for the expenses (which are positively modest if you compare them to many UK universities, let alone higher education in the US).
And who knows? Perhaps they are going to stay put and make a home in Malta. Today’s student can easily become tomorrow’s expatriate.
Helpful Info for overseas students & expats in Malta
This article was provided by InterNations, an expatriates’ community for people living and working abroad as well as all ʺglobal mindsʺ. The organisation supports over 250 local expatriate communities around the world – including an active local branch here in Malta. Worldwide it brings together members of 180 nationalities, all expats working for international companies, political and non-governmental organizations or diplomatic missions. Its expat guide and the local forums offer helpful tips on places to see and things to know for expats. Every month in Malta, a top-class InterNations event takes place giving expatriates the chance to meet other expats in an exclusive and international environment.
If you’d like to join InterNations, visit the global website. For more information about the organisation locally in Malta, contact the InterNations’ country ambassadors Alessandra & Florentina (details below)..
Upcoming InterNations events in Malta are listed in the Malta Inside Out events diary and featured on our homepage from time to time. .