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Facts about Malta
Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta, is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, 93 km south of Sicily and 288 km east of Tunisia, with the Strait of Gibraltar 1,826 km to the west and Alexandria 1,510 km to the east.
Malta covers just over 300 km² in land area, making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. Its de facto capital is Valletta and the largest town is Birkirkara. The main island is made up of many small towns, which together form one Larger Urban Zone (LUZ) with a population of 368,250 (majority of the population of the country) according to Eurostat. The country has two official languages – Maltese and English – with Maltese being considered the national language.
Throughout history, Malta's location has given it great strategic importance, and a sequence of powers including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Normans, Sicilians, Knights of St John, French and the British ruled the islands. Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974, whilst retaining membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. It is a member of the United Nations (since 1964) and a member of the European Union (since 2004). Malta is also party to the Schengen Agreement (since 2007) and member of the eurozone (since 2008).
Malta has a long Christian legacy and is an Apostolic See. According to the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible, St. Paul was shipwrecked on "Melite", as the Greeks called the island, and ministered there. Catholicism continues to be the official and dominant religion in Malta.
Malta is internationally renowned as a tourist resort, with numerous recreational areas and historical monuments, including nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, most prominently the Megalithic Temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.