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It is symbolic that the Maltese, under theocratic governance, fought in Crusades long after most other Europeans had abandoned them.Other symbols are Roman Catholicism, the Maltese cross, a strong European identity, and a siege mentality. Megalithic temples that predate the Egyptian pyramids, Bronze Age archaeological sites, Phoenician inscriptions, and Roman catacombs all contribute to a sense of nationhood.Perhaps six hundred Maltese are married to Arabs, mostly Libyans and Palestinians.There are a few Chinese as well as illegal immigrants from Bulgaria, Albania, and Russia.A rainy season occurs in October through February, but the climate is mild year-round. The population as of July 1999 was 369,451, of whom 341,906 lived on Malta and 27,545 lived on Gozo except for a handful on Comino.The Grand Harbor of Malta is dominated by Valletta, the national capital, whose construction was begun by the Knights of Saint John in 1566, a year after the defeat of the Great Siege by Ottoman Turkey. Live births in that year were 4,826 for a birth rate of 13.1 per thousand.In both urban and rural areas, people tend to live in nucleated settlements surrounding a parish church. A heavy meal includes pasta, meat and vegetables, and dessert or fruit.Occasionally, a small bowl of soup called minestra begins the meal. The central Mediterranean location, moderate climate, beaches, and ports generate income and employment.
There is little wildlife besides insects and migratory birds.Sicily is 58 miles (93.3 kilometers) to the north, and Tunisia is 194 miles (312.5 kilometers) to the west.The territory of the three inhabited islands is 94.9 square miles (320 square kilometers).As this order was able to maintain itself in Malta largely by keeping the nation on a continuous war footing, it was anachronistic at a time when Europeans in countries such as England and France were being introduced to the Industrial Revolution.Still, two centuries after Napoleon forced the Knights to leave Malta, chivalry, as well as pride in European and Catholic identity associated with a knightly and crusading heritage, impacts Maltese nationalism in fundamental ways. Maltese people celebrate the contributions to their culture of Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Normans, Sicilians, Swabians, Arogonese, Castilian, the Knights, and the British.