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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sicily And Malta Cultures - A Look At Two Mediterranean Islands

The megalithic temple of Mnajdra, detail (Malta)Image via Wikipedia

By Paul Symonds

Sicily & Malta are two lovely islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The two islands have a lot of cultural similarities. Located on the west of the southern end of the Italian peninsula, separated from the Italian mainland by the Strait of Messina, Sicily is autonomous region of Italy. Located to the South of Sicily (Italy), the East of Tunisia, and the North of Libya, the Republic of Malta is Island country of Southern Europe.
Sicily is located just 60 miles to the north of Malta. There is great cultural affinity between Sicily & Malta. Due to their geographical closeness, there's been continuous exchange of knowledge, ideas, culture, customs and beliefs between the two islands. Many modern Maltese families trace their origins to various parts of Sicily and Southern Italy. The geographic proximity has facilitated a considerable amount of intermarriage, cross-migration, and trade between the two groups of islands.
The culture of modern Malta has been described as a "rich pattern of traditions, beliefs and practices, which is the result of a long process of adaptation, assimilation and cross fertilization of beliefs and usages drawn from various conflicting sources."

Sicily has rich culture that has made great influences on the Maltese culture. Sicily's population is approximately 5 million. Sicily's people are called Sicilians. The population is comprised of Sicilians, Italians, French, Germans, Britons, and growing communities of immigrants, including Tunisians, Moroccans, Nigerians, Indians, Romanians, Russians, Chinese and Gypsies from the Balkans.
Sicilians are predominantly Roman Catholic. Their language is Sicilian, which is an ancient Romance language that is comprised of many different languages (Spanish, Latin, French, Arabic, etc.). Sicilian is considered different language from Italian. Italian & English are other languages usually spoken in Sicily. Sicily does not consider itself a part of mainland Italy rather it considers itself as a separate country.
Malta's population is 404,000 (2005), which is ethnically comprised of Arab, Sicilian, Norman, Spanish, Italian, and British descendants. The people of Malta are called Maltese. The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English. However, Italian is also widely spoken by the Maltese people. The Maltese people also speak French, German and Spanish languages, which are taught in secondary schools. Roman Catholicism is the dominating religion of the Maltese people; 98% of Maltese are Roman Catholics.
Sicilian foods & wines are important part of Sicilian culture. Sicilian cuisine is vast and delicious. Sicilian foods, like most of the Mediterranean foods are cooked in olive oils. Some of the Sicilian specialties include Cheeses, pasta, artichokes, Sfincione (local pizza), Caponata (salad made with eggplant (aubergines), olives, capers and celery), eppia (cuttlefish), Crocché (croquet), Arancine (fried rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese), vitello alla marsala (veal marsala), Milza (veal spleen sandwiches), and Cassata (sugary cake).
Sicilian culture's influence on Maltese culture is evident in the local cuisine, with its emphasis on olive oil, pasta, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables (especially the tomato), traditional appetizers such as caponata (Maltese: "kapunata") and rice balls (arancini), speciality dishes such as rice timbale (Maltese: "ross fil-forn"), and sweets such as the cassata and cannoli.
Sicilian culture's influence on the Maltese culture is also evident in many of the local superstitions, in simple children's nursery rhymes, and in the devotion to certain saints, especially St. Agatha. Centuries of dependence on the Diocese of Palermo brought many Sicilian religious traditions to Malta, including the Christmas crib (Maltese: "il-presepju"), the ritual visiting of several Altars of Repose on Good Friday (Maltese: "is-sepulkri"), and the graphic, grim realism of traditional Maltese religious images and sculpture.
Sicily: Sicily travel and property and Malta travel and property.

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