Valletta, Malta – Strategically Placed (27.06.15)

Two of today’s biggest news stories are (i) EU immigration issues, compounded by the surge in migrants from north Africa and (ii) the Middle East’s continued instability.

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As a travel company arranging trips across a broad spectrum of worldwide destinations, it never ceases to amaze us how often our most popular travel destinations feature in headline news. The local impact of this on the delicate balance necessary to develop a stable and vibrant holiday spot can be strong. World headlines dramatically affect the tourist industry, further endangering political stability as well as local income streams.

For example, my recent blog postings on Sana’a (Yemen) and Palmyra (Syria) highlighted how destinations previously popular with Nomadic Thoughts clients have recently attracted international attention, sadly as a direct result from the continued destabilisation of the Middle East. Similarly, I recently highlighted the demise of Africa’s whole tourism industry due to the relatively remote regional outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

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So when watching the desperate images of the people trying to cross the Mediterranean from Africa in search of a better life, I am only too aware of how intertwined the story is with some of our most treasured south Mediterranean holiday destinations.

Malta continues to be at the forefront of Nomadic Thoughts’ minds presently. Positioned 207 miles from Libya, it is, by its very location, directly affected by the flow of African migrants. Malta has received up to 18,000 migrants since 2010, which in British population terms, equates to 2.5 million people.

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These migrants come in the name of ‘peace’, of course, which for an island that has historically taken great pride in repelling foreign invaders – and was awarded the George Cross by King George VI in 1942 for the whole island’s bravery – puts a different spin on this new chapter of Maltese history.

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The capital Valletta stands not only as beacon of hope for all would-be migrants, but also as a majestic reminder of how this very special holiday destination has precariously travelled through time as one of the world’s most important and sought after naval bases. It has been embraced by the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilian, Spanish, French, British, Knights of St. John as well as present day migrants from Africa.

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Built by the 16th century Knight Hospitaller (during the rule of the Order of St John of Jerusalem), the Old City oozes an architectural myriad of Baroque, Mannerist, neo-classical and modern styles. All to the backdrop of humungous city fortifications with high ramparts, cannoned walls and impenetrable bastions. Visitors today can enjoy the most romantic of old-style cityscapes with broad alleyways, dipping gun-barrel-straight streets and quaint faintly lit squares, plazas and palaces. Sweeping views include the Grand Harbour, a plethora of historic buildings, ornate churches, secret catacombs and even the odd red British post box.

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As these images show, the combination of structures, views and historical locations make Valetta, Europe’s southernmost capital, one of today’s most exciting city locations. Rightly recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1980, and as the closest beacon of hope for those desperately searching for a better, safer and altogether more stable life from those across the north African waters.

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