RODOLFO C. ESTIMO JR. | Published — Tuesday 8 November 2016
Speaker of the Maltese House of Representatives Anglu Farrugia receives Shoura Council Speaker Abdullah Mohammed Al-Asheikh who paid him a courtesy call on Monday.
RIYADH: A Shoura Council delegation, headed by Speaker Abdullah Al-Asheikh, held talks with his Maltese counterpart Anglu Farrugia in Malta on Monday.
Malta’s Ambassador to the Kingdom Martin Valentino told Arab News that the Shoura delegation's visit to Malta is expected to strengthen Maltese-Saudi relations among parliamentarians.
“The visit also aims to bring Saudi Arabia and Malta closer as far as political and economic matters are concerned,” the Maltese ambassador said. He said the parliamentarians discussed bilateral and regional issues with a view to strengthen and improve ties between the two countries.
The Shoura members also had a meeting with Malta’s acting President Dolores Cristina.
The Saudi delegation comprises four other Shoura Council members including Saad Mohammed Al-Hareky and Hamdah Khalaf Al-Anazi.
The members of the delegation were also to meet with Minister for Foreign Affairs George Vella and the Malta-Saudi Arabia Joint Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Valentino added that the Shoura Council’s delegation is in Malta to reciprocate the visit to Saudi Arabia of Maltese Speaker of the House of Representatives Anglu Farrugia in November 2014.
Farrugia led a parliamentary delegation which held talks with Al-Asheikh and the Saudi-Maltese Parliamentary Friendship Group besides other high-ranking officials.
A Saudi Shoura delegation visited Malta for the first time in November 2007. “The Maltese Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign and European Affairs also visited the Kingdom in February 2007,” Valentino said.
Speaking about Malta.
MALTA'S ARAB HERITAGE
By Habeeb Salloum
"Islam may have disappeared after 1249 but an Arabic dialect is still spoken by the mass of population... The staunchly Catholic Maltese are concerned to play down the Arab nature of this dialect, which since the 18th century has been written in the Latin script and called ‘Maltese’. Its origin is commonly said to be composite, of Arabic, though it does contain a relatively high proportion of Italian loan words."
So wrote Maxine Robinson, in his book, The Arabs, when describing the Arab linguistic legacy of Malta - once a flourishing part of the Arab-Islamic world. Try as they could during the era of religious fervour in the Middle Ages, the Maltese did not succeed in erasing, not only in language, but in all other facets of life, their Arab heritage. Malta remains today a cultural part of the Arab world.
Typical Maltese Church Inspired by the cube-shaped Ka'ba
The Majmuna-a Tombstone of a Young Muslim Girl
Mdina-St John's Cathedral decorated with Arabesque
Consisting of three islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, collectively known as Malta, the country has always, much more than its size belies, been important in the history of the central Mediterranean. Its 370,000 inhabitants - with an equal number of emigrés in Australia, Canada, Great Britain and the U.S.A. - living in an area totalling 316 sq km (122 sq mi) - are descendants of a concoction of races, overwhelmingly Semitic.
Phoenician settlements on the islands date back to about 1000 B.C. In the ensuing centuries, the Carthaginians, descendants of these Semitic people, continued to occupy the islands. The Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, Italians, French and British followed them - all leaving their imprints. It was, however, the Arabs who contributed the most enduring legacy, especially their indelible imprint on the Maltese tongue - a morphologically Arabic language of the North African branch.
In 869 Ahmad bin ‘Umar, an Arab-Muslim North African prince, occupied Malta for a short time before his forces were expelled. The next year a larger Muslim army under Muhammad ibn Hafagab, the Arab governor of Sicily, occupied the islands, being welcomed by the local Christian inhabitants as a deliverer from the agonizing Byzantine yoke. Subsequently, the Arabs ruled Malta until 1090 when the Normans defeated them. Under these Germanic conquerors the Christian and Muslims, at first, lived in harmony. However, later, between 1224 and 1250 the Muslims were totally expelled from the country.
The 220 years of Arab rule has left a lasting effect on the country's way of life. In this period of Malta's history the islands, known under three names: Malitah - the island's Roman name - Ghawdex and Chemmuna, enjoyed an unparalleled age of economic affluence, becoming a veritable land of plenty.
The Arab domination of the central Mediterranean and the country's strategic location made the islands a hub of trade and were instrumental in giving Malta great commercial prosperity. In addition, highly skilled in farming, the Arabs were responsible for the introduction of an advanced system of irrigation techniques, including the waterwheel and animal- powered devices for lifting water from wells. These made possible the widespread cultivation of citrus fruits and cotton - both introduced by the Arabs into the country. An Arab chronicler living in that period wrote: "Malta is rich in everything good... a blessing from God... well populated, with towns and villages, trees and fruits."
Besides the many economic benefits the Arabs brought to the islands, the advanced culture they carried with them greatly influenced all other aspects of Maltese life. They were tolerant rulers where Christians and Muslims lived in relatively harmony - an important achievement in that epoch of world history. Under the Muslims, known to the Europeans at that time as Moors, the Maltese had their own assembly called gemgha (Arabic jam’iya - an association) composed of both Christians and Muslims under an Arab hakim or governor.
Initially, many of Malta's Christian inhabitants converted to Islam and adopted numerous facets of Arab culture. As in the Arab lands, poetry flourished. Among others, the Arab poets Abu al-Qasim ibn Ramadan, al-Samiti and Ibn al-Susi became renowned throughout the Muslim world. Remnants of this love for lyricists remain with the country people today. L-ghana (Arabic ghina' -song), the traditional spontaneous songs of the countryside are no different than the zajal of our times, sung in the Greater Syria area. Strangely, Arab culture on the islands reached its epitome in the 12th century after Roger the Norman had occupied the country. For over a hundred years after the Norman Conquest Arabic remained a dominant factor in Maltese society.
Malta Mdina's St John's Cathedral
Malta Vedette at Senglwa Point
Today, from the illustrious Arab-Norman era there are little obvious remains. The only Arab testimonials are to be found in the walls of Fort St. Angelo in the Grand Harbour and in the walls of the city of Mdina (Arabic madina or city) - re-named from Melita, the capital of Malta during Roman times. Also, some artefacts such as Berber-style pottery and Arab coins are to be found in the National Museum.
Crowning all the visible remains is the beautiful Majmuna tombstone found while excavating a cemetery at the gates to the town of Rabat (Arabic rabaEQ \O(t.) - a quarter of a city). A large marble stone inscribed with Arabic-Kufic-style letters it carries a sad lament of a grieving Muslim father for the death of his 12 year-old daughter.
However, Arab influenced architectural styles, to be found in all parts of the islands, are the most important of the perceivable Arab-Muslim legacy. Old churches echo the traditional Arab style of arabesque, pointed arches and tapered columns. The entire interior of St. John's Co-Cathedral of Mdina is decorated with Arabesque and village churches are usually built in the shape of cubes - an echo of the Kaaba, the Muslim sacred shrine located in the courtyard of the Great Mosque at Mecca.
Malta's Roman Catholic Church has, over the centuries, assimilated many Arabic/Muslim practices. Instead of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer five times a day from minarets, the island's churches call their faithful to prayer five times a day by the sound of melodious church bells. The Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, has been transformed by the Maltese to Randan, meaning Lent, the Arabic insha' Allah (if God wills) is the Maltese jekk Alla rieda (if God wills), and like the Muslim news announcers who open their day's news broadcasts with "In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful", the Maltese radio station begins the day with "Ave Maria".
More apparent to visitors are the majority of Malta's towns and cities which still carry their Arabic names. Bahar (sea - from the Arabic baEQ \O(h.)r); bir (well - bi'r); gebel (mountain - jabal); ghar (cave - ghar); marsa (harbour - marsan);ramla (sand - raml); ras (cape - ra's); and wied (valley - wadin) form a part of a great number of placenames on the islands. A few of the other place-names like: Ghajn il-Kbira (the great spring - from the Arabic `ain al-kubra); Gharb (west - gharb); Gharghur (juniper - ‘ar’ar); Gzira (island - jazira); Hagar Qim (standing stone - EQ \O(h.)ajar qama); Il-Maqluba (turned upside down - al-maqlub); Mellie£a (salt pit - mallaEQ \O(h.)a); M�arr (cavern - maghar); Migra l-Ferth (stream of joy -majaran al-faraEQ \O(h.)); Mosta (centre -wasaEQ \O(t.)); Munxar (saw - minshar); Nadur (summit - naEQ \O(z.)ir); Sliema(greetings - salam); and Zeytun (olives - zaitun) are totally Arabic appellations.
Above all, the Maltese language is still basically Arabic - the main Arab influence remaining on the islands. It is considered by linguists to be an offshoot of Maghrebine (North African) Arabic. Today's Maltese travelling in North Africa, especially Tunisia, are able to make themselves fairly well understood.
Modern day Maltese fisherman
Maltese has its roots in the Punic dialect of Phoenician, an allied Semitic tongue to Arabic. Hence, after the Arabs occupied the islands their language took over and it quickly became the vernacular of the land. In later centuries, some French, English and noticeably Italian words were added to the vocabulary, but it has remained essentially an Arabic tongue. Its
Grammatical inflexions and verbal forms remain no different than those of the Arabic Semitic language.
This sample of the language gives one an idea of how Maltese is only an Arabic dialect, not much different than the colloquial of Tunisia. Ag£laq (shut is from the Arabic ghalq); angas ( fewer - naqaEQ \O(s.)a); bajd (eggs - baiEQ \O(d.));barra (outside - barran); d£ul(entry - dukhul); fetah (to open - fatEQ \O(h.)); gara (to read -qara'a); g£id (EQ \O(c)§d);�ilda (skin - jilda); hobz (bread - khubz); huma (them - huma); ktieb (book - kitab); lbies ( clothes - libs); imar'a (woman - mar'a); mo££ (brain - muEQ \O(k_)EQ \O(k_)); ragel (man - rajul); sid (master - sayyid); triq (road - EQ \O(t.)ariq); weraq(leaves - waraq); and zokkra (sugar - sukkar).
The days of the week and the numbers are Arabic and physically the Maltese are close to Arab types. In parts of the Islands, the country people still refer to themselves as Gharab (‘arab -Arabs). One cannot quarrel with Charles S. Muscat's words when he writes in his booklet Arab Influence on Malta:
"Even though the Islamic notion of jihad, or `a great effort in behalf of Allah', especially to spread the culture and religion of Islam, was originally seen by the Maltese as a negative thing, the culture of Malta would not be as rich and unique as it is today without that same Arabic influence. In the words of the Koran, may Allah be praised or in Maltese ‘grazza Allah’ for the Arabic influence."
Ahmed, A., A History of Islamic Sicily, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1975.
Aquilina, J., Maltese: A Complete Course for Beginners, Lincolnwood, NTC Publishing Group, Chicago, 1995.
Arberry, A. J., A Maltese Anthology, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1960.
Blouet, B.W., The Story of Malta, Faber and Faber, London, 1967.
Eadie, P.M., Malta and Goza, A&C Black, London, 1995.
Luttrell, A.T., Medieval Malta: Studies of Malta Before the Knights, The British School of Rome, London, 1975.
Muscat, C.S., Arab Influence on Malta, (Booklet), 1992.
Nantet, B., Malta, Editions Delroisse, Paris, France, 1979.
Owen, C., The Maltese Islands, David & Charles Publishers, Newton Abbot, Great Britain, 1969
Robinson, M., The Arabs, translated by A. Goldhammer, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1981.
Sacks, R.H., Malta and Goza, New English library, London, 1976.
Severin, I., See Malta and Goza, Format Books, London, 1978.
Historic Dictionary of Malta, Scarecrow Press, Inc., Lanham, Maryland, 1995.
Kalepin (Dizzjunarju) Malti-Ingliz Dictionary, Edited by Captain E.D. Busuttil, Progress Press, Valetta, Malta, 1977.
Nagel's Encyclopedia-Guide-Malta, Prepared by D. Chambry, Nagel Publishers, Geneva, Switzerland, 1978.
A few other articles:
Lastly the Maltese Language has to be one of the coolest languages out there. Any native Arabic speaker will probably smile whenever he hears it. A very unique language.
In other news:
The word mafia (Italian pronunciation: [ˈmaːfja]) originated in Sicily. The Sicilian adjective mafiusu (in Italian: mafioso), roughly translated, means 'swagger', but can also be translated as 'boldness' or bravado'. In reference to a man, mafiusu in 19th century Sicily was ambiguous, signifying a bully, arrogant but also fearless, enterprising, and proud, according to scholar Diego Gambetta. In reference to a woman, however, the feminine-form adjective mafiusa means 'beautiful' or 'attractive'.
Because Sicily was once an Islamic emirate, mafia may have come to Sicilian through Arabic, though the word's origins are uncertain. Possible Arabic roots of the word include:
- maha = quarry, cave; especially the mafie caves in the region of Marsala, which acted as hiding places for persecuted Muslims and later served other types of refugees.
- mahyas (مهياص) = aggressive boasting, bragging
- marfud (مرفوض) = rejected
- mu'afa = safety, protection
- Ma àfir = the name of an Arab tribe that ruled Palermo. The local peasants imitated these Arabs and as a result the tribes name entered the popular lexicon. The word mafia was then used to refer to the defenders of Palermo during the Sicilian Vespers.
The etymology of the name is uncertain, undergoing various modifications from the Ancient Greek Kouroullounè to the Arabic Kurulliùn\Qurlayun of the Emirate of Sicily, from Latin Curilionum to the Norman Coraigliòn, from the Aragonese Conillon, Coriglione from which the Sicilian Cunigghiuni originated. The modern name ascend from 1556.
Another belief is that the name derives from an Arab fighter named Kurliyun (Lionheart), who conquered it for the Aghlabids in 840.
Of course the very close ancient historical ties between the Arab world and nearby Southern Europe is nothing new. DNA has also confirmed the very close blood ties ages ago. If not for religion (although we are talking about 2 Abrahamic religions) and diverging histories, there would not be that much of a difference really. I can confirm due to familial ties in both parts of the world. The story is different with the remaining parts of Europe.
KSA, the GCC and Arab world should cooperate more with this friendly island state. More tourists should also visit to help their economy and we should support their agricultural sector. We should also enhance people to people relations.