About Gozo
Gozo Fisherman

Gozo, which in Maltese is called Għawdex (pronounced: Awdesh), is a derivation of other older names such as Gaulos. It has an area of 67 square kms, is 14 kms long and 7 kms wide. With a coastline of 43 km, it is the second largest island of the Maltese Archipelago that, together with the smaller isle of Comino and the main island of Malta form the Republic of Malta. Gozo is popularly called The Island of Calypso, that is a nickname originating from the Greek mythological location of Ogygia referred to in Homer's Odyssey. In this epic poem, the fabled island was controlled by the nymph Calypso, who had detained the Greek hero Odysseus for seven long years as prisoner of love.

The Maltese Islands are situated in the centre of the Mediterranean - 93 km south of Italy and 290 km north of North Africa. Gozo lies about 5 km in the North West of Malta and the distance between Ċirkewwa in Malta and Mgarr Harbour in Gozo, involves a 25 minute ferry crossing. It therefore enjoys warm summers and mild winters and this makes it the ideal holiday destination at any time of the year.

The official coat-of-arms of Gozo is a field divided horizontally: the upper two thirds silver; the lower one third made up of six parallel wavy horizontal bands alternately silver and black, the top one silver, the bottom one black. Upon the upper part, three slightly pointed hills in black, the centre hill higher and in front of the other two hills. Above the shield is a mural coronet with five eschaugettes and a sally-port in gold. Simultaneously with this emblem, Gozo earned its popular nickname the Island of the Three Hills probably derived from the hilly view when observed from mainland Malta. Throughout the years Gozo has been vastly influenced by the cultures and history of a series of dominators including the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, the Knights of St. John, the French and the British, who all left their mark on the cultural and the folkloristic heritage of the population.

In comparison with mainland Malta, one finds a more varied geology and larger relief contrasts, with typical flat-topped hills. Over 31000 people inhabit the island and this amounts to one-twelfth of the overall population of Malta. When compared to the overall area of the Maltese Islands, Gozo covers approximately one-third of that area. This means that the island of Gozo is not overpopulated, and therefore greener and quite more peaceful.

The main sources of income are from Tourism, Agriculture, Fishing together with a number of small and medium-sized enterprises. Politically, Gozo and Comino form one of the thirteen electoral districs of the Republic of Malta. Five representatives are elected to the Maltese parliament, and to better look after the Gozitan people's interests, one of these is always a central government cabinet minister. Besides, each of the fourteen localities or village communities have their own local council and therefore their mayor.

Historical Note
Maltese Cross

Gozo's history is twined up in the general story of its sister Island of Malta. As a result, Gozo shared the same influences of cultures bestowed on by the number of dominators and events that touched the Maltese Islands during the last seven thousand years.

Until now, pre-historic archaeological remains in the Maltese Islands date back to some 5000 B.C. and the oldest ones were discovered in Gozo. This makes sense when one considers that man first arrived in Malta from Sicily, being the closest land, just over 88 kilometres to the North of Gozo. In this early age, man had enough skill and courage to construct the Ġgantija temples that we find in Xagħra, and other Neolithic temples dating between 4100-2500 BC.

History starts with the Phoenicians, the famous Mediterranean traders from today's Lebanon who introduced cloth dyeing and maritime trade. Their close relatives, the Carthaginians, superseded them and, after the three Punic Wars, our islands became part of the Roman Empire. The Roman era had also followed a brief period of Greek influence. The Romans introduced the code of law and used our islands as a hub for honey and olive oil exports.

Christianity was brought to Malta and Gozo in 60 A.D. by St. Paul, but was consolidated under the Byzantines, from the Eastern Roman Empire. In the late 9th Century A.D. the Arabs after taking Sicily took control of the Maltese Islands. They introduced the Water Mill and the cotton plant that proved to be the mainstay of the islands' economy for centuries to come. The Arabs influenced our present language, gave us the present names of Malta and Ghawdex (Gozo), together with the oldest village and family names.

The Normans re-established Christianity in Malta and Gozo in 1090. Then followed a period when the new masters of the Maltese islands came, in turn, from the aristocracy of Germany, France and Spain: the Swabians (1194); the Angouvins (1268); the Aragonese (1283) and finally, the Castilians (1410). The two islands were often leased in fiefdoms, the same as the contemporary feudal system practised throughout Europe. There are few records about this feudal period, but in Gozo, the Angouvins had a cemetery in today's Victoria, where various French nobles and crusader casualties were believed to be buried. Several tombstones and artefacts from the period were saved from destruction and could still be found at the Museum of Archaeology in Victoria.

Characteristics

POPULATION

Gozo was first inhabited before the Neolithic Period (ca. 4th Millenium BC). Even so, according to archaeological finds, this means that Gozo received its first inhabitants from Sicily before mainland Malta. Today's Gozitan has typical Mediterranean features that closely match with Spanish or Italian looks. Gozitans are renowned hard-workers, religiously influenced and with an admirable sence of hospitality. The population of Gozo stands at about 31,000 and is distributed amongst Victoria and the surrounding thirteen villages.

LANGUAGE

The official language is Maltese which is spoken in a distinguished dialect that amazingly differs slightly from one village to another. As applies for the whole Maltese islands, the language has Semitic origins and Romance influences, while the English language stands as the second official language.

RELIGION

Religion is predominantly Roman Catholic. The village parish church is evidently the nucleus of local life and there are over 40 churches and chapels scattered around the island. Gozo has its own Diocese and its Seminary since 1864. The Bishop of Gozo has his seat at the Gozo Cathedral in Victoria.

CROSSING FROM MALTA

Gozo could be reached in two ways; either by Ferry or by Seaplane. The most common is the Ferry service between Mgarr Harbour in Gozo and Cirkewwa Harbour in Malta, with a basically roll-on/roll-off schedule. However, there is a convenient Seaplane service operating between Valletta Waterfront in Malta and Mgarr Harbour Gozo.

TRANSPORT

Transport is provided by a fair service of buses from Mgarr to Victoria and vice-versa and from Victoria to all towns and villages in Gozo. The main bus terminus is situated in Victoria and route numbers are on the front of the buses. Taxi stands are found in Victoria and Mgarr. One can also go around in hired cars, motorbikes and bicycles. In Gozo as in Malta and Britain, vehicle traffic travels on the left-hand side of the road. The relatively short travel distances make trekking and hiking in Gozo a worthwhile venture.

CLIMATE

The climate is typically Mediterranean. It is generally mild in winter save for the first four to six weeks of the year when it is normally a bit cool, wet and sometimes unpredictable. The average temperature for winter is 16 degrees Celsius and it covers the period between December and March. Summer is rather long, dry and sunny, with August being the warmest month. The average temperature for summer is 25 degrees Celsius and it covers the period between April and November.

CURRENCY

The Maltese currency since January 2008 is the Euro.

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