Under the Arabs

As with all who made the Islands their home, we can trace the Arabic legacy here too. They left their mark on the Maltese language and in the names of many towns and villages in Malta and Gozo, such as Marsa, Mdina, Mġarr, Mqabba, Għajnsielem, Rabat, Xagħra, Żejtun and Żurrieq, though there is little visible evidence of their stay, apart from the few gravestones unearthed.

They introduced new crops, including cotton and citrus fruits, and innovative agricultural systems, such as irrigation, to Malta.

The distinctive landscape of terraced fields is the result of ancient Arab methods. Many delicacies of today's Maltese cooking, like that of its neighbour Sicily, owe their origins to Arabic imports - figs, almond, sweet pastries and spices.

The Arabs saw Malta, as did the Romans' before them, as a useful outpost to Sicily. They seem to have tolerated the Christian beliefs of the Islanders. But with military matters to the fore, they occupied and extended the old Roman fortifications, later to become Fort St. Angelo and the town of Mdina.

Arab rule on Malta came to an end after a long battle with the Normans who crossed from Sicily. The Normans had taken Sicily from the Arabs after a 30-year struggle. A certain Count Roger secured the Maltese Islands for the Normans in around 1090. From now on, throughout the Middle Ages, the Islands' fortunes were tied to those of various European nobility and royals.