Malta is situated in the heart of the Mediterranean, 93 km (58 miles) south of Sicily, 288 km (179 miles) east of Tunisia, with the Strait of Gibraltar 1,826 km (1,135 miles) to the west and Alexandria 1,510 km (940 miles) to the east. Malta covers just over 316 km2 (121 sq miles) in land area, making it one of the world's smallest countries; but it has a very rich history. The main island is made up of many small towns with a population of about 417,600 as at 2010. The capital city is Valletta.The country has two official languages - Maltese and English, with Maltese being the national language.
Malta has a subtropical-Mediterranean climate with mild winters and warm to hot summers, with temperatures varying from 12 to 20 °C (54 to 68 °F) during the day of the coldest months and go down to 7 to 12 °C (45 to 54 °F) at night. In the warmest months the temperatures vary from 28 to 34 °C (82 to 93 °F) during the day and 19 to 24 °C (66 to 75 °F) at night.
The culture of Malta reflects the various civilisations that have come into contact with the Maltese Islands throughout the centuries, including its neighbouring Mediterranean countries and the nations that ruled Malta for long periods of time prior to its independence in 1964.
Throughout history, Malta's location has given it great strategic importance. A sequence of powers including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Knights of St John, French and the British ruled the islands. Malta became independent from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a Republic in 1974. It applied to become a member of the European Union in 1990; negotiations came to an end in December 2002 and the accession treaty was signed in April 2003. On the 1st May 2004 Malta became a member of the European Union. Malta is also party to the Schengen Agreement and it joined the eurozone on the 1st January 2008.