Terracing is used to contain erosion in agricultural areas, and herding is confined mostly to Gozo.
A rainy season occurs in October through February, but the climate is mild year-round. The population as of July 1999 was 369,451, of whom 341,906 lived on Malta and 27,545 lived on Gozo except for a handful on Comino.
The Grand Harbor of Malta is dominated by Valletta, the national capital, whose construction was begun by the Knights of Saint John in 1566, a year after the defeat of the Great Siege by Ottoman Turkey. Live births in that year were 4,826 for a birth rate of 13.1 per thousand.
Most buildings are constructed of limestone from domestic quarries, and many houses are identified by names rather than street addresses.
Water is scarce, and residences have flat roofs to capture rainwater.
Although identification with Europe remains strong, it has been tempered by a strong emphasis on nationalism and neutrality coupled with the idea of forming a cultural bridge between Europe and northern Africa. Malta is relatively homogeneous by modern standards.
A Jewish community numbers about one hundred twenty, and settlers from India number about sixty.
Most houses lack lawns and are attached to each other in rows that nestle close to sidewalks or streets, which are often narrow.
Some bedrooms may be entered only by passing through other bedrooms; their doors often are left open, with curtains providing some privacy.
The fact that the estimated national population as of July 1999 was 381,603 indicates that it is continuing to grow.
In part, this is because the emigration rate has been declining.
Sicily is 58 miles (93.3 kilometers) to the north, and Tunisia is 194 miles (312.5 kilometers) to the west.