Arab Heritage in Malta

The history of Malta includes several centuries of Arab presence that were very influential in what its heritage today is, including language, and place names.

History of Arabs in Malta

From 870 CE to 1091 CE, the islands were almost exclusively Muslim by religion and Arab by language. Even after the Norman conquest, a significant Muslim segment in the society remained till the 13th century, since the initial Norman did not converted the population. This is similar to Sicily, where the Normans allowed the Muslims to remain Muslims for some time, and not forced to convert. For example, Al-Idrisi was a Muslim Arab nobleman who worked in the court of Roger, and wrote his geography book and named it The Book of Roger (Al-Kitab Al Rujari الكتاب  الروجري).

Eventually the Muslim presence in Malta ceased to exist, perhaps after it came under the Spanish Empire.  

Language of Malta

Their language remained Arabic though, and their family names remained Arabic, as well as most place names. Being non-Muslims the language slowly drifted to what it is today with heavy influence from Italian and Sicilian.

Why does the Maltese language remain spoken today and not vanish like Arabic in Iberia? I think that the more active suppression of Arabic by the Spanish authorities and the church is to blame here.

Nobility of Malta 

Much of the Maltese nobility have Arabic names referring to place names (Djar = Dar = house, Bneit = Bent = daughter/girl, Benwarrad = Sons/Descendants of Warrad, Gnien = Ganayen = Gardens, Tuffieha = Apple(?), Qajjed = Qa'ed = commander).

Place Names

Also, monuments and place names such as Hagar Qim are Arabic,  in this case a "Stone" in Arabic. Other place names include Mdina (The City), Flifla (pepper), Rabat (camp), Birzebbuga (Bir = well), Gzira (Island or peninsula), Marsa (port), Ghar (cave),  Qala (Fort), Gharb (west), il-Balluta (The oak), Triq (Way/Road), Isqaq (Lane), ...etc. A list of local councils of Malta reveal more.

It is interesting that the Maltese say that Zebbug and Birzebugga are derived from the name for olives,  while there is a town called Zejtun زيتون, which is the Arabic name for olives.

If one looks at the Attard anthem, one can see the extent of Arabic in it which sounds like a north African dialect.

Dissociation from anything Arab

Although the facts are there, some Maltese genealogists go out of their way to affirm that the Maltese are European and Christian, and have nothing to do with Arabs. The author,  Charles Said Vassallo claims descent from Cem, the younger brother of the Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II, who after a period of failed civil war, seeked refuge in Cairo, then Rhodes, then in Europe with the Pope.

This attempt to dissociate the Maltese from Arab influence is similar to the phobia in Iberia in the 1500s and afterwards, from anything to do with Moors and Islam, be it dress, language, customs, taking a bath, circumcision, ...etc.

This is an all too common phenomenon where people would like to stop history at a certain point for their own bias and ignore all other eras in history, religion, language  and culture. 

Closing Anecdote

A common saying in Egypt today is : "Like a call for [Muslim] prayer in Malta زي اللي بيأذن في مالطة", which alludes to the fact that no Muslims are left there, and hence no one will answer the call. This  must be an old saying indeed, given that  this happened many centuries ago.




About the text

Dear sir,

Did you write the text on wikipedia about Maltese language?
It is so similar to yours here, except that there are some details missing in yours...

Thank you


No, probably the other way ....

No, I did not write that text, but probably someone copied from my site verbatim and then others added to it over time. Mass copying should not be used in Wikipedia.

Maltese are of Arabic

Maltese are of Arabic heritage. It's no differnet than Spanish or Portuguese of Moorish origin. The only differnece is Maltese still speak the language. I'm proud to be 1/4 Maltese and there's nothing to analyze. It's all fairly obvious.

Is it obvious?

Nothing is so obvious, but surely the Maltese language does have some Arabic heritage, but also Canaanite, and Hebrew too, as these can all be classified as Semitic. The questions is which percentage of the above 3 languages constitute Maltese? I claim that the Hebrew component is under-rated, and the Arabic is over-rated.

I do not know how Moorish influenced the Spaniards there, but then none is obvious, unless one explains some major truths about it.

Islam Phobia.

I'm Christian myself but i'm no fool. Judging from the remarks it seems that many Maltese are offended by any Arabic links.
They'd rather be affiliated to Roman Catholicism (i.e. a religion that spread far more intolerance from the Inquisition period onwards) than The Moors or B'Hai's, who were infact the most peacable during that early time period.
If one checks, as just one example, the area of Andalucia in Spain one realises there was a time when when Islam, Judaism & Christianity ALL were friends.
The ones who broke up this friendship weren't the was the Christian Crusaders! Let's be honest about this.
True, today, Islam maybe hijacked by extremists in the same way Catholicism was by the IRA in Ireland, but during the very early days of Malta, it was not the 'evil' resident.
People on here don't realise that 2 World Wars involved mainly CHRISTIAN nations so Christians are not squeaky clean.
Over an extended period in mankinds history you'll find that Christianity is far more bloodguilty than any other quit the Islamophobia.


your comment does not carry any weight as you forgot to put your name to it for starters.

this is just a forum were we can express our opinion

if you are Islamic. Let me tell you that i read and read to Koran plus other religious writings and the Koran is the only religious book that actually tells Islamic followers to go and kill their (religious) enemies. It was obviously written by Muhammad and he was using it to unit the Arabic population to control the world. That is my guess after reading it.
The best book is the one by the Dalai Lama it really talks and walks peace.
Now after saying all that I need to make another point clear to you all. This is the fact that most religions were used by tyrant to wage war and profit from it.
The everyday man is happy to live in peace but we are all managed by someone who has power and is ready to use it.

I think we should all start by trying to understand each other and all religions and take your own meaning to the writings not someone else’s.

So go ahead forget that Christianity was used by people in power to wage war and look at the bible it says peace in no uncertain terms.
“I give you two commandments, love you neighbour as yourself and be obedient to God” I hope that is close to what is said in the bible as I have not checked but the meaning is the same.

Paul Agius
Proud Malteser
Proud and tolerant Christian

arab heritage in malta

I think that like everything else what the writer said could be true of some Maltese but this will apply to every nation who has been taken forcefully by another.
I believe there is nothing wrong with saying that the Arabs actually owned Malta and influenced it religion and place name even family names i mean they were there for a long time but when liberated they will only celebrate the liberation and no nation would look to be liberated if they were happy.
So my argument is.
Malta stood alone for many centuries it was taken by every nation including the British and the Maltese are still Maltese so if anyone is going to try and take away from that truth please go ahead and apply your set of rules to any nation in the world and you will discover that even the mightiest have behaved in the same way.

that is it from me

Paul Agius

A very proud Malteser
Malta was occupied by every nation who was mightier but eventually we fought our way to freedom sometime with luck help from God and even from friends.

The Maltese as Israelites

The Maltese as Israelites

The Language
There is no doubt that the Maltese is at its root a Semitic language. Going back in time Abraham, had two sons, the first Ishmael, is where the Arabs came from and Isssac where the Edomites (from Esau) and Jacob (the 12 tribes of Israel).

The both originally spoke the same language, but then during centuries, words, and other cultural influences created several splits in their dialects and other divergences, and not just concerning the script.

Annibale Preca in his 1904 book (post-mortem) described several Hebrew words that the Maltese have adopted. Examples are bniedem (bin Adam), Saqqaja (from seqer, Hebrew to look at), Qala from Hebrew meaning to roast, etc.

My own research now proves that Sciberras (the old name for mount Sciberras of Valletta) is Hebrew. And so is Qormi, Rabat (meaning the larger town in Hebrew), Balzan, Attard, Birchirkara, Gudja (from Wettinger’s literature meaning Judea), etc. I have other 10 examples, or place names!

Mara (woman) is derived from the Hebrew marah meaning mirror. Since the women is made in the image of man, this makes sense.

Bejt means roof in Maltese, but house in Hebrew, and there are several of these annotations in Maltese

The Israelite tribes

Did you know that the British, Scandinavian, Belgians, Spanish etc, are all Israelites? They had two routes, from the Holy Land. One of them is the continental one, for example the North German/Danmark settlements of the Anglo-Saxons (Issac’s sons). British tribes came via another route and was there before Christ. (brit is Hebrew for covenant and ish means man.)

Then there is the Phoenician route, and this is much older than the other tribal movements within the European continent. Some people may not make this link, but some 73% of Old Hebrew script matches exactly Phoenician script. Some other 3% is very similar, and the rest are different. (reference Jeff Benner).

See more information here:

Did you know that a good third of all Maltese coat of arms have a Star of David on them? Was this done randomly, or for a purpose? After reading the above link (note well the symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel), then why are there some 10% of people in Malta having a tree on their coat of arms, alleging perhaps to the tribe of Asher?

And what about Vassallo, Cutajar, Mifsud, Amato, Aloisio and Custo’ all have lions on them, alleging to the tribe of Judah? And what about Zahra, perhaps stemming from the twins of Judah called Pharez and Zarah? The list goes on, and this is the beginning of my research.

The culture

The Maltese are perhaps one of the more conservative nations in Europe. This is naturally because of our own set of believes, no doubt. The fact that the female participation rate in the labour force is the lowest in Europe, shows our general distaste for mothers going into the working world.

The "ftira", is a sort of unleavened bread, although it does have some leavened in it. Marriage ceremonies some centuries ago, had a sort of a tent or canopy, although not used any more. These are Israelite traditions.

Do not mix the Jews with Israelites! Only some 3% of those people who call themselves Jews, stem from true Isreal. Most of them are Ashkenaz (who are not even Semitic) and the rest are Edomites (Semitic, but NOT Israelite!).

Racial features

I do not intend to be racist, just stating the facts. The skin colour of most Maltese is white, and quite different than the darker Arabs. When noting the bone structure, the Maltese tend to be quite stockier than the Arabs as well.

As geneologists do not go back for beyond the 1400s, they cannot explain much about the Maltese race. If we had an Italian influence, it is certainly a limited one, and from my reseach there is more of a Spanish connection than an Italian one! The National Geographic magazine claimed that the Maltese and the Lebanese are tied with DNA “Phoenician” links, but then our language is tied to “ancient Lebanon” very well.

Other notes

The Israelites, as under King David and later Solomon (perhaps giving us the Solomon Islands, now St. Pauls’ Islands), had a territory which includes present day, Lebanon, Israel (as a state not tribes), and parts of Jordan and Syria.

The Semitic roots of the Maltese language are thus coming from Hebrew, other Canaanite languages including Aramaic, and Arabic. After all, the Israelite tribes used to live in close proximity with the other tribes.

heritage of Malta

Dear everyone,
Someone has worked out that all DNA regardless were you are now in the world comes from a woman who was NEGRO (black) no offence meant here as i always respect my elders.
Now let us all except that we all came from the same source but we built our cultures differently we even changed our skin colour to suit our ambience etc.
So you guys can argue discuss your heritage all day it is not going to make a difference to anyone.
Paul Agius
Proud Malteser
Living in Australia