Not long ago, the streets of Valletta were filled with protests on censorship, gay rights, drug laws, and all types of issues that Malta was having trouble updating for the 21st century.
However, Malta has cleaned up quite well in the last few years, making leaps and bounds in some areas. And while some parts of Maltese life may have actually gotten worse (we’re looking at you, rainwater catchment system) there are quite a few things to be excited about in reality.
Here are some of those things.
1. The Food Scene
There was a time when the most exotic dish you could find was at the old Amigos outside Coconut Grove (RIP Coconut). Beyond that Chicken Supreme Fajita, pickings were bare, and forget about finding food after 2am, unless you were ready to drive to Serkin (RIP Serkin).
Then, the Maltese market began to change. Pizza By Luca appeared, bringing late night deliveries to the whole country – no areas left out. Food trucks appeared here and there, as did coffee bikes. Sushi places began popping up, first in the Paceville area, and then elsewhere. And then the burger revolution, spearheaded by NYB, occurred.
Now, we have more late night fusion restaurants that you can shake a sashimi at. Have you walked down Gzira promenade recently? The place is a veritable mecca of international cuisines. And it’s in Gzira.
Now that’s evolution.
2. The Art Scene
Did you know Malta will soon be turning a dead museum into a living one, with a touch of rebranding and an expanded collection? MUŻA is just one result of a determined investment in the art scene, in no small part due to Valletta being the 2018 European Capital of Culture.
With tens of millions being invested directly in the arts and culture economy since 2013, and places like Strait Street getting a makeover, the art scene has seen a resurgence of life that can be found everywhere, from the the re-branded Twistees packets to the massive selection of art/entertainment events every weekend.
3. Equal Rights
There’s a reason Malta is said to have the best gay rights in Europe – it’s because Malta has the best gay rights in Europe. With gay marriage allowed, things like conversion therapy banned, and anti-discrimination laws across the board, there are few places that have progressed as much in such a short time as Malta has.
4. More Creative Jobs For Young People
One of the biggest issues Malta suffered from was the national brain drain: some of our most talented people moving abroad due to a lack of decent opportunities in various fields.
There’s still a ways to go. But in areas like media, marketing, entertainment, fashion, and iGaming, there are now a lot more opportunities for you to snag your dream job around the island.
5. Technology Island
While Malta’s first Bitcoin ATM might have ended tragically, Malta is has plans to become a so-called ‘Bitcoin Island’. With the government aiming to take advantage of blockchain technology, and financial services parliamentary secretary Silvio Schembri appointing a blockchain taskforce, Malta might be one of the few countries that is preparing for the inevitable adoption of cryptocurrencies worldwide.
Aside from this, the government has plans to set a cut-off date for diesel or petrol powered vehicles, after which anyone in the country looking to purchase a new vehicle will have to go electric. Within a few decades, we very well could all be driving around in electric cars and paying for our groceries via Bitcoin app. Not bad at all.
6. Weed Pioneers
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat recently said that the question is not if we are going to legalise weed, but how. With legal analyses, pro-cannabis organisations forming and a nationwide consultation soon to take place, Malta might seen have another unique selling point: the only island in the world to regulate the legal cannabis industry.
7. An Overall Change In Culture
More than anything else, Malta’s culture has gone through a seismic shift. A more equal, cosmopolitan society has emerged after years of stagnation, with plurality in opinions, beliefs, and lifestyles becoming the norm.
While we might still have some weird hangups – some businesses still refuse to hire people with tattoos, for example – the future seems bright for the sunny little island.
I mean, Malta didn’t become Lonely Planet’s No. 1 Secret Place To Visit last year for nothing.