Malta The Maltese islands, small in size and poor in natural resources, are strategically important because of their location, midway between the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal, and between Europe and Africa. The main island – Malta itself – was a valuable prize for foreign invaders, the last being Britain, which used the Grand Harbour at Valletta as a base for the Royal Navy. The smaller island of Gozo was neglected and remains something of a backwater compared to Malta, although it is greener and scenically more attractive. The first impression of Malta is an apparently barren landscape of small terraced fields, separated by drystone walls and dotted with villages built from the honey-coloured rock. Because of the limestone formation of the islands and the rather dry climate, water supply is a major problem and tourism has to compete with other uses for this scarce resource.