A George Cross marks the spot (Sunday Telegraph)

My travel to the Middle East being somewhat curtailed by recent events (this is the first year in the past few that I’ve not visited Syria), I’ve had to travel a little nearer to home this year. But not too near – in October I went to Malta and Gozo, two islands which, though in Europe, sit pretty close to the North African coast. Gozo was beautiful and tranquil – and I’ll be writing about that island next year – and Malta was fascinating for its history and melange of culture and languages (a dialect of Arabic written in the Latin script, with a generous smattering of Italian  thrown in). Two great events shaped Malta’s history – the Great Siege by the Ottomans in 1565 and the Siege of Malta during World War II (1940-1942). The  Baroque architecture of its capital, Valletta, and the silent, ancient streets of its former capital, Mdina, enchanted me and I wrote about the cities in a piece just published by the Sunday Telegraph.