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.