When you have a look at a map of the Mediterranean, you will come to appreciate more why each Mediterranean country has some form of influence from other countries in the region.
In fact, throughout the history of the Mediterranean region, one encounters a lot of interaction between the diverse cultures of Mediterranean countries. The importance of the Mediterranean Sea cannot be underestimated here.
An Ancient Map of the Mediterranean
Even to this day, the Mediterranean sea serves as the main channel of transport and trade between these countries and North African countries.
In ancient times, the two most prominent civilizations in the Mediterranean, were the Greeks and Phoenicians.
The Greeks expanded throughout the Black and Red Sea. While on the other hand, the Phoenicians spread mostly through Western Mediterranean countries such as Malta and also reached North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula.
At one point, the Ottoman Empire was constantly trying to spread its power across Mediterranean countries, in an effort to control the Mediterranean Sea.
A Mediterranean Sea Map showing the various countries that were under the Ottoman Empire rule. (Countries shaded in light purple were not ruled by the Ottoman Empire).
Looking at a Mediterranean Map will also probably give you an idea of why some Mediterranean food has different variations according to the specific country.
Due to the close proximity of some Mediterranean countries, sometimes you will see variations of the same dish, with each country adding its own special ingredients for a local flavour. For example, variations of rabbit stew is very popular both in Italy and Malta.
You will also often find Spanish and French cuisine influences in other Mediterranean countries’ cuisines.
Map of Mediterranean Sea clearly showing Malta as the heart of the Mediterranean
One commonality in most Mediterranean countries is the ability to produce olives and tasty olive oil! Olive oil in fact is highly popular in Mediterranean recipes.
A Mediterranean Map showing all Mediterranean Countries
The tiny island of Malta, is said to be the heart of the Mediterranean. It is in fact located right in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea with Sicily to the North and Libya towards the South of the island.
The fascinating island of Malta is so tiny, that sometimes it's not even featured on a Mediterranean map, let alone a map of Europe or the world! (As you've probably noticed, we have had to add Malta ourselves on some of the above captioned maps!).