Located in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Sicily, the Maltese archipelago consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. Their total population in 2003 was 399,867. The largest island of the group is Malta, from which the archipelago takes its name. In 2003, it had a population of just over 388,867. Valletta, the capital, is the cultural, administrative and commercial centre of the archipelago. Malta is well served with harbours, chief of which is Valletta's Grand Harbour. Malta's international airport is situated five kilometres from the capital.
The distance between Malta and the nearest point in Sicily is 93 km. The distance from the nearest point on the North African mainland (Tunisia) is 288 km. Gibraltar is 1,826 km to the west and Alexandria is 1,510 km to the east of the island. This strategic position has allowed Malta to develop as an important trading post. The Malta Freeport is one of the Mediterranean's leading ports for container transhipments.