attacks on the islands started from around the year
836 during which time Malta and its islands were still
under Byzantine rule, but the islands were only overcome
in the year 870 by Aglabid Arabs originating from what
is now Tunisia who used Sicily as a springboard for
their invasion, that island having been occupied by
them some thirty years previously.
To better protect their new territories the Moslems
sectioned off a part of the old Roman town of Melita
and defended it with a ditch, calling this citadel Mdina,
and did the same thing to the capital of the sister
island, Gozo; the elite of the small number of Arabs
then on the islands, probably dwelt in these towns but
Arab villages were scattered on both islands: such as
Bahrija in Malta (baharija: Arabic for oasis) and the
village of Gharb in Gozo (gharb: Arabic for West - that
hamlet being the most westerly of the Maltese Islands).
The names of the two principal islands, Melita and Gaulos.
Were changed to Malta and Ghawdex and two of the smaller
islands were named Kemmuna and Filfla, named after the
cummin seed and peppercorn respectively. The Arabs introduced
the water-wheel, the sienja, an animal-driven device
for raising water, now obsolete, and, much more importantly,
the cultivation of the cotton-plant, the mainstay of
the Maltese economy for several centuries.