Malta was always a key ingredient in the development of what we today regard as the Mediterranean diet specifically due to its prominent role in the production of olive oil. Since Roman times, olive oil production in Malta was a very lucrative business with large exports to neighbouring countries.
This is why Malta is now forming part of HOST - Heritage of Olive Oil Tree for Sustainable Tourism - an EU-funded project taking place across four Mediterranean territories in Malta, Italy, Slovenia and Greece, four countries who have all played an important role in the development of the olive oil industry. This project is being co-financed by the COSME programme of the European Commission with an overall budget of €239,991 for a period of 18 months from June 2015. The project is led by Fondazione Campus in Italy and includes another five international partners including: Timesis srl, The Municipality of Koper, The Regional Development Centre Koper, ETAL S.A and 5 Senses Ltd. representing Malta.
The HOST project celebrates the olive oil trail and presents an ideal way to discover the history, culture, lifestyle and the deep, shared roots of the Mediterranean countries who chose to support a model of sustainable tourism that cares about respecting the local ecosystem and its traditional activities.
As part of the HOST project, the FOOT brand has been created. FOOT - Fit On Olive Trails - is a network of four running events taking place from spring to fall in Italy, Slovenia, Greece and Malta: four countries that have been thriving on the cultivation of olive trees for many centuries. This is why the HOST Project, through the FOOT brand, in collaboration with the Żejtun Local Council which every year hosts its ‘Żejt iż-Żejtun’ event, will this year be hosting the first edition of Żejt iż-Żejtun Half Marathon on Sunday 18th September 2016.
This Half Marathon is one of four running events taking place one in each country participating in this HOST project. In fact, these running events are all taking part within a locality with a strong connection with olive oil production. This exciting running competition will unfold across the olive grove territories of the south-eastern region of Malta with the half marathon route passing through many attractions around the historic locality of Żejtun.
To meet all needs and requirements, the marathon will offer several routes of different length and difficulty. For those who want a day out with friends or family, there are multiple routes you can choose from. Running courses include a 650m children fun run (as a fund raiser for Jesus of Nazareth Orphanage of Żejtun), a 2.6km fun run and the 21km half marathon which can be run in full or as a relay with three team members running approximately 7km each.
The name Żejtun originated from Phoenician and Semetic Arab meaning the fruit of the olive tree. In Arabic 'zaytun', Turkish 'zejtin' and in Spanish and Portuguese where Arab culture flourished found as 'aceituna' and 'azeituna' respectively. In Maltese the word is now only as a place name, and the word 'żebbuġ' is now used both for the olive tree and its fruit. Indeed the motto of Żejtun is “Frott Iż-Żebbuġ Ismi”, literally means 'My Name is the Fruit of the Olive Tree'.
Over the past years, there seems to have been a renewal of interest in olive tree cultivation. This was one of the main reasons that spurred the Żejtun Local Council to start hosting its Żejt iż-Żejtun event every September – an Olive Oil festival that promotes the health benefits of olive oil as well as its prominent role in the local cuisine, the Mediterranean diet and centuries-old traditions. More information about the festival can be obtained from the Żejtun Local Council.
HOST project aims to restore economies in order to generate a positive impact on the population, and reinvigorate natural and cultural heritage. Through the project, sports and customised tour packages within the four participating countries will also be encouraged. Malta is represented by 5 Senses Ltd which will be proudly handling the organisation of the Malta marathon as well as complementary promotional activities together with the Zejtun Local Council and STARMAX Sport Association.