Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily and to its south is North Africa, giving the country a warm climate. Throughout history, Malta has been considered a crucial strategic location and was occupied by several ancient cultures including Sicilians, Romans, Phoenicians and Byzantines. The island is associated with the Knights of St. John who ruled it and Roman Catholicism the official religion in Malta. The official languages are Maltese and English. The island has invested in hotels which offer a variety of conference facilities and the Malta Conference Centre has undergone a thorough reconstruction and extension. Malta International Airport has also been extended and modernised.