Maldives

The unique chain of idyllic 1190 islands makes the Maldives, the dream holiday destination for people across the globe. The deep blue seas, cerulean reefs, white sandy beaches and palm trees makes it the perfect place to sit and watch a sunset.

The geographical wonder and tranquil living of people are exclusive to its islands. It has 200 inhabitant islands and just 100 resort islands and the small population of just 400,000. Though the populace of the reefs and seas are immeasurable. Tamed shoals are ready to welcome you in the crystal clear sea. Dive or sit on the beach to see the colorful fishes.

Key Facts:

  • Full Name: Republic of Maldives
  •   Population: 320,000 (UN, 2011)
  •   Capital: Male
  •   Area: 298 sq km (115 sq miles)
  •   Average Temperature: 29-32 ˚C
  •   Local Time: GMT +5
  •   Language: Dhivehi. English is widely spoken throughout the country.
  •   Religion: Islam
  •   Life Expectancy: 76 years (men), 79 years (women) (UN)
  •   Monetary Unit: 1 rufiyaa = 100 laari
  •   Main Exports: Fish
  •   GNI Per Capita: US $6,530 (World Bank, 2011)
  •   Internet Domain: .mv
  •   International Dialling Code: +960
  •   Electricity: 230-240 volts -AC

History

With stories such as Rannamaari, a tale about a sea monster than demands a virgin sacrifice every full moon, and conflicting accounts of the origin of the first settlers in the country, Maldives has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The indigenous people of the Maldives are believed to be settlers from the shores of southern India and western Sri Lanka as well as some migrants from more northern regions of India.

Maldivians practised Buddhism – a religion widely followed in neighbouring Sri Lanka – up until 1153 AD, when, according to local folklore, a Sunni Muslim visitor named Abu al Barakat convinced the reigning king to embrace Islam.

Maldives was visited by people from all over the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, due to the availability of important commodities such as cowry shells. These visitors left a strong influence on the people, their religion and the culture of the Maldives. Trade with cowry shells was the mainstay of the Maldives for many centuries. These precious shells were used as an international currency in Africa, China, Arabia and India – and Maldivian cowries have been found as far away as Norway.

Key Historical Events:

1st Century AD: The Roman manual of Navigation, the Periplus Maris Erythraei, mentions islands that are assumed to be the Maldives.
2nd Century AD: Ptolemy refers to the Maldives in his work on geography.
362 AD: Roman historian records a visit of a Maldivian delegation to Rome, bearing gifts to Emperor Julian.
662 AD: Historical Chinese document records that the Maldivian king sent gifts to Chinese Emperor Kao-Tsung of Tang Dynasty.
1153: Maldives converts to Islam.
1558: The Portuguese invade the Maldives.
1573: Mohamed Thakurufaanu liberates the Maldives from the Portuguese.
1752: The Malabars invade the Maldives for a three-month period.
1887: Protectorate signed with Britain.
1932: The first constitution enacted.
1953: The first republic created with Mohamed Ameen as president.
1954: End of the first republic as Ameen is ousted; the Maldives reverts to a sultanate with Mohamed Fareed as the king.
1965: Independence from the British.
1968: End of the sultanate; second republic formed with Ibrahim Nasir as president.
1972: The first island resort is developed; tourists begin arriving to the Maldives.

Politics and Government

A sultanate since the 12th century, the Maldives became a British protectorate in 1887 and remained so until 1965 when then Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir – who would later become the first president of the second republic – signed the declaration of independence. The country became a republic for the second time in 1968, three years after independence.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom dominated the nation’s political scene for 30 years, elected to six successive terms by single-party referendums. Following fierce opposition, including large-scale demonstrations in the capital Male, the government pledged to embark upon democratic reforms such as a more representative political system and expanded political freedoms. Although progress was sluggish and many promised reforms were slow to be realised, political parties were legalised in 2005.

In June 2008, a constituent assembly finalised a new constitution, which was ratified by President Gayoom in August. The first-ever presidential elections under a multi-candidate, multi-party system were held in October 2008, and incumbent President Gayoom was defeated in a run-off poll by Mohamed Nasheed, a political activist who had been jailed several times earlier by the former regime.

In early February 2012, after several weeks of street protests following his detainment of a top judge, Nasheed resigned and handed over power to his vice president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan. The legitimacy of the power transfer and the successive government was later challenged by Nasheed and his supporters. However, a Commonwealth-backed enquiry into the controversial transfer of power found no evidence of a coup.

Key Facts:

Form of Government: Presidential Republic
Executive: The president ( Ibrahim Mohamed Solih  since November 17, 2018) serves as both the head of the state and head of the government. The president is elected by direct vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term). A vice president ( Faisal Naseem  since November 17, 2018) is also elected alongside the president.
Legislative Branch: Unicameral parliament (77 seats; members elected by direct vote to serve five-year terms).
Judiciary: Supreme Court (Supreme Court judges are appointed by the president with the approval of parliament), High Court, Civil Court, Criminal Court and Juvenile Court form the upper courts. All lower court judges are appointed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Culture

From local cuisine to music, the culture of Maldives reflects a blend of the many cultural aspects that were introduced by the seafarers who settled in the country in the ancient times. The Maldives’ culture has deep influences from many different countries, including neighbouring Sri Lanka and India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Despite being a small community living in an island nation, Maldivians have a language of their own to be proud of. The language, known as Dhivehi, is from Indo-Iranian Sanskritic origin, and is closely related to the Sinhalese language, which is widely spoken in neighbouring Sri Lanka. However, it has gradually evolved overtime due to influences from Islamic and Arabic traditions.

Since Maldives embraced Islam in 1153, Islam has been central to the life of Maldivians. The main events and festivals of Maldivian life revolve around the Muslim Hijri Calendar. From infancy, children are taught the Arabic alphabet and the Muslim holy book of Qur’an. Religious education is provided both at home and at school, and Islam is part of the school curriculum.

‘Bodu Beru’, literally translated as Big Drum, is the most popular form of local music and dance. Believed to have originated from East Africa, it is a performance by a group of drummers, singers and dancers, starting with a slow beat and ending on a frenetic note. Other popular cultural dances include ‘Thaara Jehun’ – introduced by Arabs – for men, and ‘Bandiyaa Jehun’ – similar to Indian pot dance – for women. Today western and Indian music is much popular amongst both young and older Maldivians.

Weather and Climate

In a country where more than 99 percent of the total area is water, the weather plays a major role in the day-to-day lives of the people. Western travellers often describe the weather and climate of Maldives as a “never-ending summer”.

The Maldives has a tropical climate which consists of two monsoons: the dry Northeast Monsoon – locally known as Iruvai Moosun – from December to March, and the wet Southwest Monsoon – referred to as Hulhangu Moosun by locals – from May to November, with more strong winds and rain. Although the temperature remains remarkably consistent at around 30°C throughout the year, April is considered a transitional period noted for clear water and heat.

Things to do

Snorkelling: Snorkelling over the shallow reefs of the islands is an ideal way to explore the breath-taking underwater beauty of Maldives. The house reefs of most of the islands are just a few metres away from the beach, and the shallow nature of the reefs allows you to simply walk up to the reef. Most of the resorts offer excellent water sports facilities and some organise snorkelling excursions on your request.

Surfing: With consistent waves amongst tropical beaches and reefs, Maldives is the ideal surfing destination for holidaymakers. The surfing season runs from mid-February to November when swells are produced by low pressure systems in the southern Indian Ocean. For resort based surfing, it is advisable to choose a resort on the eastern side of North Male Atoll as most of the recognised surf breaks are in Male Atoll.

Diving: The Maldives’ amazing white sand beaches, coral reefs, clear warm waters, many scuba diving sites and rich marine life have made the island nation one of the world’s premier scuba diving destinations. In addition to the scuba diving facilities available at the resorts, a number of liveaboard operators offer scuba diving cruise holidays. The diving season runs all year round, but the period from November to May is considered to be the recommended months for confirmed liveaboard departures.

Fishing: Fishing has been the lifeline of Maldivians for generations, but it is also becoming increasingly popular among both locals and foreigners as a favourite pastime activity. Night fishing in the Maldives is an experience that should not be missed. Grab a fishing rod, get into a dhoni and go on the lookout under the night sky for groupers, snappers, emperors, jacks, squirrel fish and barracudas. All resorts provide facilities for big game fishing and night fishing, including speedboats and modern fishing equipment like international fish rods and fish finders.

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