The Maldives

Maldives, a tropical island nation with 1190 islands scattered over 20 administrative atolls is an ecstatic location situated in the hearts of the Indian Ocean. Words cannot explain its uniqueness, peacefulness, and privacy; palm fringed, sun-drenched beaches, turquoise lagoons, and coral reefs teeming with a varied underwater terrain that hosts one of the world’s richest marine life.

Maldivians are proud of these facts, and striving to present to the rest of the World.

Geography & Location

Republic of the Maldives is a sovereign archipelagic nation positioned in the Indian Ocean. Notably the South Asian Island nation has no counterpart in the entire world in terms of its unique geography and topography.

The Maldives encompass more than 99 % of the sea and less than 1 % of the land. The 99 % of the sea is home to one of the most diverse marine treasures of the world. Less than 1 % of the land is a masterpiece in natural landscaping.

The Maldives comprises of 26 natural atolls consisting of dual island chains. Incidentally the Maldivian language has the distinct pleasure of contributing to the English word “atoll”, which was derived from the Maldivian word “atholhu”.

There are channels of various sizes between the atolls used for navigation. For efficient administrative functioning, the 26 natural atolls are categorised into 20 administrative divisions. Particularly the island nation is located in a strategic area with access to major international sea routes in the Indian Ocean.

The Maldives, located on top of a vast underwater mountain range have around 1190 islands and sandbanks. The pearl string like islands covers a land area of no less than 298 km2. All the islands are encircled by a lagoon blessed with crystal clear water. These islands are protected by a reef structure, housing one of the most exclusive and spectacular underwater life.

Quick Facts:

Map Coordinates: 3 15 N, 73 00 E
Continent: Asia (South Aisa)
Total Area: 90000 km2
Land Area: 298 km2
Coastline: 644 km
Total Islands: 1190
Inhabited Islands: 187
Resort Islands: 106
Exclusive Economic Zone: 200 nm

Atolls in Maldives

Maldives is formed as one of the most complex and vibrant atoll structures found anywhere on the planet. The 26 natural atolls are categorised into 20 atolls for administrative purposes.

The 20 administrative atolls have distinct names and features that makes each one of them extraordinary. Now it is possible to explore all the atolls of the Maldives by staying in resorts, hotels, guest houses and traversing across the ocean in liveaboards.

The following are the names of the 20 administrative atolls starting from the northernmost atoll and ending with the southernmost atoll of the Maldives.

  • Thiladhunmathi Uthuruburi (Haa Alifu Atoll)
  • Thiladhunmathi Dhekunuburi (Haa Dhaalu Atoll)
  • Miladhunmadulu Uthuruburi (Shaviyani Atoll)
  • Miladhunmadulu Dhekunuburi (Noonu Atoll)
  • Maalhosmadulu Uthuruburi (Raa Atoll)
  • Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi (Baa Atoll)
  • Faadhippolhu (Lhaviyani Atoll)
  • Male’ Atholhu (Kaafu Atoll)
  • Ari Atholhu Uthuruburi (Alifu Alifu Atoll)
  • Ari Atholhu Dhekunuburi (Alifu Dhaalu Atoll)
  • Felidhe Atholhu (Vaavu Atoll)
  • Mulaku Atholhu (Meemu Atoll)
  • Nilandhe Atholhu Uthuruburi (Faafu Atoll)
  • Nilandhe Atholhu Dhekunuburi (Dhaalu Atoll)
  • Kolhumadulu (Thaa Atoll)
  • Hahdhunmathi (Laamu Atoll)
  • Huvadhu Atholhu Uthuruburi (Gaafu Alifu Atoll)
  • Huvadhu Atholhu Dhekunuburi (Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll)
  • Fuvahmulah (Gnaviyani Atoll)
  • Addu Atholhu (Seenu Atoll)

Weather & Climate

Maldives, the sunny side of life is blessed with magical and breathtaking displays of sunshine for the better part of a year. Similar to tropical countries, the Maldives enjoys a dry and wet season.  Conveniently, the hot and humid weather is complemented with cooling sea breezes and periodic rain.

The dry season or the Northeast Monsoon locally known as “Iruvai” continues from January to March. While the wet season or the Southwest Monsoon locally known as “Hulhangu” progress from Mid-May to November. Traditionally the natives used a calendar called “nakaiy” to identify weather developments.

Amidst the two seasons, there is little or no change in the temperature. This makes every season the best season to visit the Maldives. Likewise packing for a holiday in the Maldives is undemanding due to the uniform weather forecasts.

On average the daily temperature may fluctuate from 31 °C during the day to 23 °C in the night. The highest temperature ever recorded in the Maldives was 36.8 °C. Whereas the lowest temperature ever recorded in the Maldives was 17.2 °C.

The dry season is the season for admirers and enthusiasts of the sun. Throughout the dry season you are assured of beautiful and bright sunshine. Accordingly the seas are serene with clear blue skies. There is only sporadic rain during this season. Hence, this is the ultimate season for sunbathing, sunset watching and scuba diving.

The wet season showers torrential rain to the Maldives. Occasional thunderstorms and strong winds are the norm of this season. Consequently large waves and swells are generated in the ocean. As a result, the wet season is the most favourable occasion for surfers to showcase their flair in the great surf spots of the country. Nevertheless, the sun announces its presence on interludes, even during the wet season by bursting forth from the cloudy skies, dispensing rays of bright sunshine.

Get the Maldives latest weather forecasts from:  http://www.meteorology.gov.mv/

History

Though the ancient history of the enthralling Maldives is enshrouded in mystery, it is believed that the island nation was inhabited over 2500 years ago. Besides the recorded early history of the Maldives is limited and few archaeological remains of the prehistoric period survived.

First Settlers

The first settlers of the country are believed to be natives of the South Asian subcontinent. Correspondingly similarities in culture and language attest to settlers from neighbouring India and Sri Lanka inhabiting the Maldives.

The Maldives is located in a prime marine route traversed by travellers and traders to navigate through the Indian Ocean. Accordingly the strategic and geographical positioning of the Maldives is believed to have influenced the early settlers to colonise the country. For medieval seafarers the Maldives was a station to resupply their vessels with water, wood, coir and dried tuna.

Contact with the outside world

Although the Maldives was located in a geographically remote area, there are historical records of the islanders interacting with some of the greatest human civilisations of the time.

Roman historical records of 362 AD mention of a Maldivian delegation visiting Emperor Julian bearing gifts. Similarly Chinese historical documents of 662 AD records, Maldivian king sending gifts to the Chinese emperor Kao-Tsung of Tang dynasty.

Historical Chronicles

Copper plates called Loamaafaanu scribed with Maldivian texts on the orders of Kings survive to this day and are displayed at the National Museum. These copper plated texts preserve some significant historical information about the Maldives.

In the medieval period navigating the precarious Maldivian waters were a challenging affair. Consequently many shipwrecks occurred. One such shipwreck resulted in the French navigator François Pyrard of Laval enduring a Maldivian adventure from 1602-1607. Pyrad’s chronicle which was published in 1611 portrays a detailed insight on the life of Maldivians.

Overseas travellers from far-off lands have contributed immensely to the Maldivian history through publishing their experiences. Such noteworthy chronicled contributions from Chinese historian Ma Huan and the famous Arab traveller Ibn Batuta have survived to this day.

Religion

For a long period the Maldivians were followers of Buddhism. It is widely believed that Buddhism was introduced to the islands from the neighbouring Sri Lanka. From 1878 onwards H. C. P. Bell, a British archaeologist conducted extensive investigations on the Buddhist ruins found in the Maldives. Before Buddhism became the dominant religion of the Maldives, there are signs indicating that since antiquity Maldivians practiced versions of Paganism and Hinduism as well.

Maldivians began to embrace Islam en masse in the year 1153 AD. There are many folklores and legends associated with the conversion story. One such folklore states that the Maldivians were haunted by a sea demon named Rannamaari. To appease this sea demon the islanders were forced to present a virgin girl every month.

According to legend a Moroccan scholar, Abu-al Barakath Yusuf al Barbaree who was visiting the Maldives during this period, rescued the Maldives from this sea demon and convinced the king to adopt Islam.

The Medhu Ziyaarai shrine, a popular tourist attraction found a few steps away from the Friday Mosque in Male’ is believed to be the final resting place of this Moroccan scholar.

Foreign Occupation

Throughout the recorded history the Maldives existed as an independent polity for the most part. However, there were brief periods of foreign aggressions perpetrated by colonial masters and neighbouring powers.

The Maldivians love and value their freedom. Hence, whenever the country faced any foreign aggression, the heroes of the nation fought bravely to preserve the sovereignty of the country.

Starting from 1558 the Portuguese invaded the Maldives for a period of 15 years. The Maldivian national hero, Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al-Auzam led a successful uprising against the Portuguese aggressors and freed the country. This event is marked annually as the National Day of the Maldives.

There was a brief period during the mid-seventeenth century where the Dutch asserted control over Maldivian affairs. Subsequently on 1887 under an agreement the Maldives became a British Protectorate.

The British Royal Air Force operated an airfield on the Gan island of Addu Atoll. This airfield was active during the Second World War. Today this airfield has become the Gan International Airport, the gateway to the southern region of the country.

Becoming a Republic

For much of the known history, the Maldives were ruled by successive kings and queens belonging to different dynasties. However, on 1932 the first constitution of the country was adopted paving way for a republic.

The short lived First Republic was declared on 1953 with Mohamed Amin as the First President. However, the sultanate again made a comeback and lasted until 1968 when the Second Republic was proclaimed.

Under the premiership of Ibrahim Nasir, who became the First President of the Second Republic, Maldives gained independence from the United Kingdom on 26th July 1965. A new constitution was adopted and the Maldives embarked on a rapid modernisation process. The existing fishing industry was upgraded, and the first airport of the country was opened in Hulhulhe’ island on 12th April 1966.

During this period the Maldives began to explore new economic opportunities. This resulted in the opening of the first resort in 1972. Since, then the tourism industry has flourished in the country. Today the Maldivian tourism Industry is regarded as one of the best in the entire world.

Although the Maldives is small in size, the country has built and enhanced a respectable reputation in the international arena. At present the Maldives leads the way in advocating for the protection of small countries and preserving the environment.

Communication

The beautiful Maldives Islands are scattered across the Indian Ocean and are connected by a modern high powered communication network. Local Company Dhiraagu and International Company Ooredoo provides telecommunication and internet services across the Maldives. Correspondingly these companies supply efficient fixed line, GSM, mobile and internet services.

The dialling code of the Maldives is +960. International roaming services are also available in the Maldives. You can easily purchase a mobile SIM card from any of the service providers using your passport as documentary evidence. The communication networks in the Maldives provide ISD and STD services as well.

Almost all the resorts, hotels and restaurants provide free WiFi services to their guests. Internet service providers in the country offer data packages that can be utilised in 3G or 4G networks in most parts of the country.

Maldives Post Limited provides competent postal services. Topflight International companies like DHL and FedEx are also actively engaged in the Maldives.

Culture

The customs and social behaviour of the Maldivians have been greatly influenced by the Indians, Sri Lankans, Arabs and North Africans who visited the Maldives while traversing through the trading routes of the central Indian Ocean. The Maldivian culture is rich and vibrant due to the infusion of various other cultural elements.

Though Maldives was culturally influenced by other traditions, Maldivians have built and preserved an exclusive cultural identity.

Accordingly the Maldivians converse using a language of their own; called Dhivehi. In 1153 AD Maldivians converted to Islam and the religion has transformed and introduced new fundamentals to the Maldivian culture.

Folklore

Maldivians inherited a treasure trunk of ancient mythology and folklore that was passed orally through generations. These myths cover fascinating stories on various aspects of island life.

Since the islands are surrounded by sea, most folktales depict fearful sea demons and spirits that haunt the islanders.

Life in Islands

Traditionally the island communities were very close-knit. This togetherness is still prevailing in the small island societies. Historically roles within a community were defined and allocated. Accordingly men will be mainly engaged in fishery, carpentry and toddy tapping. Women were mainly engaged in household duties and raising families.

Certain rituals and practices were followed in the islands on special occasions like weddings. Some of these rituals survive to this day.

The advent of tourism in the 1970’s accelerated the modernisation process of the country. Consequently novel industries were initiated and people became engaged in them. Today an increasing number of women hold crucial positions within the public and private sector. As a result of economic growth, dramatic lifestyle changes were introduced.

Music and Dance

The Maldives boasts of a rich culture of music and dance. Some of the cultural music and dances can trace their roots to distant continents. Regularly resort islands organise cultural performances to entertain their guests. Similarly during festivals you can observe islanders performing traditional music and dance items.

One of the most famous Maldivian cultural displays which involve singing and dancing is called the “Bodu Beru”. The origins of this spectacle can be traced back to East and South West Africa. The Bodu Beru performers, numbering around 20 will be wearing traditional garb of sarongs and white sleeved shirts. Bodu Beru performance is guaranteed to make you sway along with the drumbeats.

Other traditional music and dance items include; Dhandi Jehun, Langiri, Thaara and Gaa Odi Lava. Most of these items involve rhythmic music and dances using various cultural props.

There are some cultural routines exclusively performed by Maldivian women. They include; Bandiyaa jehun, Maafathi Neshun and Bolimalaafath Neshun. Some of these acts were designed to perform in the royal courts.

Indian and Western music have also greatly influenced the musicians of the country. Frequently resorts host performances of local bands to enliven their guests.

Craftsmanship

Maldivians are known for being avid craftsmen. The intricate stone carvings found in the Friday Mosque in Male’ is a living example of Maldivian craftsmanship. Accordingly the Friday Mosque is a very popular tourist attraction.

The mastery and inventiveness of Maldivians can be seen in lacquer works, mat weaving, coir rope making and calligraphy. Traditional dresses and ornaments profess the artistry and creativeness of Maldivian artisans. Such exceptional works can be acquired by visitors as souvenirs.

A visit to the Maldives not only guarantees the best vacation of your lifetime, but it also gives you exposure to a great cultural experience.

People

Maldivians are esteemed around the World for their hospitality and affability towards their guests. Currently the population of the Maldives is 341,256. Additionally close to 60000 registered foreigners reside in the country.

Maldivians share a similar cultural heritage, history, ancestry, homeland, language and religion. These common factors are the reason for the unity and harmony prevailing in the alluring islands.

Maldivian ancestral roots can be traced back to Sinhala’s of Sri Lanka, Marathi’s and Guajarati’s of India, Arabs, Malays and Northern African dispositions. Accordingly, Maldivians emerged from a mixed race, which has enriched the culture and history of the country.

Presently Maldivians are adherents of the Sunni School of Islam. Maldivians embraced Islam in 1153 AD and since then the religion has played a key role in shaping the Maldivian society. Some of the famous landmarks in the country have been greatly influenced by Islamic architecture.

Before converting to Islam, the Maldivians were known to practice Buddhism and ancient paganism. Ancient Buddhist ruins are preserved in the country and antique Buddhist artefacts are displayed in the National Museum in Male’.

Traditionally whenever guests visit a local island, the islanders will welcome them by serving a fresh coconut drink. This tradition has continued to this day and do not be surprised if your resort offers a beautifully decorated coconut drink when you reach your destination!

Language

The national language of the Maldives is called Dhivehi. There are varying dialects of Dhivehilanguage, especially in the southern parts of the country. However, formal Dhivehi is used in all the official and written communications. Similarly Dhivehi is spoken in the Indian administered territory of Minicoy.

Dhivehilanguage is an offshoot of the Indo-Aryan language family. Various languages in South Asia, Europe and Arabic language in particular has contributed greatly to the evolution of Dhivehi language.

The writing history of Dhivehi language can be traced back to over 800 years. Dhivehi language is written using Thaana script, which is written in the right to left direction. Previously DhivesAkuru script was used until the 18th century for writing.

Though Dhivehi is the official language, English language is widely spoken in the country. English is also used as the business language.

Foremost resort islands and hotels employee translators who can converse in different languages. Consequently speakers of renowned international languages like English, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese and Japanese can easily be located in the Maldives tourist establishments.

Malé City

Male’ is the capital city of the Maldives and the seat of the executive, legislature and judicial branches of the government of the Maldives. Male’ is also the financial and commercial capital of the country. Accordingly major government offices, banks and businesses are based on Male’.

Male’ city is one of the most densely populated cities of the world. Administratively neighbouring islands of Villingili and Hulhumale’ are considered as constituencies of Male’ City. Hulhumale’ is an artificially reclaimed island.

Access and accommodations

You can reach the bustling capital of the Maldives via ferry boats operated round the clock between the airport island Hulhule’ and Male’ City.

There are luxury and budget hotels offering accommodation in the capital. Numerous classy guest houses have also opened up in neighbouring Hulhumale’ and Villingili islands reachable through ferry boats and speed launch transfers.

Attractions

Republic Square

Once you reach Male’ you will be greeted by a giant flag located in the Republic Square proudly displaying the national colours of the Maldives. This square has a small park where locals and visitors hang-out. The Republic Square is found close to the north shore of Male’.

Right next to the Republic Square you will find the Headquarters of the Maldivian National Defence Force and Maldivian Police Service. The Islamic Centre is also found next to the square.

Islamic Centre

The Islamic Centre opened in 1984, is a popular attraction for tourists. The Islamic Centre is known for excellent architecture fused with traditional Maldivian and Islamic concepts. The magnificent golden domes of the Centre ornament the skyline of Male’.  The interior of the mosque is adorned with intricate wood carvings and Arabic calligraphy.

The building houses the largest mosque in the Maldives named after the national hero of the country Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al Auzam. It also has a large conference hall, numerous offices and an Islamic library.

Friday Mosque

The Friday Mosque is a testament to Maldivian craftsmanship. The mosque was originally built in 1658. The Friday Mosque was mainly built using coral stones. These coral stones display elaborate stone carvings. This historic building preserves to this day traditional Maldivian art forms like wood carvings and lacquer works.

A coral stone minaret is located next to the mosque building. This minaret was previously the tallest minaret in the Maldives. A 17th century cemetery surrounds the Friday Mosque. Gravestones in this cemetery display intricate stone carving. The Friday Mosque is included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Medhu Ziyaarai Shrine

This shrine is found a few steps away from the Friday Mosque. According to local legend, this shrine is the final resting place of the Moroccan Islamic scholar who is credited with introducing Islam to the nation. The name of the scholar is Abul Barakaath Yoosuf al Barbaree.

Sultan Park

Sultan Park is located in front of the Republican Monument unveiled to mark 30 years of independence. The Sultan Park is the best public spot in Male’. Large trees and colourful flowers create a welcoming feel. Previously the Sultan Park site housed Maldivian Royal Palaces.

National Museum

The National Museum was first opened in 1952. However, the place underwent a major revamping process and a brand new National Museum was opened in 2010. The museum preserves a wealthy collection of items.

Artefacts and relics from pre- Islamic period to post Islamic period are displayed here. Regal dresses and items associated with Maldivian royalty can be explored. A rich collection depicting Maldivian craftsmanship and artistry is also displayed. You will even have the chance to discover moon rocks in the museum.

Tsunami Monument

The Tsunami Monument is located in the southeast corner of Male’. This monument commiserates the devastation caused to the Maldives by the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami. Many lives were lost and inhabited islands were decimated that day. The stainless steel structure has round circles representing the number of the people killed during the Tsunami.

The Tsunami Monument is located next to the most popular surfing area of Male’. There are many parks and street vendors around the area.

A visit to the Maldives is not complete without visiting the epicentre of the country. Indulge in shopping in various markets and shops spread across Male’. Feast from excellent restaurants and cafes offering international and local cuisine.

Government

The ratification of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives on 7th August 2008 ushered in a new democratic era. Under the new constitution great emphasis is placed on upholding the doctrines of rule of law and separation of powers.

The executive power is exercised by the government led by the president. Incumbent President of the Republic of Maldives is His Excellency Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. The current president was elected for a five year term through a general election held on November 2013.

Presently the Maldives have a unicameral legislature empowered with supreme legislative authority. The legislative branch is called the People’s Majlis. Members of the parliament are elected through a general election held in various electorates. Currently there are 85 sitting members, elected for a five year term. Furthermore the Speaker of the parliament is Honourable Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed.

The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court of the Maldives. Serving Chief Justice of the Maldives is Honourable Uz Abdullah Saeed. The legal system of the Maldives is a mixture of Islamic law and Common law. At present a reformation process of the Maldivian legal system is underway.

The new constitution introduced a local government system. Under the decentralized system, the atolls and inhabited islands are administered by a locally elected council. Presently there are two cities in the Maldives; the Male’ City and the Addu City. Both cities are headed by an elected Mayor and administered by the City Council. The Local Government Authority oversees and monitors the functioning of elected councils.

Economic Factors

Several factors determine the health of an economy. GDP growth rate fell by 1.4 percent in 2008; this is mainly related to the slow-down in tourism sector. In addition the economy is running on high inflation of around 12%, which further increases the costs associated to the tourism support industries/sectors in terms of escalating prices of goods and services.

Tourism Industry

According to World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO, 2009) average annual growth rate of tourist arrivals in the world had been 4.1%. Maldives on the other hand, had experienced average growth over the years totalling 8.5% per year.

Flora & Fauna

The Maldives is embellished and ornamented with one of the most diverse flora and fauna found in the entire world. Uniquely the marine flora and fauna originating in the Maldives is peerless.

The Maldives boasts of one of the most disparate underwater sceneries on earth. Gardens of coral reefs resemble a work of art that has mesmerised scuba divers from around the world. The open sea and reefs are inhabited by over 2000 species of colourful fish of various proportions.

The skylines of most of the Islands are highlighted by the coconut palm tree, which is also the national tree. The shorelines of the islands are covered by variety of grass, sedge, shrubs and trees. The tallest tree found in the Maldives is the banyan tree.

Terrestrial animals and birds are limited in the Maldives, due to the tropical nature of the country. However, a rich collection of marine birds calls Maldives home. Over 160 species of birds have been recorded in the Maldives.

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