Maldives is an archipelago of 1,190 coral islands made up of 26 chief atolls. It is located at an Equatorial position in the Indian Ocean southwest of India. Acclaimed to be the idyllic tropical sanctuary, the islands have gained a reputation of a holiday spot for pleasure travellers from around the world. Two hundred and two of the islands are inhabited while 87 are designated as exclusive resort islands dedicated to tourism. Many of the other islands are use for agriculture purposes.
The country’s initial settlers were travellers from different parts of the world travelling the seas settling here. Hence the country represents a true melting pot of different ethnicities as can be seen in their art and culture. The local dance and music hints of African influence with hand-beating drums and songs representative of East African countries. The traditional cuisine has a strong south Asian influence as do customs. Maldivians are almost totally Sunni Muslims and while alcohol and pork are banned on the inhabited islands in accordance with Muslim observance, for the resort islands laws are relaxed.
Maldives is renowned for crystal clear waters and shallow lagoons that provide tremendous diving opportunities. Snorkelling is another favourite activity as the reef walls provide a kaleidoscope of sea life. Maldives has more than 2000 species of fish ranging from reef fish and sharks to moray eels, whale sharks and rays. Male’s National Museum situated in a colonial structure houses a range of artefacts. Among the featured items are hand-written miniature Koran and Buddhist relics as well as royal antiquities. The Maldives Fish Market offers an authentic peep into the daily lifestyle of the locals. Visitors are able to witness a wide array of sea creatures and sample fresh fruits and vegetables.
Monetary unit: Rufiya
Total area: 116 sq mi (300 sq km)
Ethnicity/race: South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs