The Maldives consists of approximately 1,190 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 27 atolls, spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres. The islands stretch over a distance of 800 km from north to south.
The total land area is about 300 square kilometres. Only three islands have an area greater than 4 square kilometres and 9 islands greater than 2 square kilometres. The islands are made up of coralline sand and have a very low elevation (on the average they are no more than 2 meters above sea level).
The temperature of Maldives ranges between 24°C and 33° C throughout the year. Although the humidity is relatively high, the constant sea breeze helps to keep the air moving. The average sea temperate is around 26°C.
May to October brings rain and the seas are moderate to rough during this period, known as the south west monsoon. The period known as north east monsoon, from November to April, is marked by calmer and dry conditions.
The Maldives is located outside the normal cyclonic zones and thus violent storms are rarely experienced.
Maldivians are devout Muslims and follow the basic tenets of Islam. The Islamic Centre which accommodates more than 5,000 worshippers dominates the skyline of the capital city Male’ with its shining golden dome and minaret.
Several mosques are dispersed throughout the capital and each inhabited island is graced with at least one or two mosques where the people attend to their daily prayers.
Public practice, worship and preaching of other religions is prohibited.
Archaeological finds reveal that the islands were inhabited as early as 1500 BCE. The first settlers arrived around 500 BCE and are thought to have been Aryans.
In the pre-Islamic period (before CE 1153), according to the accounts of Persian and Arab travellers, the Maldives was ruled by women. After that date, only four queens ruled, the last one in the early 16th century.
Contact with Arab travellers paved the way for the Maldives to adopt the religion of Islam, which gradually replaced Buddhism.
Photo: Secretariat of the Dhaandhoo Council
Established in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives islands are multi-faceted. The culture, traditions and customs of the country are influenced by Indian, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Arab, Persian, Indonesian and even African influences.
A fabulous cultural mix that makes all the richness of the Maldives. In music and dance, for example, you will be surprised to recognise a purely African rhythm. The Boduberu, a traditional Maldivian dance, illustrates this perfectly. The language accompanying this dance, followed by the rhythm of the drums, will take you to East Africa.
Photo: Caleb Falkan
Dhivehi spoken throughout the Maldives is a language belonging to the Indo-Iranian group of languages. The language is spoken only in the Maldives and Minicoy Island in the Lakshadweep Atoll (India) to the north of the Maldives. The present script, "Thaana" was introduced in the late 16th century and is written from right to left.
English is widely spoken by Maldivians and visitors can easily make themselves understood getting around the capital Male’ and islands.
In the resorts, a variety of languages are spoken by the staff including English, German, French, Italian, Japanese and Chinese.
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the economy changed from the age-old traditional system based on fisheries and agriculture to a modern economy that rode on the success of the newly established tourism industry and a modernized and mechanized fishing industry.
Maldivians enjoy the highest GDP per capita in South Asia today.
The local currency is Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR). At the time of publication, the exchange rate is pegged at at:
MVR 19.17 to a Euro
MVR 15.42 to a US Dollar
International banks line the waterfront near the airport ferry dock. All have ATMs that accept international cards.
Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard & American Express) are accepted widely in the city – nearly all hotels and restaurants will allow you to pay this way using both local and international cards.
Maldives boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world with 91% of the country’s population being able to read and write.
Educational standards are among the highest in the region and schools follow the British system of education.
The Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Malé is the state-run general hospital in the country providing a wide range of medical care. ADK Hospital in Malé is the largest private health care facility in the country, with several other private clinics throughout the capital island.
The newly-opened Tree Top Hospital in the nearby island of Hulhumale boasts state-of-the-art facilities and doctors from various parts of the world.