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ދިވެހިރާއްޖޭގެ ޖުމުހޫރިއްޔާ
Republic of Maldives
(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
National motto: n/a
Official language Dhivehi
Capital and largest city Malé
4°10′ N 73°30′ E
President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 185th
298 km²
 - Total (Year)
 - Density
Ranked 166th
349,106 (2005 est.)
 - Total (Year)
 - GDP/head
Ranked 183rd
$1,250 million
Currency Rufiyaa (MVR)
Time zone UTC +5
Independence 26 July 1965
National anthem Gavmii mi ekuverikan matii tibegen kuriime salaam (In National Unity Do We Salute Our Nation)
Internet TLD .mv
Calling Code 960

The Republic of Maldives is an island nation consisting of a group of atolls in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of India, about 700 kilometers south-west of Sri Lanka. The 26 atolls encompasses a territory featuring 1,192 islands, roughly 200 of which are inhabited by people. The country's name may stand for the "Palace" or "Mountain Islands" (from al-Mahal in Arabic, or malai in Malayalam / mala in Tamil, and dvipa in Sanskrit, respectively), or it might mean "a thousand islands." Following the introduction of Islam in 1153, the islands later became a Portuguese (1558), Dutch (1654), and British (1796) colonial possession. In 1965, Maldives declared its independence from Britain, and in 1968 the Sultanate was replaced by a Republic.



Main article: History of the Maldives

Western interest in the archaeological remains of early cultures on Maldives began with the work of H.C.P. Bell, a British commissioner of the Ceylon Civil Service. Bell was shipwrecked on the islands in 1879, and returned several times to investigate ancient Buddhist ruins. Historians have established that by the fourth century A.D., Theravada Buddhism originating from Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) became the dominant religion of the people of Maldives. Some scholars believe that the name "Maldives" derives from the Sanskrit maladvipa, meaning "garland of islands."

In the mid-1980s, the Maldivian government allowed the noted explorer and expert on early marine navigation, Thor Heyerdahl, to excavate ancient sites. Heyerdahl studied the ancient mounds, called hawitta by the Maldivians, found on many of the atolls. Some of his archaeological discoveries of stone figures and carvings from pre-Islamic civilizations are today exhibited in a side room of the small National Museum on Malé.

Heyerdahl's research indicates that as early as 2000 B.C., Maldives lay on the maritime trading routes of early Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Indus Valley civilizations. Heyerdahl believes that early sun-worshipping seafarers, called the Redin, first settled on the islands. Even today, many mosques in Maldives face the sun and not Mecca, lending credence to this theory. Because building space and materials were scarce, successive cultures constructed their places of worship on the foundations of previous buildings. Heyerdahl thus surmises that these sun-facing mosques were built on the ancient foundations of the Redin culture temples.

According to Maldivian legend, a Sinhalese prince named Koimalaa was stranded with his bride--daughter of the king of Sri Lanka--in a Maldivian lagoon and stayed on to rule as the first sultan.

Over the centuries, the islands have been visited and their development influenced by sailors from countries on the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean littorals. Mappila pirates from the Malabar Coast -- present-day Kerala state in India -- harassed the islands.

Although governed as an independent Islamic sultanate for most of its history from 1153 to 1968, Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until July 25, 1965. In 1953, there was a brief, abortive attempt to form a republic, but the sultanate was re-imposed. The Maldivians followed Buddhism before they converted to Islam and the conversion is explained in a controversial mythological story about the demon Rannamaari.

After independence from Britain in 1965, the sultanate continued to operate for another 3 years. On November 11, 1968, it was abolished and replaced by a republic, and the country assumed its present name. Tourism and fishing are being developed on the archipelago.

On 26 December 2004 the Maldives were devastated by a tsunami following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. The absence of land mass against which waves could be built up reduced the destructive impact, preventing the waves from reaching much more than 1.2 - 1.5 meters in height [1]. Despite this, the archipelago's low lying nature (one of the lowest lying countries on Earth) meant that nearly all of the country was swamped. At least 75 people perished, including six foreigners, and all infrastructure was lost on 13 of the inhabited islands and 29 of the resort islands.

The Economy

see Industries in Maldives


The Maldivian economy was for many centuries, entirely dependent on fishing and other marine products; therefore fishing has been and still remains the main occupation of the people. The government gives special priority to the development of the fisheries sector.

The mechanization of the traditional fishing dhoani in 1974 was a major milestone in the development of the fisheries industry and the country's economy in general. A fish canning plant was installed in the island of Felivaru in 1977, as a joint venture with a Japanese firm. In 1979, a Fisheries Advisory Board was set up with the mandate of advising the government on policy guidelines for the overall development of the fisheries sector. Manpower development programs were begun in the early 1980s, and fisheries education was incorporated into the school curriculum. Fish aggregating devices and navigational aids were located at various strategic points. Moreover, the opening up of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Maldives for fisheries has further enhanced the growth of the fisheries sector. Today, fisheries contribute over 15 percent of the GDP and engage about 30 percent of the country's work force. It is also the second-largest foreign exchange earner after tousism.


The capital of the Maldives, Malé
The capital of the Maldives, Malé

The development of tourism has fostered the overall growth of the country's economy. It has created direct and indirect employment and income generation opportunities in other related industries. Today, tourism is the country's biggest foreign exchange earner, contributing to 20 percent of the GDP. With 86 tourist resorts in operation, the year 2000 recorded 467,154 tourist arrivals. Read more on the article Tourism in Maldives

Cottage industries

The development tourism sector gave a major boost to the country's fledging traditional cottage industries such as mat weaving, lacquer work, handicraft, and coir rope making. New industries that have since emerged include printing, production of PVC pipes, brick making, marine engine repairs, bottling of aerated water, garment production.


Main article: Politics of the Maldives

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, first elected president in 1978 and has retained power since. He has ruled in an authoritarian manner. He survived a coup attempt that was foiled with help of Indian troops in 1988.

Since 2003 the country has experienced occasional antigovernment demonstrations calling for political reforms. Political parties were allowed in June 2005. The first party to register was Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) headed by popular opposition figures like Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) and Mohamed Latheef (Gogo). Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party or the DRP headed by president Gayyoom was to register next. Currently MDP attracts huge support from the islanders and is believed to win the upcomming elections by a landslide.

Maldives and the Indian Ocean Commission

since 1996, the Maldives has been the official progress monitor of the Indian Ocean Commission. In 2002, the Maldives applied as a country for membership, but was refused. The islands were in adifferent Geological position; i Asia rather than Africa was the first reason. The other reason was more complicated. The official language spoken by the Commission was French and Creole was used in friendly conversations. The Maldives speak a language totally unrelated to the other members and English. It was proposed to change the language to English, which the people of Reunion, Comoros and Mayotte do not speak, and so the idea was dropped. The third reason was due to the difference in historic background. However, the Maldives were given a more important role and semi-membership.


Main article: Atolls of the Maldives

The Maldives has 26 Natural atolls which have been divided into 20 administrative atolls and one city. [2] The northern most atoll is Thiladhunmathi and the southern most is Addu. The smallest atoll is Fua Mulaku with only one island (the largest island in the Maldives). The largest atoll in both the Maldives and the whole world is Huvadhu which is just south of the One and a Half Degree Channel.

Each atoll is administered by an Atoll Chief (Atholhu Veriyaa) appointed by the President (Maumoon Abdul Gayoom). Atoll chiefs administer as directed by the president. The Ministry of Atoll Administration and its Northern and Southern Regional Offices, Atoll Offices and Island Offices are collectively responsible to the President for Atolls Administration. The administrative head of each island is the Island Chief (Katheeb), appointed by the Ministry of Atolls Administration. The Island Chief's immediate superior is the Atoll Chief.


Main article: Geography of the Maldives

The Maldives holds the record for being the flattest country in the world, with a maximum altitude of only 2.3 metres. Although there have been reports of rising sea levels threatening the islands, the sea level has actually lowered in recent decades.

A tsunami in the Indian Ocean caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake caused parts of Maldives to be covered by sea water and left many people homeless. After the disaster, cartographers are planning to redraw the maps of the islands due to alterations by the tsunami. The people and government are worried that Maldives would be wiped out from the map eventually.

See also

"sea_level_MALDIVES.pdf". Flooding concept called off – New facts from the Maldives. URL accessed on February 5, 2005. "Maldives Project". Sea Level Changes in the Maldive Islands. URL accessed on February 5, 2005.


Main article: Demographics of the Maldives

The Maldivian ethnic identity is a blend of the cultures of peoples who settled on the islands, reinforced by religion and language. The earliest settlers were probably from southern India. Indo-European speakers followed them from Sri Lanka in the fourth and fifth centuries BC. In the 12th century AD, sailors from East Africa and Arab countries came to the islands.

Originally Buddhists, Maldivians were converted to Sunni Islam in the mid-12th century. Islam is the official religion of the entire population. Strict adherence to Islamic precepts and close community relationships have helped keep crime low and under control.

The official and common language is Divehi, an Indo-European language related to Sinhalese, the language of Sri Lanka. The written script is called Thaana and is written from right to left. English is used widely in commerce and increasingly as the medium of instruction in government schools.

Some social stratification exists on the islands. It is not rigid, since rank is based on varied factors, including occupation, wealth, Islamic virtue, and family ties. Members of the social elite are concentrated in Malé. Outside of the service industry, this is the only location where the foreign and domestic populations are likely to interact. The tourist resorts are not on islands where the natives live, and casual contacts between the two groups are discouraged.


Main article: Culture of the Maldives

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