Maldives, officially the Republic of Maldives and also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean consisting of a double chain of twenty-six atolls, orientated north-south, that lie about 700 kilometres (430 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka and 400 kilometres (250 mi) south-west of India.
The Maldives atolls are one of the world's most geographically dispersed and is the smallest Asian country in both population and land area. It is also the planet's lowest country. However, more than 80 per cent of the country's land is composed of coral islands that rise less than one metre above sea level. The reef is composed of coral debris and living coral. This acts as a natural barrier against the sea, forming lagoons.
Maldives waters are home to several ecosystems, but are most noted for their variety of colourful coral reefs, home to 1100 species of fish, 5 species of sea turtles, 21 species of whales and dolphins, 187 species of corals, 400 species of molluscs, and 83 species of echinoderms. Many crustacean species are there as well.
Maldives Culture & Traditions
The Maldivian ethnic identity is a blend of the cultures reflecting the peoples who settled on the islands, reinforced by religion and language. The earliest settlers were probably from southern India and Sri Lanka. They are linguistically and ethnically related to the people in the Indian subcontinent. They are ethnically known as Dhivehis.
Maldivian culture is heavily influenced by geographical proximity to Sri Lanka and southern India. The official and common language is Dhivehi, an Indo-European language having some similarities with “Elu”, the ancient Sinhalese language.
After the long Buddhist period of Maldivian history, Muslim traders introduced Sunni Islam. Maldivians converted to Islam by the mid-12th century. Since the 12th century AD there were also influences from Arabia in the language and culture of the Maldives because of the conversion to Islam and its location as a crossroads in the central Indian Ocean. This was due to the long trading history between the Far East and the Middle East.
Art and Craft
The mixing of cultures is very much seen in Maldivian arts. The music played with the local bodu-beru (big-drum) resembles that of African drumming. The dhoni (a unique Maldivian sailboat) is an art form itself built with skilled craftsmanship, with significant similarities to the Arabian dows. The fine artistry of Maldivians, seen in the intricate details on wooden beams in antique mosques, represents what we have gained from Southeast Asian architecture. Then there is the undefined: the distinct geometric designs used in mats woven from local materials, the embroidered neckline of women’s traditional dresses and their ornaments too, expose another story brought in from an unknown culture that has seeped in to Maldivian society.
The beautifully carved tombstones in some of the old cemeteries and the fine stone carving of the Hukuru Miskiiy in Male’ bear witness to the intricate skills of Maldivian stone carvers of the past. Maldivians are deft craftsman producing beautifully crafted pieces mostly out of what is available locally. Although many of the skills have been passed on from generation to generation and lives on even today.
Traditional Maldivian cuisine is based on the following three main items and their derivatives: The coconut is used in the grated form, squeezed to obtain coconut milk, or as coconut oil in dishes that are deep-fried. The coconut milk is an essential ingredient in many Maldivian curries and other dishes. The favourite fish is skipjack tuna, either dried or fresh. Dry processed tuna is mainly used to make short eats called gulha, kavaabu, bajiyaa (the local version of the Indian samosa), and fatafolhi. Starchy items like rice, which is eaten boiled or ground into flour, tubers like taro (ala), sweet potato (kattala), or tapioca (dandialuvi), as well as fruits like breadfruit (bambukeyo) or screwpine (kashikeyo). Tubers and breadfruit are eaten boiled. The screwpine fruit is mostly eaten raw after having been cut into thin slices.