History traced as far back as 1500 B.C. indicates that the Maldives archipelago was inhabited by the passing travelers and seafarers. The first true settlements took place around 500 B.C.—that of the Aryan race. Others opine that Sri Lankan royalty may have had their hand in early settlements as well. Though initially a Buddhist nation, the frequenting of Arab travelers brought forth a strong influence of Islamic values to the island nation, and by 1153-54 A.D. King Kalaminja officially accepted and implemented Islam as the one and only religion of Maldives. Over the centuries, Maldives remained a largely independent nation functioning under a sultanate, having had relatively few yet lingering incursions and occupations by sovereign forces throughout the 16th and 18th centuries by the Portuguese and South Indian Moplas respectively. More recently in 1887, Maldives voluntarily accepted the British protectorate that laid the foundations of the vast majority of the modern Maldivian lifestyle and cultural landscapes. Maldives did briefly adopt a Republic system circa 1953-54, before reverting to a Sultanate again. Maldives finally attained full independence on 26th July 1965. Since then, Maldives has continued on to be a Republic. In more recent years, Maldives has taken its first steps on democracy in earnest, and continues to traverse forward.
The history of our nation speaks one certain observation; that even before Maldives opened its shores and waters to global tourism ever filled travelers and holiday seekers in 1972, the island nation was shaped by the oceans; travelers and exploration revolutions by the centuries have shaped and contributed to the rich history that we have to offer to the world today.
Civilizations and settlements in proximity to the shores of Sri Lanka and South India are thought to be the most ancient foundations of Maldivian culture. This, along with the adoption and steadfast practice of Islam as the nation’s sole accepted religion throughout 12 A.D. are strongly evident in many of the cultural component compositions. The official language is Dhivehi, a truly unique Indo-Iranian Sanskrit amalgamation closely resembling Sinhala, with strong Urdu and Arabic influences integrated—a testimonial to the aforementioned meshed cultural influences.
Given the geographical intricacies and general location in the Indian Ocean, Maldives has traditionally been known as a sea-faring, sea trade based nation. The limited land resources meant interesting alternatives i.e. cowrie shells as legal tender. Maldivian fishing techniques, naval craftwork and sea based commodities were well acknowledged and valued by travelling parties and neighboring nations. Perhaps from its beginnings as an impasse for travelers, the communities in the Maldivian islands have always been renowned for their hospitality, as recorded by legendary travelers such as Ibn Battuta himself.
Throughout and since the British protectorate timeline, English is considered a second language, well-practiced by the 97% strong literacy rate in this country of fewer than 500,000 denizens. The prevalence of both fishing and tourism as the country’s main economic activities is symbolic of Maldives being a small yet resilient nation that respects traditional values yet also embraces progress in equal measure, that it is welcoming to one and all that come from near and far.
The moniker of paradise on earth for Maldives is no exaggeration when one considers the geographical intricacies and statistical miracles in context.
Maldives is a South Asian country, located in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of India. As if laid as a loose pearl necklace by mother nature, there are approximately 1,190 coral islands, grouped within double chains of 26 atolls spread out over about 90,000 sq.km. Go to any of these islands, and one would find nothing short of beauty to the eyes and serenity for the soul. The typical island geographies consist of living reefs rife and riddled with sea life brimming all shades of colors—from the groupers and reef fishes to the rays and sharks among which includes the elusive whale sharks. Towards to the shores one would find finely placed sandy white beaches, strewn with flora consisting mainly of seaside plants and tropical palm trees—typical fauna here include marine birdlife and fewer land based animals. The climate of the “sunny side of life” Maldives is (no pun intended) primarily hot and moderately humid, whereby monsoon based weather occurrences consisting of sunny dominant weathers or rain dominant weather spells cycle in a generally stable pattern throughout the year.
The beauty of Maldivian geography however, is also a statistical miracle. The entire nation is among the lowest lying nations in the world, with an average height of 4 feet above sea level—a statistic withered over time with rising sea levels as a result of global warming. This also makes the nation particularly vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis. Fortunately, it lies among or near no fault lines of note, and most tidal anomalies are often dispersed in the region. In this regard, one could say that the Maldivian geography is akin to a dewdrop at the edge of a leaf; miraculously hanging, suspended and held at the edge by the mechanisms of time, boasting a still yet living beauty in its poise, to be appreciated for the infinity of whatever time it may linger on.