The indigenous people of the Maldives are thought to be descended from different groups of ethnicities who migrated to the islands in ancient times. These include settlers from the shores of southern India and western Sri Lanka as well as some migrants from more northern regions of India. The language of the Maldivians is Dhivehi and the religion is Islam.
The Portuguese had a keen interest in the Maldives due to the availability of cowry shells, and ambergris, an important ingredient in perfumes, and had been approached by the formerly expelled Sultan, Hassan IX to help him regain his throne. Three attempts were repelled mainly due to Ali Rasgefaanu, who proved to be a brave and tough fighter. He became Sultan Ali VI but only for a few months as he was killed during another Portuguese attack, dying a martyr’s death.
The next 15 years saw the darkest period in Maldivian history, when the Portuguese tried to enforce Christianity upon the islanders. Mohamed Thakurufaanu and his two brothers from the island of Utheemu, used a form of guerilla warfare for eight long years, during which one of the brothers was caught and beheaded. Their strategy was to land on an island at night, kill the Portuguese in a surprise attack and sail off before dawn. Thakurufaanu sought the help of the Malabari, killed the Portuguese leader Andreas Andre, locally known as Andiri Andirin, and recaptured Malé. He was made Sultan and reigned for 12 years forming a trained standing army, introducing coins, improving trade and religious observance and founding a dynasty that lasted for 132 years.
In 1887 the Sultan of the Maldives signed a contract with the British Governor of Ceylon turning the Maldives into a British protectorate. The British government promised the Maldives military protection and non-interference in local administration in exchange for an annual tribute paid by the Maldives. In 1957 the British established a RAF base in the strategic southernmost atoll of Addu for £2000 a year, where hundreds of locals were employed. 19 years later the British government decided to give up the base, as it was too expensive to maintain.
The Maldives gained independence on July 26, 1965.Three years later a republic was declared with Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir as the first president. Small as it is the Maldives has always maintained independence and a strong unity despite influences and threats from outside. They are now an internationally renowned country, a member of the UN, WHO, SAARC, Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement and others and play an important role in advocating the security of small nations and the protection of the environment.
Your dream destination, Maldives lets you discover aspects of the planet denied to most people. Famed for its profusion of psychedelic colours and the abundance and variety of life underwater, it has become a fascination to divers and snorkellers since Maldives was discovered as a diving destination.
The Maldives has some of the best dive sites in the world and many visit the Maldives repeatedly for the sole purpose of diving. As such Diving is one of the premier aquatic diversions to be enjoyed in the Maldive Islands. Divers will relish the spotlessly clear waters which offer visibility to an extent of up to 60 metres. As you descend into the entrancing depths of the waters a fabulous underwater city of vibrantly hued coral and aquatic denizens will materialize in front of your eyes.
Snorkelling is a popular activity in the Maldives, with waters of an agreeable temperature and mesmerising underwater marine life. In the waters snorkelers will find no less than 70 species of coral with their exquisite coral reefs as well as over 700 fish species and an array of other vividly coloured exotic marine life.
With World famous Surfing Spots, such as Blue Bowls and Jail Break waters, for surfers there is an abundance of suitable surfing areas; many dedicated surfers as well as novices take the opportunity to experience this invigorating pastime in the Maldive Islands.
Sailing, parasailing and dolphin watching excursion and water skiing around the Maldivian atolls in a cruise vessel will prove to be an unforgettable experience with the majestic scenery amongst the most picturesque in the world. Snorkelling and diving in numerous attractive locations is another advantage to be enjoyed on a cruise.
Male’ is one of the smallest capitals in the world and certainly as crowded since a third of the country’s population, about 103,693 (Census 2006) live in Male’. With modern high-rise buildings housing the government offices, Male’ is the hub of trade and the central seat of the government. The roads are paved and a seawall surrounds this small island where so much takes place every day. A recently landscaped artificial beach more than makes up for the absence of a natural beach.
Even if you decide to sight-see without a tour guide, it would not be difficult to find your way around the two square kilometer island Male’, especially if you carry a map with you. The main street Majeedhee Magu, runs right through the island from east to west. Chaandhanee Magu on the other hand runs across from north to south. The main streets are lined with shops offering from clothes and jewelry to the latest technological items. During the rush hour a lot of motorized vehicles can be seen. However, traffic lights and one-way roads keep the traffic at a smooth flow with the rare interruption of traffic jams.
Male’ offers visitors a wide variety of enjoyment, though it be sight-seeing, relaxing or a shopping spree. The water-front souvenir shops offer a wide variety of art and craft items as well as swimming gear and beach wear. Most souvenir shops line the northern end of Chaandanee Magu, earlier known as the ‘Singapore Bazaar’ for its many imports from Singapore. Guides and vendors who speak English and other foreign languages the visitors, pointing out the best locations and helping them to bargain over prices. The souvenir shops are stocked with an ample supply of gifts and souvenir items you can take away as mementos. Best buys include the Maldivian mats woven with local natural fibers and the beautiful lacquered vases and jewelry boxes. Attractive too are the hand carved wooden miniature ‘dhonis’.
When shopping for souvenirs all visitors to Maldives should keep in mind that export of products made of turtle shell, black coral, pearl oyster shell and red coral is prohibited.
Shopping is the favorite activity for the locals especially in the evenings, when it is cooler. The Majeedhee Magu, which is the main road on the island, has along its sides various shops selling goods from the smallest commodities to virtually everything you could think of. The shops are well stocked with garments, perfumes and cosmetics, jewelry, watches or electronics, to name just a few. Many find it a pleasant experience to join the throngs of shoppers on the main shopping streets in the evenings. All shops are open until 11.00 in the night, except for prayer times, when they are closed for 15 minutes.
The busy local market may also be of interest to visitors. The local market is also at the waterfront, in the old bazaar area which still houses the country’s hub of wholesale and retail trade. In this area, the lanes are so narrow that a single vehicle would find it difficult to navigate through, especially with its throngs of busy people. The local market is just a block away from the Male’ Fish Market on the northern waterfront, is divided into small stalls. Though busy and noisy, the pace is slower and the atmosphere peaceful, compared to the hectic activity in the rest of this neighborhood. Each stall is filled with a variety of local produce mainly from the atolls. You could try different kinds of local vegetables, fruits and yams, packets of sweetmeat, nuts and breadfruit chips, bottles of home made sweets and pickles and bunches of bananas hanging on coir ropes from ceiling beams.
Another building just next door sells smoked and dried fish. But, if it is Maldivian canned fish that you are seeking, you can easily buy it from any number of local shops in Male’. Tuna used for canning are caught by the traditional pole and line method, as are all fish caught in the Maldives, and therefore are ‘dolphin friendly’. The canned tuna are produced at the canning plant in Felivaru, Lhaviyani Atoll. Here vacuum-packed smoked fish and chipped dried fish are also produced which is available in many super markets around Male’. These genuine Maldivian products would make excellent gifts for a friend or just for you to try them out for yourself.
If it’s sight-seeing or relaxation you seek, then a stroll around the residential areas or the shopping district would provide an insight into the life and livelihood of the residents of the capital. A visit to the artificial beach area or just sitting in one of the small parks that are located at several points surrounding Male’ can help you relax.
In the evenings, when it is cooler, a lot of joggers can be seen, jogging down the cobble stone paths or down the quieter lanes and through the parks. A stroll down the still relatively green and pleasant Male’ is also another way to relax. The streets in the residential areas are shaded with trees, at places forming an arch overhead.
Or one may want to enjoy the interesting sites and shoot some pictures to take home. The fish market and the local market at the northern waterfront, the new harbour in the south-west corner and the 400-year old Friday Mosque and the minaret are just a few of the attractive sights Male’ has to offer.
If you prefer, you could also make your tour of the capital by taxi. Many taxi centers operate a number of comfortable, well-maintained taxis. The maximum rates that can be charged are set by the government; the basic fare for a single journey for four persons or less, from one point to another is MRf.20.00, luggage carried in the trunk is charged about MRf.25.00 , the basic charge increases to MRf.40.00, from 12.00 midnight to 06.00 in the morning while hourly renting costs between MRf.85.00 and MRf.85.00 per hour.
PLACES TO VISIT
Male’ fish market & local market
The northern waterfront has always been the main commercial area of Male’. This area acts as the main hub of trade and is a hive of activity through out the day. The waterfront and the by-lanes in the area are crowded with shops stocked with a variety of goods and vehicles used in loading and transportation of goods to the local shops. Also in the area are the Male’ Fish Market and the Local Market where a range of local produce are available.
In any given day, dhoni’s and other larger vessels from other islands can be seen unloading dried fish, fresh fruits and vegetables from the atolls while others are observed loading everything from foodstuffs to construction materials to take back to their islands. The pace increases towards mid-afternoon as fishing vessels returns to Male’ with their day’s catch. The catch, mainly tuna are carried across the road into the open-sided market and laid out on the tiled floors. As soon as the fish are brought in, they are bought and taken away by men from all walks of life. The market is kept scrupulously clean with disinfectant.
The Islamic Centre
The golden dome of The Islamic Centre is the most vivid architectural landmark of Male’ that you would notice while approaching Male’ from afar. The spectacular golden dome in all its majesty dominates the skyline, as you approach Male’, from any direction. The building symbolizes the religion of Islam, which is practiced by the entire population of the Maldives. Completed in 1984, the Islamic Centre consists of a mosque large enough to accommodate 5000 worshipers, a library of Islamic literature, a conference hall and numerous classrooms and offices.
‘Hukuru Miskiiy’- The old Friday Mosque
Built in the 17th century the Hukuru Miskiiy or Friday Mosque served the population of Male’ as their main mosque for almost four centuries, until the Islamic Centre and Grand Friday Mosque took over the function in 1984. Built by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar in 1656 the mosque is a masterpiece of coral carvings and traditional workmanship – probably the best display of coral carvings to be found throughout Maldives. The walls of the mosque are hewn together with blocks of filigree-carved coral blocks. Heavy wooden doors slide open to the inner sanctums with lamp hangings of wood and panels etched with Arabic writings. The area surrounding the mosque is a cemetery with a legion of intricately carved coral headstones. The Munnaaru or minaret in front of the mosque, which was used to call the faithful to prayer, was built in 1675 by the same Sultan.
Right in front of the Hukuru Miskiiy is Mulee-aage, a palace built in 1906 by Sultan Mohamed Shamsuddeen III, replacing a house dating back to the mid-17th century. The palace with its wrought iron gates and fretwork friezes on its roof edges and well-kept garden was intended for his son, but the Sultan was deposed. During World War II vegetables were grown in its garden to help relieve food shortages. It became the President’s Official Residence when Maldives became a republic in 1953 and remained so until 1994, when the new Presidential Palace was built.
National museum in Maldives is one of the main tourist attraction destinations of the country. The three-storied museum (old Building) is located in the Sultan Park in Malé, which is part of the site of the Maldivian Royal Palace compound dating back to the 17th century. The two-storey Us-gēkolhu is also the only remaining structure of the palace demolished by fire in 1968. The interior of the Us-gēkolhu has been retained from the days of the Sultanate, including the handwritten Qur’an engraved on the walls of the building.
The new building of the museum is also located in Sultan Park. The Building was designed, built and financed by the Chinese government. The building was presented to the Maldives by the Chinese government on 10th July 2010, but was officially opened and declared as the national museum two weeks later on Maldives’ Independence Day, 26th July 2010.
The museum houses a number of fabulous objects belonging to the Sultans. It consists of the ornaments and costumes worn by various kings and queens, stone items of the Maldives’ pre-Islamic period, paper and cloth manuscripts, arms and armor, photographs of important personalities, anthropological objects and other such items that exhibit the past Maldivian way of life.
A visit to the museum gives an instant insight to the wealth of history most visitors never suspect existed. No longer will you think of the Maldives solely in terms of a tourist destination. The museum is open daily except Friday and public holidays from 9.00 to 11.40 and 3.00 to 5.40. A small fee is charges for admission.
The people of Maldives reflect virtually every race in the world – not only from their features but also from customs and traditions handed down from generation to generation.
History reveals that Maldives has been populated for over 3,000 years and that the first settlers were from the neighbouring countries of Sri Lanka and Southern India. This conclusion is drawn from the archeological evidence that shows the existence Hinduism and Buddhism before the country embraced Islam in 1153 A.D.
However, some of the traditions and customs also reveal the influence of other countries such as Africa. For example the traditional music “Boduberu” with handclapping and chanting of songs closely relates to African music.
South Asia has also influenced Maldives tremendously, especially in the entertainment sector. Though this is so, some of their customs like demanding submissive roles from women are not of norm in the Maldives. On the contrary, women are empowered through education and equality in the society.
In the islands, women’s roles are more wide and important as the men are away most of the day fishing.
It is not only through their features that the people of Maldives reflect other societies, but also through their attire. As the climate is warm, most go about dressed casually in T-shirts and cotton clothing. Both imported garments and self-tailored ones can be seen. Most of the young and old alike go about in the latest styles, with traditional clothes favoured for special national events and celebrations. Women are given the liberty to dress as they please as long as they do not bare too much.
The language of the Maldivians is Dhivehi, though significant dialectical variations exist, especially in the southernmost atolls. Dhivehi has its roots in Sanskrit and comes under the Indro-Indian group of languages. With the advent of the Islam in 1153AD, Dhivehi became heavily influenced by Arabic and again in the 1960s with the introduction of English as a medium of education, English language also began to influence it.
Due to the geographical isolation of islands, the Dhivehi vocabulary and pronunciation vary from atoll to atoll, in some cases slightly while in other cases the difference is more noticeable.
The Maldivian script is known as ‘thaana’ which consists of 24 letters and is written from right to left. This writing system was invented during the 16th century soon after the country was liberated from Portuguese rule.
Since Maldives embraced Islam in 1153, Islam has been central to the life of Maldivians. The norms of Islam are observed by the Maldivians and the main events and festivals marked according to the Muslim Calendar. Children are taught to read Arabic so that they will be able to recite the Quran.
The people of Maldives are naturally warm, friendly and hospitable. Their peaceful and interesting company would put anyone at ease and make your stay here a memorable one.
Weather has played an important role in governing the lives of Maldivians from time immemorial. This is not surprising of a nation with less than one percent land and over 99 percent sea. Since ancient times, Maldivians have organized their lives based on a system on periods referred to as ‘nakaiy’, each of which is 13 or 14 days long and is divided into two seasons; the ‘Iruvai’ (north-east monsoon) and ‘hulhangu’ (south-west monsoon). The nakaiy calendar was and is still used to determine such things as the best time for fishing, travel or planting crops. The Maldives has a tropical climate with the weather mainly determined by the monsoons.
The south-west monsoon or ‘hulhangu’ lasts from May to September and is the wet season. The seas are moderate to rough and strong gales occur during this period. Cloudy days are more frequent. During October light winds are experienced more frequently and by the end of November, the transitional period begins, with the winds shifting from W-NE to N-NE.
The northeast monsoon ‘iruvai’ begins from December and lasts till April, bringing a period of clear skies, lower humidity and very little rain, the hottest month on average being April and the coolest, December. The relative humidity is only 5% lower than during the south-west monsoon
Strong prevailing winds blow from SW-W-WN during the south-west monsoon and N-NE-E during the north-east monsoon.
The warm temperatures last year round with plenty of sunshine and due to the warm tropical climate, variations in daily temperature are relatively minor throughout the year. This can be seen from the weather recorded over a 24 year period between 1967 – 1990, in which the hottest month on average was April, with a maximum monthly mean temperature of 31.5°C and a minimum of 26.5°C. The coolest month was December, with a maximum monthly mean temperature of 29.8°C and a minimum of 25.3°C.
Even though the temperature varies only slightly, there is a significant variation in the monthly rainfall levels. Whereas May and October records the highest average monthly rainfall, February is the driest with January to April being relatively dry. In April, calm, windless days are more likely to be experienced than in any other time of the year. The transitional period between monsoons begins in April and by the end of May, usually after a fortnight of strong winds and rain, the change of season occurs with the wind direction of W-SW.
However, there still exists a considerable variation of climate between Northern and Southern atolls in the Maldives. In the south the rainfall is greater and so are the number of rain days. Showers are not as heavy as in the North and as the seasons are more evident the further away the atolls are from the Equator, the northern atolls experience the extremes of temperatures.
The Maldives lies in the equatorial belt and making severe storms and cyclones extremely rare events. However the country experiences rough weather and heavy seas from cyclones and other storms that form in the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea.
December – April NE Monsoon
April – Transition Period
May – November SW Monsoon
November – Transition Period
Currents & Water Temperatures
Maldives experiences strong oceanic currents which are largely influenced by the direction of the trade winds. Currents in channels near the capital Male’ have been recorded at four knots or more. Inside the atolls, current speeds are more settled tidal currents, which flow according to the height of the tide and direction of the prevailing winds, are found to be weaker than the oceanic currents, though they cause velocity variations in the flow.
On the eastern side of Male’ atoll, currents predominantly flow into the atoll during the north-east monsoon. The opposite applies to the western side of the atoll. This is by no means the rule, as changes in the wind direction and tides can offset the influence of the oceanic currents. If the winds ease off for a few days, then currents are more likely to flow both in and out of the channels.
During the transitional month of April and November, when the wind direction and oceanic currents are less predictable, current is more likely to be influenced by the tides and similarly flow both in and out of the channels.
At atoll passages, current streams can be quite irregular due to the islands, reefs and sandy shoals.
The ocean water temperatures rarely vary beyond 27 – 30° C although thermo clines can sometimes be experienced at depths below 20 meters. During warm temperatures, water temperatures inside the lagoons builds up affecting the water temperatures inside the atolls in turn, enabling divers to comfortably dive without a wet suit.
During rainsqualls and heavy winds, extra clothing needs to be available to dress up in the boat after dives. Lycra and 3mm wetsuits are the most popular in tropical waters but if multiple dives are to be performed within the day, 5mm suits would be more appropriate.
The population of Maldives has boomed during the last few decades. Its population of 328,536 (2012) inhabits 192 of its 1,192 islands. In 2006, Maldives’ capital and largest city Malé, located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll, had a population of 103,693 the other largest communities reside in Hithadhoo in Addu Atoll, Fuamulah and Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaalu Atoll respectively. The rest is dispersed sparsely across the rest of the 200 inhabited islands.
Maldives still remains as one of the smallest independent nations in Asia.
Maldivian women have always played a prominent role in society. Some of the most dominant rulers recorded in early history are Sultanas and it has been suggested that the society was once a matriarchy.
Early Maldivian women played an important role in building the economy of the country through farming and other primary economic activities.
In today’s society women play an important role in the family and hold strong positions in government and business. Women are given equal opportunities in education and employment. They are encouraged to pursue careers which contribute to the fact that a large percentage of government employees are women. Women also serve in the cabinet and the Parliament.
Madivians share a mixture of features with other races. Though people from the same region may closely resemble each other in features and mannerism, people of another atoll might carry a totally unique set of features. This interesting fact is tied to the history and the geographical location of the Maldives.
The history regarding the earliest settlers still remains unclear. However, since the predominant religion in the Maldives was Buddhism before the conversion to Islam in 1153 AD, taken together with ancient folklore, this points very strongly to an Aryan migration from the north, most probably from the ancient civilizations of Mohenjodaro and Harappa, around 500 BC.
This fact has led historians to believe that the people of the Maldives are Aryans from the northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent.
The people communicate in the sole language of Dhivehi though dialectical variations exist across the atolls. Dhivehi language’s sentence structure, verb formations and conjugations has its root in Sanskrit. This is surprising as the languages of the Maldives’ immediate neighbors are predominantly Dravidian. Since the earliest religion practiced in Maldives was Buddhism, this establishes another link with the Sanskirit-derived language Sinhala, which is spoken by the Singhalese community in Sri Lanka, the languages of the other immediate neighbors being Tamil and Malayalam.
Due to the strategic location of the Maldives, it is situated right at the crossroads of the Indian Ocean. Travelers, who braved the seas from all around the world found their mid-journey despite the widely scattered islands of the Maldives. Some of these travelers stayed for short periods while others made the islands their home and never left, contributing to the society, the outlook of the people and inevitably to what would be described a gene pool today.
Although geographically isolated, the Maldives is easily accessible by air from anywhere in Southeast Asia, Middle East and Europe, hence is served by all major scheduled airlines in the region in addition to several charter flights from Europe and Scandinavian countries.
The Maldives is forty five minutes from Colombo, three hours from Dubai, four hours from Singapore and nine to eleven hours from London.
Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.
Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is located on a geographically separate island named Hulhulé – Hulule Island is 2km (1.2 miles) from Malé (travel time by boat – 15 minutes). Boats from the various island resorts meet each arriving plane to take visitors to their accommodation.
There is no scheduled transfer from Hulule Island to the other islands. . Transfers to resorts would be arranged prior to arrival by your resorts/tour operators via speedboat or sea plane.
Airport facilities include left luggage, first aid, bank, duty free shops, snack bar, post office and restaurant
No prior visa is required to enter the Maldives and a free 30-day visa is granted to all visitors who meet immigration requirements upon arrival.
However an entry permit does not permit visitors to take up employment set up any business or conduct any professional activities (paid or unpaid) except with the consent of the government and in compliance with pertinent laws and regulations of the Maldives
Pornographic literature, idols of worship, pork products and certain other animal products, explosives and weapons, alcoholic beverages and drugs are strictly prohibited. The penalty for importing drugs for personal or other use is life imprisonment. Animals require a veterinary certificate (dogs not allowed).
The following may not be exported in any form: tortoise and turtle shells and products made of turtle shell (the Government has banned the killing of turtles), and black coral in whole form.
The following goods may be imported into the Maldives Republic without incurring customs duty:
A reasonable amount of cigarettes, cigars and tobacco; a reasonable number of gifts.
Visitors of all nationalities in possession of the following would be granted entry into the Maldives:
If you have a booking with a resort, transfer is usually arranged prior to your arrival. The options of speedboat or seaplane transfer where available is for you to choose from. For transfer to the resorts close to the airport, motorboat or dhoni transfer is quite convenient.
None if airport tax has been paid before; otherwise, US$12.
The Maldives is 5 hours ahead of the GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). To offer holiday makers the optimum use of the tropical sun most resorts have their clocks put forward one hour to GMT+
Dress is informal, but locals who are Muslim will be offended by nudity or scanty clothing in public places, and the Government rigidly enforces these standards. Bikinis and other scanty beachwear are not acceptable in Malé or on any other inhabited island. When entering a mosque, the legs and the body, but not the neck and the face, should be covered. Handshaking is the most common form of greeting. The indigenous population not involved in the tourist trade lives in isolated island communities maintaining almost total privacy. A large number of locals smoke, but smoking and eating during Ramadan is discouraged.
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