Maldives

Maldives

Overview
The Maldives (Dhivehi
Dhivehi language
Maldivian is an Indo-Aryan language predominantly spoken by about 350,000 people in the Maldives where it is the national language. It is also the first language of nearly 10,000 people in the island of Minicoy in the Union territory of Lakshadweep, India where the Mahl dialect of the Maldivian...

: ދިވެހިރާއްޖެ, Dhivehi Raa'je), officially Republic of Maldives (Dhivehi
Dhivehi language
Maldivian is an Indo-Aryan language predominantly spoken by about 350,000 people in the Maldives where it is the national language. It is also the first language of nearly 10,000 people in the island of Minicoy in the Union territory of Lakshadweep, India where the Mahl dialect of the Maldivian...

: ދިވެހިރާއްޖޭގެ ޖުމްހޫރިއްޔާ, Dhivehi Raa'jeyge Jumhooriyya), also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls
Atolls of the Maldives
The Maldives are formed by a number of natural atolls plus atolls in the form of a few islands and isolated reefs today which form a pattern stretching from 7 degrees 10' North to 0 degrees 45' South....

 oriented north-south off India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

's Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep , formerly known as the Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi Islands, is a group of islands in the Laccadive Sea, 200 to 440 km off the coast of the South West Indian state of Kerala...

 islands, between Minicoy Island and Chagos Archipelago
Chagos Archipelago
The Chagos Archipelago , is a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 individual tropical islands in the Indian Ocean; situated some due south of the Maldives archipelago. This chain of islands are the southernmost archipelago of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge a long submarine mountain range...

. It stands in the Laccadive Sea
Laccadive Sea
The Laccadive Sea or Lakshadweep Sea is a body of water bordering India , the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. It is located to the west of Kerala...

, about 700 kilometres (435 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 and 400 kilometres (248.5 mi) south-west of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Maldives (Dhivehi
Dhivehi language
Maldivian is an Indo-Aryan language predominantly spoken by about 350,000 people in the Maldives where it is the national language. It is also the first language of nearly 10,000 people in the island of Minicoy in the Union territory of Lakshadweep, India where the Mahl dialect of the Maldivian...

: ދިވެހިރާއްޖެ, Dhivehi Raa'je), officially Republic of Maldives (Dhivehi
Dhivehi language
Maldivian is an Indo-Aryan language predominantly spoken by about 350,000 people in the Maldives where it is the national language. It is also the first language of nearly 10,000 people in the island of Minicoy in the Union territory of Lakshadweep, India where the Mahl dialect of the Maldivian...

: ދިވެހިރާއްޖޭގެ ޖުމްހޫރިއްޔާ, Dhivehi Raa'jeyge Jumhooriyya), also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls
Atolls of the Maldives
The Maldives are formed by a number of natural atolls plus atolls in the form of a few islands and isolated reefs today which form a pattern stretching from 7 degrees 10' North to 0 degrees 45' South....

 oriented north-south off India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

's Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep , formerly known as the Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi Islands, is a group of islands in the Laccadive Sea, 200 to 440 km off the coast of the South West Indian state of Kerala...

 islands, between Minicoy Island and Chagos Archipelago
Chagos Archipelago
The Chagos Archipelago , is a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 individual tropical islands in the Indian Ocean; situated some due south of the Maldives archipelago. This chain of islands are the southernmost archipelago of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge a long submarine mountain range...

. It stands in the Laccadive Sea
Laccadive Sea
The Laccadive Sea or Lakshadweep Sea is a body of water bordering India , the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. It is located to the west of Kerala...

, about 700 kilometres (435 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 and 400 kilometres (248.5 mi) south-west of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. During the colonial era, the Dutch referred to the country as "Maldivische Eilanden" in their documentation, while "Maldive Islands" is the anglicised version of the local name used by the British, which later came to be written "Maldives".

The archipelago
Archipelago
An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

 is located on top of the Chagos-Maldives-Laccadive Ridge a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean. The Maldives also form a terrestrial ecoregion together with the Chagos and the Lakshadweep. The atoll
Atoll
An atoll is a coral island that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.- Usage :The word atoll comes from the Dhivehi word atholhu OED...

s of the Maldives encompass a territory spread over roughly 90000 square kilometres (34,749.2 sq mi), making it one of the world's most dispersed countries in geographic terms. Its population of 313,920 (2010) inhabits 200 of its 1,192 islands. Maldives' capital and largest city Malé
Malé
Malé , is the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. It is located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll . It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King's Island, from where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties ruled and where...

 has a population of 103,693 (2006). It is located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll
Malé Atoll
Malé Atoll is a natural atoll of the Maldives. This atoll consists of two separate atolls: North Malé Atoll and South Malé Atoll.Together with Kaashidhoo Island and Gaafaru, Malé Atoll forms the administrative division known as Kaafu Atoll....

, in the Kaafu Atoll
Kaafu Atoll
Kaafu Atoll is an administrative division of the Maldives. It consists of Kaashidhoo Island, Gahaafaru Atoll, and Malé Atoll...

. It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives
Administrative divisions of the Maldives
The Administrative Divisions of the Maldives refers to the various units of government that provide local government services in the Maldives. According to the Decentralization Act 2010, the administrative divisions of the Maldives would consist of atolls, islands, and cities; each administered by...

. Traditionally it was the King's Island where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties were enthroned.

The Maldives is the smallest Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

n country in both population and land area. With an average ground level of 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) above sea level, it is the planet's lowest country. It is also the country with the lowest highest point in the world, at 2.3 metres (7.5 ft); the Maldives' forecast inundation is a great concern for the Maldivian people.

Etymology


The name Maldives may derive from Mahal'deeb, and the people were called Maldivian 'Dhivehin'. The word Dheeb/Deeb (archaic Dhivehi, related to Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 dvīpa (द्वीप)) means "island", and Dhives (Dhivehin) means "islanders" (in other words, the Maldivians). During the colonial era, the Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 referred to the country as Maldivische Eilanden in their documentation, while Maldive Islands is the anglicised version of the local name used by the British, which later came to be written as "Maldives".

The ancient Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

n chronicle, The Mahawamsa, refers to an island called Mahiladiva ("Island of Women", महिलादिभ) in Pali
Páli
- External links :* *...

, which is probably a mistranslation of the same Sanskrit word meaning "garland
Garland
A garland is a class of decoration, of which there are many types.Garland may also refer to:-Places:*Garland, Arkansas, a town in Miller County*Garland County, Arkansas*Garland, Maine, a town in Penobscot County...

". The Mahawamsa is derived from an even older Sinhala word dating back to the 2nd century BC.

Some theorise that the name Maldives derives from the Sanskrit mālādvīpa (मालाद्वीप), meaning "garland of islands". In Malayalam "Garland of Islands" can be translated into "Maladhweepu" (മാലിദ്വീപ്). In Tamil "Garland of Islands" can be translated into "MalaiTheevu" (மாலைத்தீவு). None of the names are mentioned in any literature, but classical Sanskrit texts dating back to the Vedic times mention the "Hundred Thousand Islands" (Lakshadweepa), a generic name which would include not only the Maldives, but also the Laccadives, Aminidivi
Aminidivi
Aminidivi or Amindivi Islands are an island subgroup in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep, India. It is the northern group of the Lakshadweep, separated from the Laccadive Islands subgroup roughly by the 11th parallel north. The total land area of the group is 9.26 km².The Aminidivi group...

 Islands, Minicoy
Minicoy
Minicoy, locally known as Maliku is a census town in the Indian union territory of Lakshadweep and was formerly a part of Maldive Islands.-Etymology:...

 and the Chagos island
Chagos Archipelago
The Chagos Archipelago , is a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 individual tropical islands in the Indian Ocean; situated some due south of the Maldives archipelago. This chain of islands are the southernmost archipelago of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge a long submarine mountain range...

 groups.

Some medieval travelers such as Ibn Batuta called the islands "Mahal Dibiyat" (محل دبيأت) from the Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 word Mahal ("palace"), which must be what the Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 traveler interpreted of the local name having been through Muslim North India, where Perso-Arabic words were introduced into the local vocabulary . This is the name currently inscribed in the scroll of the Maldive state emblem
Emblem of Maldives
The Maldivian National Emblem consists of a coconut palm, a crescent, and two criss-crossing National Flags with the traditional Title of the State.-Interpretation:...

. The classical Persian/Arabic name for Maldives is Dibajat.

The name Maldives also might have come from the Sinhalese word මාල දිවයින Maala Divaina ("Necklace Islands"), perhaps referring to the shape of the archipelago.

Geography




The Maldives consists of approximately 1,190 coral
Coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

 island
Island
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

s grouped in a double chain of 26 atoll
Atoll
An atoll is a coral island that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.- Usage :The word atoll comes from the Dhivehi word atholhu OED...

s, along the north-south direction, spread over roughly 90000 square kilometres (34,749.2 sq mi), making this one of the world's most dispersed countries. It lies between latitudes 1°S
1st parallel south
The 1st parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 1 degree south of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, Australasia, the Pacific Ocean and South America....

 and 8°N
8th parallel north
The 8th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 8 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, the Indian Ocean, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean, Central America, South America and the Atlantic Ocean....

, and longitudes 72°
72nd meridian east
The meridian 72° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and 74°E
74th meridian east
The meridian 74° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

. The atolls are composed of live coral reef
Coral reef
Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Coral reefs are colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps...

s and sand bars, situated atop a submarine ridge 960 kilometres (596.5 mi) long that rises abruptly from the depths of the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 and runs north to south. Only near the southern end of this natural coral barricade do two open passages permit safe ship navigation from one side of the Indian Ocean to the other through the territorial waters of Maldives. For administrative purposes the Maldivian government organized these atolls into twenty one administrative divisions
Administrative divisions of the Maldives
The Administrative Divisions of the Maldives refers to the various units of government that provide local government services in the Maldives. According to the Decentralization Act 2010, the administrative divisions of the Maldives would consist of atolls, islands, and cities; each administered by...

. The largest island of Maldives is Gan
Gan (Laamu Atoll)
Gan is one of the inhabited islands of Haddhunmathi Atoll, administrative code Laamu and the proposed capital for the Mathi-Dhekunu Province of the Maldives. Gan is the longest island of the Maldives...

, which belongs to Laamu Atoll or Hahdhummathi Maldives. In Addu Atoll
Addu Atoll
Addu City is a city in Maldives consisting of the inhabited islands of the southernmost atoll of the archipelago....

 the westernmost islands are connected by roads over the reef (collectively called Link Road) and the total length of the road is 14 km (9 mi).

The Maldives is the lowest country in the world, with a maximum natural ground level of only 2.3 metres (7.5 ft), with the average being only 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) above sea level, although in areas where construction exists, this has been increased to several metres. 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
Coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

 debris and living coral. This acts as a natural barrier against the sea, forming lagoon
Lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

s. Other islands, set at a distance and parallel to the reef, have their own protective fringe of reef. An opening in the surrounding coral barrier allows access to the calmer lagoon waters. The barrier reefs of the islands protect them from the storms and high waves of the Indian Ocean.

A 15 centimetres (5.9 in) thick layer of humus forms the top layer of soil. Below the humus layer are 60 centimetres (2 ft) of sandstone, followed by sand and then fresh water. Due to high levels of salt in the soil near the beach, vegetation is limited there to a few plants such as shrubs, flowering plants, and small hedges. In the interior of the islands, more vegetation such as mangrove
Mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

 and banyan
Banyan
A banyan is a fig that starts its life as an epiphyte when its seeds germinate in the cracks and crevices on a host tree...

 grow. Coconut palms, the national tree, are able to grow almost everywhere on the islands and are integral to the lifestyle of the population.

The limited vegetation and land wildlife
Wildlife of Maldives
The wildlife of Maldives includes the flora and fauna of the islands, reefs, and the surrounding ocean.-Vertebrates:-Fish:...

 is supplemented by the abundance of marine life. The waters around the Maldives are abundant in rare species of biological and commercial value. Tuna
Tuna
Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of . Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an...

 fisheries are one of the main commercial resources. The Maldives have an amazing diversity of sea life, with corals and over 2,000 species of fish, ranging from reef fish
Reef fish
Coral reef fish are fish which live amongst or in close relation to coral reefs. Coral reefs form complex ecosystems with tremendous biodiversity. Among the myriad inhabitants, the fish stand out as particularly colourful and interesting to watch. Hundreds of species can exist in a small area of a...

 to reef sharks, moray eels, and a wide variety of rays: Manta ray
Manta ray
The manta ray is the largest species of the rays. The largest known specimen was more than across, with a weight of about . It ranges throughout waters of the world, typically around coral reefs...

s, Stingray
Stingray
The stingrays are a group of rays, which are cartilaginous fishes related to sharks. They are classified in the suborder Myliobatoidei of the order Myliobatiformes, and consist of eight families: Hexatrygonidae , Plesiobatidae , Urolophidae , Urotrygonidae , Dasyatidae , Potamotrygonidae The...

 and Eagle ray
Eagle ray
The eagle rays are a group of cartilaginous fishes in the family Myliobatidae, consisting mostly of large species living in the open ocean rather than on the sea bottom....

. The Maldivian waters also host whale shark
Whale shark
The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is a slow-moving filter feeding shark, the largest extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of and a weight of more than , but unconfirmed claims report considerably larger whale sharks...

s and hawksbill
Hawksbill turtle
The hawksbill sea turtle is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. It is the only extant species in its genus. The species has a worldwide distribution, with Atlantic and Pacific subspecies. E. imbricata imbricata is the Atlantic subspecies, while E...

 and green sea turtle
Green Sea Turtle
The Green sea turtle or green turtle is a large sea turtle of the family Cheloniidae. It is the only species in the genus Chelonia. Its range extends throughout tropical and subtropical seas around the world, with two distinct populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans...

s.

Climate



The Indian Ocean acts as a heat buffer, absorbing, storing, and slowly releasing the tropical heat. The temperature of Maldives ranges between 24 °C (75 °F) and 33 °C (91 °F) throughout the year. Although the humidity is relatively high, the constant cool sea breezes keep the air moving and the heat mitigated.

The weather in the Maldives is affected by the large landmass of South Asia to the north. The presence of this landmass causes differential heating of land and water. These factors set off a rush of moisture-rich air from the Indian Ocean over South Asia, resulting in the southwest monsoon
Monsoon
Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea...

. Two seasons dominate Maldives' weather: the dry season associated with the winter northeastern monsoon and the rainy season which brings strong winds and storms. The shift from the moist southwest monsoon to the dry northeast monsoon occurs during April and May. During this period, the northeast winds contribute to the formation of the northeast monsoon, which reaches Maldives in the beginning of June and lasts until the end of August. However, the weather patterns of Maldives do not always conform to the monsoon patterns of South Asia. The annual rainfall averages 254 centimetres (100 in) in the north and 381 centimetres (150 in) in the south.

Environmental Issues


Over the last century, sea levels have risen
Current sea level rise
Current sea level rise potentially impacts human populations and the wider natural environment . Global average sea level rose at an average rate of around 1.8 mm per year over 1961 to 2003 and at an average rate of about 3.1 mm per year from 1993 to 2003...

 about 20 centimetres (7.9 in); further rises of the ocean could threaten the very existence of this island nation, with its maximum natural ground level of only 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in), and averaging only 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level. Current estimates place sea level rise at 59 centimetres (23.2 in) by the year 2100. However, around 1970, the sea level there dropped 20–30 cm (7.9–11.8 ). In November 2008, President Mohamed Nasheed
Mohamed Nasheed
Mohamed Nasheed is a Maldivian politician. He is the current President of the Maldives. He is the founder of the Maldivian Democratic Party and was its presidential candidate in the October 2008 presidential election, defeating long-time President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in a second round of voting...

 announced plans to look into purchasing new land in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Sri Lanka, and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 because of his concerns about global warming and the possibility of much of the islands being inundated with water from rising sea levels. The purchase of land will be made from a fund generated by tourism. The President has explained his intentions:
"We do not want to leave the Maldives, but we also do not want to be climate refugee
Climate refugee
Environmental migrant refers to the people who are purportedly forced to migrate from or flee their home region due to sudden or long-term changes to their local environment, which is held to include increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and disruption of seasonal weather patterns...

s living in tents for decades".


On 22 April 2008, then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was President of the Maldives from 1978 to 2008. After serving as Minister of Transport, he was nominated as President by the Majlis of the Maldives and succeeded Ibrahim Nasir on November 11, 1978. He eventually became the longest-ruling head of government in Asia...

 pleaded for a cut in global greenhouse gas
Greenhouse gas
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone...

 emissions, warning that rising sea levels could submerge the island nation of the Maldives.

By 2020 the Maldives plans to eliminate or offset all of its greenhouse gas
Greenhouse gas
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone...

 emissions. At the 2009 International Climate Talks, President Mohamed Nasheed explained that:

Marine ecosystem



Maldives waters are home to several ecosystems, but are most noted for their variety of colorful coral reefs, home to 300 species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of fish.
Seven marine species have been described as new to science, while several more await description. Over 400 have been identified and catalogued and many are now held in the reference collection, including 5 species of sea turtle
Sea turtle
Sea turtles are marine reptiles that inhabit all of the world's oceans except the Arctic.-Distribution:...

s, 51 species of echinoderm
Echinoderm
Echinoderms are a phylum of marine animals. Echinoderms are found at every ocean depth, from the intertidal zone to the abyssal zone....

s, 5 species of sea grasses and 285 species of alga & sponges, crustacean
Crustacean
Crustaceans form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles. The 50,000 described species range in size from Stygotantulus stocki at , to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span...

s, and tunicate
Tunicate
Tunicates, also known as urochordates, are members of the subphylum Tunicata, previously known as Urochordata, a group of underwater saclike filter feeders with incurrent and excurrent siphons that is classified within the phylum Chordata. While most tunicates live on the ocean floor, others such...

s. About 200 coral species have been recorded to date, representing over 60 genera
Genera
Genera is a commercial operating system and development environment for Lisp machines developed by Symbolics. It is essentially a fork of an earlier operating system originating on the MIT AI Lab's Lisp machines which Symbolics had used in common with LMI and Texas Instruments...

.

Among the many marine families represented are Pufferfish
Pufferfish
Tetraodontidae is a family of primarily marine and estuarine fish of the Tetraodontiformes order. The family includes many familiar species which are variously called pufferfish, balloonfish, blowfish, bubblefish, globefish, swellfish, toadfish, toadies, honey toads, sugar toads, and sea squab...

, Fusilier
Fusilier
Fusilier was originally the name of a soldier armed with a light flintlock musket called the fusil. The word was first used around 1680, and has later developed into a regimental designation.-History:...

s, Jackfish, Lionfish
Lionfish
Lionfish may refer to:* genus Pterois, collectively known as the lionfish* Red Lionfish , a significant invasive species off the East Coast of North America and in the Caribbean-Fish:...

, Oriental Sweetlips
Oriental Sweetlips
Oriental sweetlips, Plectorhinchus vittatus, a species of sweetlips of the family Haemulidae, is found in Indo-West Pacific oceans. This common name can also refer to the species Plectorhinchus orientalis-Description:...

, reef sharks, Grouper
Grouper
Groupers are fish of any of a number of genera in the subfamily Epinephelinae of the family Serranidae, in the order Perciformes.Not all serranids are called groupers; the family also includes the sea basses. The common name grouper is usually given to fish in one of two large genera: Epinephelus...

s, Eel
Eel
Eels are an order of fish, which consists of four suborders, 20 families, 111 genera and approximately 800 species. Most eels are predators...

s and Snappers
Lutjanidae
Snappers are a family of perciform fish, mainly marine but with some members inhabiting estuaries, feeding in freshwater. Some are important food fish. One of the best known is the red snapper....

. Bannerfish, Batfish
Batfish
Batfish is a name given to several fishes:* The California batfish or sting ray .* Some members of the family Ephippidae.* Some members of the family Ogcocephalidae, including the Pancake batfish.and:...

, Humphead Wrasse
Humphead wrasse
The humphead wrasse is a wrasse that is mainly found in coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region. It is also known as the Māori wrasse, Napoleon wrasse, Napoleonfish; or "So Mei" 蘇眉 and "Mameng" ....

, Spotted Eagle Ray
Spotted eagle ray
The spotted eagle ray is a cartilaginous fish of the eagle ray family, Myliobatidae. It can be found globally in tropical regions, including the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, off the coast of West Africa, the Indian Ocean, Oceania, and on both coasts of the Americas at depths down to about . The rays...

s, Scorpionfish
Scorpionfish
Scorpaenidae, the scorpionfish, are a family of mostly marine fish that includes many of the world's most venomous species. As the name suggests, scorpionfish have a type of "sting" in the form of sharp spines coated with venomous mucus. The family is a large one, with hundreds of members. They are...

, Lobster
Lobster
Clawed lobsters comprise a family of large marine crustaceans. Highly prized as seafood, lobsters are economically important, and are often one of the most profitable commodities in coastal areas they populate.Though several groups of crustaceans are known as lobsters, the clawed lobsters are most...

s, Nudibranches, Angelfish
Angelfish
Angelfish may refer to:*Several groups of fish:**Freshwater angelfish, tropical cichlids of the genus Pterophyllum**Marine angelfish of the family Pomacanthidae**Angel shark of the family Squatinidae...

, Butterflyfish
Butterflyfish
The butterflyfish are a group of conspicuous tropical marine fish of the family Chaetodontidae; the bannerfish and coralfish are also included in this group. Found mostly on the reefs of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, there are approximately 120 species in 10 genera...

, Squirrelfish, Soldierfish, Glassfish
Glassfish
Glassfish may refer to:* Asiatic glassfish, marine fishes in the family Ambassidae* GlassFish, a Java Enterprise Edition application server project...

, Surgeonfish, Unicornfish, Triggerfish
Triggerfish
Triggerfishes are about 40 species of often brightly colored fishes of the family Balistidae. Often marked by lines and spots, they inhabit tropical and subtropical oceans throughout the world, with the greatest species richness in the Indo-Pacific...

, Napoleon wrasses and Barracuda
Barracuda
The barracuda is a ray-finned fish known for its large size and fearsome appearance. Its body is long, fairly compressed, and covered with small, smooth scales. Some species could reach up to 1.8m in length and 30 cm in width...

s.

These coral reefs are home to a variety of marine ecosystems that vary from planktonic organisms to whale sharks. Sponges have gained importance as five species have displayed anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.

1998 El Niño


In 1998, warming due to the El Niño phenomenon
El Niño-Southern Oscillation
El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is a quasiperiodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every five years...

 killed 2/3 of the nation's coral reefs due to bleaching. Coral reef bleaching is a "term suggested in place of "coral bleaching" because this condition is seldom limited to corals and most affected photo symbiotic hosts reside on coral reefs". Bleaching is the loss of photo symbiotic microorganisms (dinoflagellates, red and green algae, or cyanobacteria), or the pigments of these photosymbionts, or some of both, from tissues of host cnidarians, sponges, molluscs or other photosymbiotic host animals. The name comes from the whitening of many hosts which possess few pigments of their own.

The water temperature had been raised as much as 5 C-change degrees. Several scientists placed electrified cones anywhere from 20 – below the surface. The cones created an attraction for coral larva to attach itself. In 2004, scientists witnessed corals regenerating. Corals began to eject pink-orange eggs and sperm. The growth of these electrified corals was five times faster than ordinary corals. Scientist Azeez Hakim stated, "before 1998, we never thought that this reef would die. We had always taken for granted that these animals would be there, that this reef would be there forever. El Niño gave us a wake-up call that these things are not going to be there forever....They help by removing and recycling the carbon-dioxide which in excess amounts can lead to global warming. Not only this, they also act as a natural barrier against the tropical storms, floods and tsunamis. Seaweeds grow on the skeletons of dead coral"." The corals reefs are like the rainforest for marine life.

Ancient history and settlement


Comparative studies of Maldivian oral, linguistic and cultural traditions and customs confirm that the first settlers were Dravidian people from Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

 in the Sangam period (300 BC–300 AD), most probably fishermen from the southwest coasts
Malabar Coast
The Malabar Coast is a long and narrow coastline on the south-western shore line of the mainland Indian subcontinent. Geographically, it comprises the wettest regions of southern India, as the Western Ghats intercept the moisture-laden monsoon rains, especially on their westward-facing mountain...

 of what is now the south of the Indian Subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 and the western shores of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

. One such community is the Giraavaru people
Giraavaru people
The Giraavaru people are the indigenous people of Giraavaru Island, part of the Maldives. Of Dravidian origin, and the earliest island community of the Maldives, their presence predates Buddhism and the arrival of a Northern kingly dynasty in the archipelago.Their ancestors were ancient Tamil...

 descended from ancient Tamils
Tamil people
Tamil people , also called Tamils or Tamilians, are an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, India and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. Historic and post 15th century emigrant communities are also found across the world, notably Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia, Canada,...

. They are mentioned in ancient legends and local folklore about the establishment of the capital and kingly rule in Malé
Malé
Malé , is the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. It is located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll . It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King's Island, from where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties ruled and where...

. They are considered to be the islands' earliest settler community. A strong underlying layer of Dravidian population and culture survives in Maldivian society, with a clear Dravidian-Malayalam substratum in the language, which also appears in place names, kin terms, poetry, dance, and religious beliefs. Malabari sea faring culture led to Malayali
Malayali
Malayali is the term used to refer to the native speakers of Malayalam, originating from the Indian state of Kerala...

 settling of the Laccadives, and the Maldives were evidently viewed as an extension of the archipelago. Some argue that Sindhi's (presence of Jat, Gujjar Titles and Gotra names) also were early layer of migration. Seafaring from Debal
Debal
-Introduction:Debal was an ancient port located near modern Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. In Arabic, it was usually called Daybul it is adjacent to the nearby Manora Island and was administered by Mansura, and later Thatta....

 began during the Indus valley civilization
Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that was located in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of what is now mainly modern-day Pakistan and northwest India...

. The Jataka
Jataka
The Jātakas refer to a voluminous body of literature native to India concerning the previous births of the Buddha....

s and Puranas
Puranas
The Puranas are a genre of important Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography.Puranas...

 show abundant evidence of this maritime trade, also the use of similar traditional boat building techniques in North Western South Asia and the Maldives, and the presence of silver punch mark conies from both regions gives additional weight to this. There are minor signs of Southeast Asian settlers, probably some adrift from the main group of Austronesian reed boat migrants that settled Madagascar
Madagascar
The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

. There are some signs of Arab Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 inhabitants mostly in the southernmost atolls, probably settled in the height of Islamic era.

The earliest written history of the Maldives is marked by the arrival of Sinhalese people, who were descended from the exiled Magadha
Magadha
Magadha formed one of the sixteen Mahājanapadas or kingdoms in ancient India. The core of the kingdom was the area of Bihar south of the Ganga; its first capital was Rajagriha then Pataliputra...

 Prince Vijaya from the ancient city known as Sinhapura
Sinhapura
Sinhapura or Singhapura was the capital of a kingdom in Kalinga, modern Orissa in India, and later capital of Kalinga itself.It has been tentatively identified with modern Singapuram, a village near Chicacole....

. He and his party of several hundred landed in Sri Lanka and some in the Maldives circa 543 to 483 BCE. According to the Mahavansa, one of the ships that sailed with Prince Vijaya, who went to Sri Lanka around 500 BC, went adrift and arrived at an island called Mahiladvipika, which is the Maldives. It is also said that at that time the people from Mahiladvipika used to travel to Sri Lanka. Their settlement in Sri Lanka and the Maldives marks a significant change in demographics and the development of the Indo-Aryan language
Indo-Aryan languages
The Indo-Aryan languages constitutes a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family...

 Dhivehi
Dhivehi language
Maldivian is an Indo-Aryan language predominantly spoken by about 350,000 people in the Maldives where it is the national language. It is also the first language of nearly 10,000 people in the island of Minicoy in the Union territory of Lakshadweep, India where the Mahl dialect of the Maldivian...

, which is most similar in grammar, phonology, and structure to Sinhala, and especially to the more ancient Elu which has less Pali
Páli
- External links :* *...

.

Alternatively it is believed that Vijaya and his clan came from western India, a claim which is supported by linguistic and cultural features and the specific descriptions in the epics themselves, for instance that Vijaya visited Bharukaccha (Bharuch
Bharuch
Bharuch , also known as Broach, is the oldest city in Gujarat, situated at the mouth of the holy river Narmada. Bharuch is the administrative headquarters of Bharuch District and a municipality of more than 1,50,000 inhabitants. As Bharuch is a major seaport city, a number of trade activities have...

 in Gujarat) in his ship on the voyage down south.
Philostorgius
Philostorgius
Philostorgius was an Anomoean Church historian of the 4th and 5th centuries. Anomoeanism questioned the Trinitarian account of the relationship between God the Father and Christ and was considered a heresy by the Orthodox Church, which adopted the term "homoousia" in the Nicene Creed. Very little...

, a late antique Greek historian, told of a hostage among the Romans, from the island called Diva, which is presumed to be the Maldives, who was baptized Theophilus. Theophilus was sent in the 350s to convert the Himyarites to Christianity and went to his homeland from Arabia; he returned to Arabia, visited Axum
Axum
Axum or Aksum is a city in northern Ethiopia which was the original capital of the eponymous kingdom of Axum. Population 56,500 . Axum was a naval and trading power that ruled the region from ca. 400 BC into the 10th century...

, and settled in Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

.

Buddhism came to the Maldives at the time of Emperor Ashoka
Ashoka
Ashok Maurya or Ashoka , popularly known as Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from ca. 269 BC to 232 BC. One of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka reigned over most of present-day India after a number of military conquests...

's expansion and became the dominant religion of the people of the Maldives until the 12th century AD. The ancient Maldivian Kings promoted Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 and the first Maldive writings and artistic achievements in the form of highly developed sculpture and architecture are from that period. Before embracing Buddhism as the way of life Maldivians practiced an ancient form of Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

istic traditions known as Śrauta in the form of venerating the Surya
Surya
Surya Suraya or Phra Athit is the chief solar deity in Hinduism, one of the Adityas, son of Kasyapa and one of his wives, Aditi; of Indra; or of Dyaus Pitar . The term Surya also refers to the Sun, in general. Surya has hair and arms of gold...

 (the ancient ruling cast were of Aadheetta or Suryavanshi origins).

The first archaeological study of the remains of early cultures in the Maldives began with the work of H.C.P. Bell
Harry Charles Purvis Bell
Harry Charles Purvis Bell , more often known as HCP Bell, was a British civil servant, a commissioner in the Ceylon Civil Service. Appointed an official archaeologist, he carried out many excavations in Ceylon , for the Archaeological Survey, during an appointment running from 1890 to 1912After...

, a British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 commissioner of the Ceylon Civil Service
Ceylon Civil Service
The Ceylon Civil Service, popularly known by its acronym CCS, originated as the elite civil service of the Government of Ceylon under British colonial rule in 1833 and carried on after independence, until May 1, 1963 when it was abolished and the much larger Ceylon Administrative Service was...

. Bell was shipwrecked on the islands in 1879, and returned several times to investigate ancient Buddhist ruins. He studied the ancient mounds, called havitta or ustubu (these names are derived from chaitiya
Stupa
A stupa is a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the remains of Buddha, used by Buddhists as a place of worship....

 or stupa
Stupa
A stupa is a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the remains of Buddha, used by Buddhists as a place of worship....

) by the Maldivians, which are found on many of the atolls. Although Bell asserted that the ancient Maldivians followed Theravada Buddhism, many local Buddhist archaeological remains now in the Malé
Malé
Malé , is the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. It is located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll . It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King's Island, from where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties ruled and where...

 Museum in fact also display elements of Mahayana
Mahayana
Mahāyāna is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice...

 and Vajrayana
Vajrayana
Vajrayāna Buddhism is also known as Tantric Buddhism, Tantrayāna, Mantrayāna, Secret Mantra, Esoteric Buddhism and the Diamond Vehicle...

 iconography.
In the early 11th century, the Minicoy and Thiladhunmathi, and possibly other northern Atolls, were conquered by the medieval Chola
Medieval Cholas
Medieval Cholas rose to prominence during the middle of the 9th century C.E. and established the greatest empire South India had seen. They successfully united the South India under their rule and through their naval strength extended their influence in the Southeast Asian countries such as Srivijaya...

 Tamil emperor Raja Raja Chola I, thus becoming a part of the Chola Empire
Chola Dynasty
The Chola dynasty was a Tamil dynasty which was one of the longest-ruling in some parts of southern India. The earliest datable references to this Tamil dynasty are in inscriptions from the 3rd century BC left by Asoka, of Maurya Empire; the dynasty continued to govern over varying territory until...

.

According to a legend from the Maldivian Folklore
Maldivian Folklore
Maldive Mythology or Maldive Folklore is the body of myths, tales and anecdotes belonging to the oral tradition of Maldivians. Even though some of the Maldivian myths were already mentioned briefly by British commissioner in Ceylon HCP Bell towards the end of the 19th century, their study and...

, in the early 12th century AD a medieval prince named Koimala nobleman of the Lion Race from Sri Lanka, sailed to Rasgetheemu island (literally Town of the Royal House or figuratively King's Town) in North Maalhosmadulu Atoll and from there to Malé and established a kingdom. By then, the Aadeetta (Sun) Dynasty (Suryavanshi ruling cast) had for some time ceased to rule in Malé, possibly because of invasions by the Cholas of Southern India in the Tenth Century. Koimala Kalou (Lord Koimala), who reigned as King Maanaabarana, was a king of the Homa (Lunar) Dynasty (Chandravanshi ruling cast), which some historians call the House of Theemuge
House of Theemuge
Theemuge Dharikolhu or Homa Dharikolhu was one of the early dynasty of the Maldives that reigned from c.1117 until c.1388. According to the record in the Isdhoo Loamaafaanu , which was written in 1194, the first king of the Theemuge Dynasty extended his rule to cover the entire Maldives...

. The Homa (Lunar) dynasty sovereigns inter-married with the Aaditta (Sun) Dynasty. This was why the formal titles of Maldive kings until 1968 contained references to "kula sudha ira" which means "descended from the Moon and the Sun". No official record exists of the Aadeetta dynasty's reign. Since Koimala's reign, the Maldive throne was also known as the Singaasana (Lion Throne). Before then, and in some situations since, it was also known as the Saridhaaleys (Ivory Throne). Some Historians credit Koimala of freeing the Maldives from Tamil Chola rule.

Several foreign travellers, mainly Arabs, had written about a kingdom of the Maldives ruled over by a queen. This kingdom pre-dated Koimala's reign. al-Idrisi
Muhammad al-Idrisi
Abu Abd Allah Muhammad al-Idrisi al-Qurtubi al-Hasani al-Sabti or simply Al Idrisi was a Moroccan Muslim geographer, cartographer, Egyptologist and traveller who lived in Sicily, at the court of King Roger II. Muhammed al-Idrisi was born in Ceuta then belonging to the Almoravid Empire and died in...

, referring to the writings of earlier writers, mentions the name of one of the queens, Damahaar, who was a member of the Aadeetta (Sun) dynasty.

The conversion to Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 is mentioned in the ancient edicts written in copper plates from the end of the 12th century AD. There is also a locally well-known legend about a foreign saint (an Azeri from the city of Tabriz
Tabriz
Tabriz is the fourth largest city and one of the historical capitals of Iran and the capital of East Azerbaijan Province. Situated at an altitude of 1,350 meters at the junction of the Quri River and Aji River, it was the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960s, one of its former...

) who subdued a demon known as Rannamaari
Rannamaari
Rannamaari is a Maldivian myth or legend which chronicles the Maldivian people's conversion from Buddhism to Islam.-Brief outline:According to Ibn Batuta's version of the story, Rannamaari, a sea demon, haunted the people of the Maldives and had to be appeased monthly with the sacrifice of a virgin...

. Dhovemi Kalaminja
Dhovemi of the Maldives
Dhovemi Kalaminja Siri Thiribuvana-aadiththa Maha Radun or Donei Kalaminjaa was the second king of the Maldives from 1141 to 1166 or 1176 according to the Raadhavalhi and the Loamaafaanu copper plate writings...

 who succeeded Koimala converted to Islam in the year AD 1153.

Over the centuries, the islands have been visited and their development influenced by sailors and traders
Merchant
A merchant is a businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others, in order to earn a profit.Merchants can be one of two types:# A wholesale merchant operates in the chain between producer and retail merchant...

 from countries on the Arabian Sea
Arabian Sea
The Arabian Sea is a region of the Indian Ocean bounded on the east by India, on the north by Pakistan and Iran, on the west by the Arabian Peninsula, on the south, approximately, by a line between Cape Guardafui in northeastern Somalia and Kanyakumari in India...

 and the Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal
The Bay of Bengal , the largest bay in the world, forms the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean. It resembles a triangle in shape, and is bordered mostly by the Eastern Coast of India, southern coast of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to the west and Burma and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the...

. The main export of medieval Maldivians was cowrie shell, which they cultivated by floating branches of coconut palms in the sea, to which the shells attached themselves.

The Maldives were the first landfall for traders from Basrah, sailing to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 or Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

. In the Maldives, ships could take on fresh water, fruit and the delicious, basket-smoked red flesh of the black bonito
Bonito
Bonito is a name given to various species of medium-sized, predatory fish in the Scombridae family. First, bonito most commonly refers to species in the genus Sarda, including the Atlantic bonito and the Pacific bonito ; second, in Japanese cuisine, bonito refers to the skipjack tuna , which, in...

, a delicacy exported to Sindh and China and Yemen. The people of the archipelago were gentle, civilised and hospitable. They produced brass
Brass
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin...

 utensils as well as fine cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 textiles, exported in the form of sarongs and turban lengths. These local industries must have depended on imported raw materials.

The other essential product of the Maldives was coir
Coir
Coir is a natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconut and used in products such as floor mats, doormats, brushes, mattresses etc. Technically coir is the fibrous material found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut. Other uses of brown coir are in upholstery...

, the fibre of the dried coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

 husk
Husk
Husk in botany is the outer shell or coating of a seed. It often refers to the leafy outer covering of an ear of maize as it grows on the plant. Literally, a husk or hull includes the protective outer covering of a seed, fruit or vegetable...

. Cured in pits, beaten, spun and then twisted into cordage and rope
Rope
A rope is a length of fibres, twisted or braided together to improve strength for pulling and connecting. It has tensile strength but is too flexible to provide compressive strength...

s, coir's salient quality is its resistance to saltwater. It stitched together and rigged the Dhow
Dhow
Dhow is the generic name of a number of traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts with lateen sails used in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region. Some historians believe the dhow was invented by Arabs but this is disputed by some others. Dhows typically weigh 300 to 500 tons, and have a...

s that plied the Indian Ocean. Maldivian coir was exported to Sindh
Sindh
Sindh historically referred to as Ba'ab-ul-Islam , is one of the four provinces of Pakistan and historically is home to the Sindhi people. It is also locally known as the "Mehran". Though Muslims form the largest religious group in Sindh, a good number of Christians, Zoroastrians and Hindus can...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 and the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

.

"It is stronger than hemp
Hemp
Hemp is mostly used as a name for low tetrahydrocannabinol strains of the plant Cannabis sativa, of fiber and/or oilseed varieties. In modern times, hemp has been used for industrial purposes including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, health food and fuel with modest...

," wrote Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta , or simply Ibn Battuta, also known as Shams ad–Din , was a Muslim Moroccan Berber explorer, known for his extensive travels published in the Rihla...

, "and is used to sew together the planks of Sindhi and Yemeni Dhow
Dhow
Dhow is the generic name of a number of traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts with lateen sails used in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region. Some historians believe the dhow was invented by Arabs but this is disputed by some others. Dhows typically weigh 300 to 500 tons, and have a...

s, for this sea abounds in reefs, and if the planks were fastened with iron nails, they would break into pieces when the vessel hit a rock. The coir gives the boat greater elasticity, so that it doesn't break up."

Colonial Period, Independence, Republic



Although governed as an independent Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic sultanate from 1153 to 1968, the Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until 25 July 1965. On 16 December 1887, the Sultan of the Maldives signed a contract with the British Governor of Ceylon turning the Maldives into a British protected state, losing her sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 in matters of foreign policy
Foreign policy
A country's foreign policy, also called the foreign relations policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries...

. The British government promised military protection and non-interference in local administration in exchange for an annual tribute
Tribute
A tribute is wealth, often in kind, that one party gives to another as a sign of respect or, as was often the case in historical contexts, of submission or allegiance. Various ancient states, which could be called suzerains, exacted tribute from areas they had conquered or threatened to conquer...

. In 1957 the British established an air base in the strategic southernmost atoll of Addu, paying £2000 a year, employing hundreds of locals. 19 years later, the British government gave up the base, as it was too expensive to maintain.
In 1953, there was an abortive attempt to form a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

, but the sultanate was re-imposed. In 1959, objecting to Nasir
Ibrahim Nasir
Ibrahim Nasir Rannabandeyri Kilegefan , KCMG, NGIV was a Maldivian politician who served as Prime Minister of the Maldives under Sultan Muhammad Fareed Didi from 1957 to 1968 and succeeded him to become the first President of the Second Republic from...

's centralism, the inhabitants of the three southernmost atolls protested against the government. They formed the United Suvadive Republic
United Suvadive Republic
The United Suvadive Republic or Suvadive Islands was a short-lived breakaway nation in the remote Southern Atolls of the Maldive Islands, namely Addu Atoll, Huvadhu Atoll and Fuvahmulah that geographically make up the Suvadive archipelago.The name of this nation was originally an ancient name for...

 and elected Abdullah Afeef
Abdullah Afeef
Abdullah Afeef was the President of the United Suvadive Republic from 1959 to 1963. Born in Hithadhoo, Addu Atoll, Afeef was an educated and well-respected individual from a family of notables....

 as president and Hithadhoo
Hithadhoo (Seenu Atoll)
Hithaadhoo is a district of Addu City, in the Maldives. Hithadhoo is the main administrative district of Addu City, with many of the administrative buildings in this district. The town is situated on the island of the same name, the westernmost of Seenu...

 as capital of this republic.

The agreement giving the Maldives full political independence was signed on behalf of His Majesty the Sultan by Ibrahim Nasir Rannabandeyri Kilegefan, Prime Minister; and on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

 by Sir Michael Walker, British Ambassador designate to the Maldive Islands. The Ceremony took place at the British High Commissioner's Residence in Colombo on 26 July 1965. After independence the sultanate continued to operate for another three years under King Muhammad Fareed Didi
Muhammad Fareed Didi
King Muhammad Fareed Didi , the son of the Sultan Prince Abdul Majeed Didi . Muhammed Fareed Didi was the last Sultan of Maldives and the first Maldivian Monarch to assume the title of "King" with the style of "Your Majesty". He was the Sultan of Maldives from March 7, 1954 until November 11, 1968...

. On 11 November 1968, the monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

 was replaced by a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

 under the presidency of Ibrahim Nasir
Ibrahim Nasir
Ibrahim Nasir Rannabandeyri Kilegefan , KCMG, NGIV was a Maldivian politician who served as Prime Minister of the Maldives under Sultan Muhammad Fareed Didi from 1957 to 1968 and succeeded him to become the first President of the Second Republic from...

, although this was a cosmetic change without any significant alteration in the structures of government. The official name of the country was changed from Maldive Islands to the Maldives. Tourism
Tourism in the Maldives
Tourism is the largest economic industry in the Maldives, as it plays an important role in earning foreign exchange revenues and generating employment in the tertiary sector of the country. The archipelago of the Maldives is the main source of attraction to many tourists visiting the country...

 began to be developed on the archipelago
Archipelago
An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

 by the beginning of the 1970s. The first accurate census was held in December 1977 and showed 142,832 persons residing in Maldives.

However, political infighting during the '70s between Nasir's faction and other political figures led to the 1975 arrest and exile of elected prime minister Ahmed Zaki
Ahmed Zaki (politician)
Ahmed Zaki was the Prime Minister of the Republic of Maldives from 1972 to 1975....

 to a remote atoll
Atoll
An atoll is a coral island that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.- Usage :The word atoll comes from the Dhivehi word atholhu OED...

. Economic decline followed the closure of the British airfield at Gan and the collapse of the market for dried fish, an important export. With support for his administration faltering, Nasir fled to Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 in 1978, with millions of dollars from the treasury.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was President of the Maldives from 1978 to 2008. After serving as Minister of Transport, he was nominated as President by the Majlis of the Maldives and succeeded Ibrahim Nasir on November 11, 1978. He eventually became the longest-ruling head of government in Asia...

 began his 30-year role as President in 1978, winning six consecutive elections without opposition. His election was seen as ushering in a period of political stability and economic development in view of Gayoom's priority to develop the poorer islands. Tourism flourished and increased foreign contact spurred development. However, Gayoom's rule was controversial, with some critics saying Gayoom was an autocrat who quelled dissent by limiting freedoms and political favoritism.

A series of coup attempts (in 1980, 1983, and 1988) by Nasir supporters and business interests tried to topple the government without success. While the first two attempts met with little success, the 1988 coup attempt involved a roughly 200-person mercenary force of the PLOTE Tamil militant group
People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam
The People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam is a former Tamil militant group. It is currently a pro-government paramilitary group and political party. PLOTE's political wing is known as the Democratic People's Liberation Front.-Origins:...

 who seized the airport and caused Gayoom to flee from house to house until the intervention of 1600 Indian troops
Indian Armed Forces
The Indian Armed Forces are the military forces of the Republic of India. They consist of the Army, Navy and Air Force, supported by three paramilitary forces and various inter-service institutions such as the Strategic Forces Command.The President of India is...

 airlifted into Malé
Malé
Malé , is the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. It is located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll . It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King's Island, from where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties ruled and where...

 restored order. The November 1988 coup was headed by Muhammadu Ibrahim Lutfee, a small businessman,. On the night of 3 November 1988, the Indian Air Force
Indian Air Force
The Indian Air Force is the air arm of the Indian armed forces. Its primary responsibility is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict...

 airlifted a parachute battalion group from Agra
Agra
Agra a.k.a. Akbarabad is a city on the banks of the river Yamuna in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, west of state capital, Lucknow and south from national capital New Delhi. With a population of 1,686,976 , it is one of the most populous cities in Uttar Pradesh and the 19th most...

 and flew them over 2000 kilometres (1,242.7 mi) to the Maldives. The Indian paratroopers landed at Hulule and secured the airfield and restored the government rule at Malé within hours. The brief, bloodless operation, labelled Operation Cactus
Operation Cactus
The 1988 Maldives coup d'état, whose rescue efforts were code-named Operation Sandhya by the Indian armed forces, was the attempt by a group of Maldivians led by Abdullah Luthufi and assisted by about 80 armed mercenaries of a Tamil secessionist organisation from Sri Lanka, the People's Liberation...

, also involved the Indian Navy
Indian Navy
The Indian Navy is the naval branch of the armed forces of India. The President of India serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. The Chief of Naval Staff , usually a four-star officer in the rank of Admiral, commands the Navy...

.

2004 tsunami



On 26 December 2004, following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea megathrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, December 26, 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake itself is known by the scientific community as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake...

, the Maldives were devastated
Effect of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake on the Maldives
In the Maldives, 82 people were killed and 26 reported missing and presumed dead after it was hit by a tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake on 26 December 2004. Two-thirds of the capital city Malé was flooded during the early hours of the day...

 by a tsunami. Only nine islands were reported to have escaped any flooding, while fifty-seven islands faced serious damage to critical infrastructure, fourteen islands had to be totally evacuated, and six islands were destroyed. A further twenty-one resort islands were forced to close because of serious damage. The total damage was estimated at more than US$400 million, or some 62 percent of the GDP. A total of 108 people, including six foreigners, reportedly died in the tsunami. The destructive impact of the waves on the low-lying islands was mitigated by the fact there was no continental shelf or land mass upon which the waves could gain height. The tallest waves were reported to be 14 feet (4.3 m) high.

Government



Maldives is a presidential
Presidential system
A presidential system is a system of government where an executive branch exists and presides separately from the legislature, to which it is not responsible and which cannot, in normal circumstances, dismiss it....

 republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

, with the President as head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

 and head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

. The President heads the executive branch and appoints the cabinet
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

 which is approved by the People's Majlis (Parliament)
Majlis of the Maldives
The Majlis of the Maldives or the People’s Majlis is the main legislature body of the Maldives. The Majlis has the authority to enact, amend and revise laws, except the constitution of the Maldives. Majlis is composed of 77 members...

. Following the introduction of a new constitution in 2008, direct elections for the President take place every five years, with a limit of two terms in office for any individual. The current President is Mohamed Nasheed
Mohamed Nasheed
Mohamed Nasheed is a Maldivian politician. He is the current President of the Maldives. He is the founder of the Maldivian Democratic Party and was its presidential candidate in the October 2008 presidential election, defeating long-time President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in a second round of voting...

. Members of the unicameral
Unicameralism
In government, unicameralism is the practice of having one legislative or parliamentary chamber. Thus, a unicameral parliament or unicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of one chamber or house...

 Majlis
Majlis of the Maldives
The Majlis of the Maldives or the People’s Majlis is the main legislature body of the Maldives. The Majlis has the authority to enact, amend and revise laws, except the constitution of the Maldives. Majlis is composed of 77 members...

 serve five-year terms, with the total number of members determined by atoll populations. At the 2009 election
Maldivian parliamentary election, 2009
An election to the Majlis of the Maldives was held in the Maldives on May 9, 2009. The Majlis of the Maldives's term is five years and then must be dissolved as pertained in the current Constitution of the Maldives...

, 77 members were elected.

Prior to 2008, Maldives did not have a constitution which guaranteed fundamental human rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

. For 30 years, from 1978 until 2008, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was President of the Maldives from 1978 to 2008. After serving as Minister of Transport, he was nominated as President by the Majlis of the Maldives and succeeded Ibrahim Nasir on November 11, 1978. He eventually became the longest-ruling head of government in Asia...

 served as president. During the later part of his rule, independent political movements emerged in Maldives, which challenged the then-ruling Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (Maldivian People's Party) and demanded democratic reform. These movements brought about significant change in political structure. In 2008 a new constitution was approved and the first direct presidential elections occurred, which were won by Mohamed Nasheed
Mohamed Nasheed
Mohamed Nasheed is a Maldivian politician. He is the current President of the Maldives. He is the founder of the Maldivian Democratic Party and was its presidential candidate in the October 2008 presidential election, defeating long-time President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in a second round of voting...

 and Dr. Mohammed Waheed Hassan (as Vice-President) in the second round. The 2009 parliamentary election saw the Maldivian Democratic Party
Maldivian Democratic Party
The Maldivian Democratic Party is the ruling political party in power of the Maldives. It is a liberal party with its stated goal being the promotion of human rights and democracy in the Maldives. This party won the first ever multi-party elections in the Maldives...

 of President Nasheed receive the most votes with 30.81%, gaining 26 seats, however the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party with 24.62% of the vote received the most seats (28).

Despite the passage from monarchy to republic, the contemporary political structure shows continuity in which power was shared among a few families at the top of the social structure. In some islands, the offices have remained within the same family for generations. In the modern day, the village is ruled by an administrative officer called Katību, who serves as the executive headman of the island. Above the Katībus of every atoll is the AtoỊuveriya (Atoll Chief). Although many islands are distant from the governing capital, administrative rights over the lawmaking body of a particular island is held to a minimum, hence centralizing representatives from islands to a general parliament. The People's Majlis, located in Male, houses members from all over the country.

Challenges


The government of President Mohamed Nasheedh faced many challenges, including the economic downturn following the 2004 tsunami, overspending (by means of overprinting of local currency Ruffiya) during his regime, global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

, unemployment, corruption, and increasing drug use. On 10 November 2008, Nasheed announced an intent to create a sovereign wealth fund
Sovereign wealth fund
A sovereign wealth fund is a state-owned investment fund composed of financial assets such as stocks, bonds, property, precious metals or other financial instruments. Sovereign wealth funds invest globally. Some of them have grabbed attention making bad investments in several Wall Street financial...

 with money earned from tourism that could be used to purchase land elsewhere for the Maldives people to relocate should rising sea levels due to climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

 inundate the country. The government is reportedly considering locations in Sri Lanka and India due to cultural and climate similarities, and as far away as Australia.

Administrative divisions



The Maldives has 7 provinces each consisting of the following administrative divisions (the capital Malé
Malé
Malé , is the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. It is located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll . It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King's Island, from where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties ruled and where...

 is its own administrative division):
  1. Mathi-Uthuru Province; consists of Haa Alif Atoll
    Haa Alif Atoll
    Haa Alif Atoll - officially referred as Thiladhunmathi Uthuruburi is the northernmost administrative division of the Maldives....

    , Haa Dhaalu Atoll
    Haa Dhaalu Atoll
    Haa Dhaalu Atoll - officially referred as Thiladhunmathi Dhekunuburi is an administrative division of the Maldives...

     and Shaviyani Atoll
    Shaviyani Atoll
    Shaviyani atoll is geographically located within the naturally occurring northern mostatoll formation of Thiladhunmathi. A total of 52 islands, 15 inhabited and...

    .
  2. Uthuru Province; consists of Noonu Atoll
    Noonu Atoll
    Southern Miladhunmadulu Atoll or Noonu is an administrative division of the Maldives corresponding to the southern section of Miladhunmadulu Atoll. The capital is Manadhoo....

    , Raa Atoll
    Raa Atoll
    Northern Maalhosmadulu Atoll or Raa Atoll is an administrative division from the Maldives. The capital is Ungoofaaru. It includes Northern Maalhosmadulu Atoll proper and the island of Alifushi.1...

    , Baa Atoll
    Baa Atoll
    Baa Atoll is an administrative division of the Maldives. It consists of three separate natural atolls, namely southern Maalhosmadulu Atoll , the Fasdūtherē Atoll and the smaller...

     and Lhaviyani Atoll
    Lhaviyani Atoll
    Lhaviyani Atoll or Faadhippolhu Atoll is an administrative division of the Maldives.Lhaviyani Atoll is located between 5° 15" and 5° 35" N and between 73° 20" and 74° 40" E. The capital of the atoll is Naifaru...

    .
  3. Medhu-Uthuru Province; consists of Kaafu Atoll
    Kaafu Atoll
    Kaafu Atoll is an administrative division of the Maldives. It consists of Kaashidhoo Island, Gahaafaru Atoll, and Malé Atoll...

    , Alifu Alifu Atoll, Alifu Dhaalu Atoll and Vaavu Atoll
    Vaavu Atoll
    Vaavu Atoll is an administrative division of the Maldives comprising the natural atolls of Felidhu Atoll and the Vattaru Reef.It is the smallest administrative atoll in terms of population....

    .
  4. Medu Province; consists of Meemu Atoll
    Meemu Atoll
    Mulaku Atoll or Meemu Atoll is an administrative division of the Maldives. It corresponds to the natural atoll of the same name, also known as Mulak Atoll or 'Mulakatolhu'....

    , Faafu Atoll
    Faafu Atoll
    Northern Nilandhe Atoll, Nilande Atoll North or Faafu Atoll is an administrative division of the Maldives.It corresponds to the natural atoll of the same name.Certain islands of this atoll used to be inhabited, like Himithi...

     and Dhaalu Atoll
    Dhaalu Atoll
    Southern Nilandhe Atoll, Nilande Atoll South or Dhaalu' Atoll is one of the atolls of the Maldives. It corresponds to the natural atoll of the same name.-Geography:...

    .
  5. Medhu-Dhekunu Province; consists of Thaa Atoll
    Thaa Atoll
    Kolhumadulu Atoll, letter code Thaa is an is an administrative division of the Maldives. It corresponds to the natural atoll of the same name. The ancient name of the island was Kolhumaduva during the time of King Koimala who united all atolls of the Maldives under one Kingdom for the first...

     and Laamu Atoll
    Laamu Atoll
    Haddhunmathi Atoll or Laamu Atoll is an administrative division of the Maldives. It corresponds to the natural atoll of the same name. The administrative capital is located in Fonadhoo Island....

    .
  6. Mathi-Dhekunu Province; consists of Gaafu Alifu Atoll and Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll
    Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll
    Southern Huvadhu Atoll or Gaafu Dhaalu is an administrative district of the Maldives formed by the southwestern section of Huvadhu Atoll. It was created on February 8, 1962 when Huvadhu Atoll was divided into two districts...

    .
  7. Dhekunu Province; consists of Gnaviyani Atoll
    Gnaviyani Atoll
    Gnaviyani Atoll is one of the administrative divisions of the Maldives corresponding to the natural atoll, Fuvahmulah. Surfacewise this is the smallest administrative unit in the Maldives, situated in the Equatorial Channel between Huvadhu Atoll and Addu Atoll...

     and Addu City.


These provinces correspond to the historic divisions of Uthuru Boduthiladhunmathi. Dhekunu Boduthiladhunmathi, Uthuru Medhu-Raajje, Medhu-Raajje, Dhekunu Medhu-Raajje, Huvadhu (or Uthuru Suvadinmathi) and Addumulah (or Dhekunu Suvadinmathi).

The Maldives has twenty-six natural atolls
Atolls of the Maldives
The Maldives are formed by a number of natural atolls plus atolls in the form of a few islands and isolated reefs today which form a pattern stretching from 7 degrees 10' North to 0 degrees 45' South....

 and few island groups on isolated reefs, all of which have been divided into twenty-one administrative divisions (twenty administrative atolls and Malé
Malé
Malé , is the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. It is located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll . It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King's Island, from where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties ruled and where...

 city).

In addition to a name, every administrative division is identified by the Maldivian code letters, such as "Haa Alif" for Thiladhunmati Uthuruburi
Northern Thiladhunmathi Atoll
Northern Thiladhunmathi Atoll is the northern section of Thiladhunmathi Atoll, a natural atoll of the Maldives.As the administrative division known as Haa Alif Atoll it includes Ihavandhippolhu, the northernmost natural atoll of the Maldive archipelago, as well as a section of the larger...

 (Thiladhunmathi North); and by a Latin code letter.

The first corresponds to the geographical Maldivian name of the atoll.
The second is a code adopted for convenience. It began in order to facilitate radio communication between the atolls and the central administration. As there are certain islands in different atolls that have the same name, for administrative purposes this code is quoted before the name of the island, for example: Baa Funadhoo, Kaafu Funadhoo, Gaafu-Alifu Funadhoo. Since most Atolls have very long geographical names it is also used whenever the long name is inconvenient, for example in the atoll website names.

This code denomination has been very much abused by foreigners who did not understand the proper use of these names and have ignored the Maldivian true names in publications for tourists. Maldivians may use the letter code name in colloquial conversation, but in serious geographic, historical or cultural writings, the true geographical name always takes precedence. The Latin code letter is normally used in boat registration plates. The letter stands for the atoll and the number for the island.

Each atoll is administered by an Atoll Chief (Atholhu Veriyaa) appointed 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
Tribal chief
A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom. Tribal societies with social stratification under a single leader emerged in the Neolithic period out of earlier tribal structures with little stratification, and they remained prevalent throughout the Iron Age.In the case of ...

 (Katheeb), appointed by the President. The Island Chief's immediate superior is the Atoll Chief.

The introduction of code-letter names has been a source of much puzzlement and misunderstandings, especially among foreigners. Many people have come to think that the code-letter of the administrative atoll is its new name and that it has replaced its geographical name. Under such circumstances it is hard to know which is the correct name to use.

As a Republic the Constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

 came into force in 1968 (and was amended in 1970, 1972, and 1975.) On 27 November 1997 was replaced by another Constitution assented to by the President Gayoom
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was President of the Maldives from 1978 to 2008. After serving as Minister of Transport, he was nominated as President by the Majlis of the Maldives and succeeded Ibrahim Nasir on November 11, 1978. He eventually became the longest-ruling head of government in Asia...

. This Constitution came into force on 1 January 1998. All stated that the president
President of the Maldives
The President of the Maldives is the Head of State and Head of Government and first citizen of the Republic of Maldives and the Supreme Commander of the Maldivian armed forces.The current President of the Republic of Maldives is Mohamed Nasheed....

 was the Head of State, Head of Government and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
Maldives National Defence Force
The Maldives National Defence Force is the combined security organisation responsible for defending the security and sovereignty of the Maldives, having the primary task of being responsible for attending to all internal and external security needs of the Maldives, including the protection of the...

 and the Police of the Maldives. A third Constitution was ratified on 7 August 2008, which separated the judiciary
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 from the head of state.

Judiciary



According to the Constitution of Maldives, "The judges are independent, and subject only to the constitution and the law. When deciding matters on which the Constitution or the law is silent, judges must consider Islamic Shari'ah
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

."

The independent Judicial Services Commission is the core of the judiciary. It oversees the appointment and dismissal of judges, and acts as a 'watchdog' to ensure that Judges uphold the code of conduct. Currently in an interim stage, one member is appointed by the president
President of the Maldives
The President of the Maldives is the Head of State and Head of Government and first citizen of the Republic of Maldives and the Supreme Commander of the Maldivian armed forces.The current President of the Republic of Maldives is Mohamed Nasheed....

 others come from the Civil Service Commission, parliament, the public, high court judge, lower court judge and a supreme court member. Including a supreme court member presents a conflict of interest
Conflict of interest
A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other....

 given that the Supreme Court must be composed with the advice of the commission.

There has been raised concerns over the independence of the commission, given that of eight interim members, the President appoints one and all current judges were appointed by President Gayoom under the previous constitution, of whom two were appointed to the commission.

The Supreme Court of Maldives is headed by a Chief Justice, who is the head of judiciary. As of 2008 the President had appointed 5 judge
Judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

s, who were approved by the Parliament. The interim court will sit until a new permanent Supreme Court is nominated under the constitution. Underneath the Supreme Court
Supreme court
A supreme court is the highest court within the hierarchy of many legal jurisdictions. Other descriptions for such courts include court of last resort, instance court, judgment court, high court, or apex court...

 sit a High Court
High Court
The term High Court usually refers to the superior court of a country or state. In some countries, it is the highest court . In others, it is positioned lower in the hierarchy of courts The term High Court usually refers to the superior court (or supreme court) of a country or state. In some...

 and a Trial court
Trial court
A trial court or court of first instance is a court in which trials take place. Such courts are said to have original jurisdiction.- In the United States :...

. The constitution requires an odd number of judges in the High Court of Maldives, leading to the current three appointed justices
Judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

. Verdict
Verdict
In law, a verdict is the formal finding of fact made by a jury on matters or questions submitted to the jury by a judge. The term, from the Latin veredictum, literally means "to say the truth" and is derived from Middle English verdit, from Anglo-Norman: a compound of ver and dit In law, a verdict...

s must be reached by a majority, but must also include a minority report.

An appointed Prosecutor General is responsible for initiating court proceedings on behalf of the government, oversees how investigations are being conducted and has a say in criminal prosecutions, duties previously held by the Attorney General
Attorney General
In most common law jurisdictions, the attorney general, or attorney-general, is the main legal advisor to the government, and in some jurisdictions he or she may also have executive responsibility for law enforcement or responsibility for public prosecutions.The term is used to refer to any person...

. The Prosecutor General has the power to order investigations, monitor detentions, lodge appeals and review existing cases. The Prosecutor General is appointed by the President and has to be approved by the Parliament.

The Maldives, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Development Programme
The United Nations Development Programme is the United Nations' global development network. It advocates for change and connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP operates in 177 countries, working with nations on their own solutions to...

 (UNDP), wrote the world's first Islamic criminal code. As of 2008 the code awaited action by the parliament.

Military



The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) is a combined security force responsible for defending the security and sovereignty of the Maldives, having the primary task of being responsible for attending to all internal and external security needs of the Maldives, including the protection of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The MNDF component branches are the Coast Guard, the Fire & Rescue Service, Infantry Services, Defence Institute for Training & Education (Training Command), and Support Services.

Coast Guard


As a water-bound nation much of the security concerns lie at sea. Almost 99% of the country is covered by sea and the remaining 1% land is scattered over an area of 800 km (497 mi) x 120 km (75 mi), with the largest island being not more than 8 km² (3 sq mi). Therefore the duties assigned to the MNDF of maintaining surveillance over Maldives' waters and providing protection against foreign intruders poaching in the EEZ and territorial waters, are immense tasks from both logistical and economic view points. Hence, for carrying out these functions, it is the Coast Guard that plays a vital role. To provide timely security its patrol boats are stationed at various MNDF Regional Headquarters.

Coast Guard is also assigned to respond to the maritime distress calls and to conduct search and rescue operations in a timely manner. Maritime pollution control exercises are conducted regularly on an annual basis for familiarization and handling of such hazardous situations.

Coast Guards also undertake armed sea transport of troops and military equipment around the country.

Demographics



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
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

. They are ethnically known as Dhivehis.

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. Traditionally, instead of a complex caste
Caste
Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. It should not be confused with race or social class, e.g. members of different castes in one society may belong to the same race, as in India...

 system, there was merely a distinction between noble (bēfulhu) and common people in the Maldives. Members of the social elite are concentrated in Malé.

A census has been recorded since 1905, which shows that the population of the country remained around 100,000 for the following sixty years. Following independence in 1965, the rate of population growth rose due to improving health. The population doubled by 1978, and the population growth rate peaked at 3.4% in 1985. By 2007, the population had reached 300,000, although the census in 2000 showed that the population growth rate had declined to 1.9%. Life expectancy at birth stood at 46 years in 1978, and later rose to 72. Infant mortality has declined from 127 per thousand in 1977 to 12 per thousand today, and adult literacy reached 99%. Combined school enrollment reached the high 90s.

As of April 2008, more than 70,000 foreign employees lived in the country and another 33,000 illegal immigrants comprised more than one third of Maldivian population. They consisted mainly of people from the neighboring South Asian countries of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

 and Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

.

Economy


In ancient times the Maldives were renowned for cowry shells, coir
Coir
Coir is a natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconut and used in products such as floor mats, doormats, brushes, mattresses etc. Technically coir is the fibrous material found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut. Other uses of brown coir are in upholstery...

 rope, dried tuna
Tuna
Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of . Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an...

 fish (Maldive Fish), ambergris
Ambergris
Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales....

 (Maavaharu) and coco de mer
Coco de mer
The Coco de Mer , the sole member of the genus Lodoicea, is a palm endemic to the islands of Praslin and Curieuse in the Seychelles. It formerly also was found on St Pierre, Chauve-Souris and Ile Ronde in the Seychelles group, but has become extinct on these islands...

 (Tavakkaashi). Local and foreign trading ships used to load these products in Sri Lanka and transport them to other harbors in the Indian Ocean.

Historically Maldives provided enormous quantities of cowry
Cowry
Cowry, also sometimes spelled cowrie, plural cowries, is the common name for a group of small to large sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Cypraeidae, the cowries...

 shells, an international currency of the early ages
History of money
The history of money spans thousands of years. Numismatics is the scientific study of money and its history in all its varied forms.Many items have been used as commodity money such as natural scarce precious metals, cowry shells, barley, beads etc., as well as many other things that are thought of...

. From the 2nd century AD the islands were known as the 'Money Isles' by the Arabs. Monetaria moneta were used for centuries as a currency in Africa, and huge amounts of Maldivian
Maldivian
Maldivian may refer to:* Maldivian people , the ethnic group inhabiting the historic region of the Maldive Islands comprising what is now officially the Republic of Maldives and the island of Minicoy in Union territory of Lakshadweep, India....

 cowries were introduced into Africa by western nations during the period of slave trade. The cowry is now the symbol of the Maldives Monetary Authority
Maldives Monetary Authority
Maldives Monetary Authority or MMA acts as the central bank of the republic of Maldives and was established on July 1, 1981, under the mandate provided by the "MMA Act" of 1981...

.

The Maldivian government began an economic reform program in 1989, initially by lifting import quotas and opening some exports to the private sector. Subsequently, it has liberalized regulations to allow more foreign investment. Real GDP growth averaged over 7.5% per year for more than a decade. Today, the Maldives' largest industry is tourism
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

, accounting for 28% of GDP
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

 and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Fishing is the second leading sector.

The Maldivian economy is to a large degree based on tourism. In late December 2004, the major tsunami
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea megathrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, December 26, 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake itself is known by the scientific community as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake...

 left more than 100 dead, 12,000 displaced, and property damage exceeding $400 million. As a result of the tsunami, the GDP contracted by about 3.6% in 2005. A rebound in tourism, post-tsunami reconstruction, and development of new resorts helped the economy recover quickly and showed an 18% increase on 2006. 2007 estimates show Maldivians enjoy the highest GDP per capita $4,600 (2007 est) among south Asian countries.

Tourism




Maldives was largely terra incognita
Terra incognita
Terra incognita or terra ignota is a term used in cartography for regions that have not been mapped or documented. The expression is believed to be first seen in Ptolemy’s Geography circa 150 CE...

 for tourists until the early 1970s. Only 185 islands are home to its 300,000 population, while the other islands are used entirely for economic purposes of which tourism and agriculture are the most dominant. Tourism accounts for 28% of GDP
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

 and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. The development of tourism
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 fostered the overall growth of the country's economy. It created direct and indirect employment and income generation opportunities in other related industries. The first tourist resorts were opened in 1972 with Bandos island resort and Kurumba Village.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, the emergence of tourism in 1972 transformed the economy, moving rapidly from dependence on fisheries to tourism. In just three and a half decades, the industry became the main source of income. Tourism was also the country's biggest foreign currency earner and the single largest contributor to the GDP. As of 2008, 89 resorts in the Maldives offered over 17,000 beds and hosted over 600,000 tourists annually.

The number of resorts increased from 2 to 92 between 1972 and 2007. As of 2007, over 8,380,000 tourists had visited Maldives.

Most visitors arrived at Malé International Airport
Malé International Airport
Ibrahim Nasir International Airport , more commonly known as Malé International Airport, previously known as Hulhulé Airport, is the main international airport in the Maldives...

, on Hulhulé Island, adjacent to the capital Malé. The airport is served by flights to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, Doha
Doha
Doha is the capital city of the state of Qatar. Located on the Persian Gulf, it had a population of 998,651 in 2008, and is also one of the municipalities of Qatar...

, Dubai
Dubai
Dubai is a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates . The emirate is located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and has the largest population with the second-largest land territory by area of all the emirates, after Abu Dhabi...

, Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 and major airports in South-East Asia, as well as of charters from Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. Gan Airport, on the southern atoll of Addu, also serves an international flight to Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 several times a week.

Outside the service industry, Male 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.

Fishing industry




For many centuries the Maldivian economy was entirely dependent on fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 and other marine
Ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

 products. Fishing remains the main occupation of the people and the government gives priority to the fisheries sector.

The mechanization
Mechanization
Mechanization or mechanisation is providing human operators with machinery that assists them with the muscular requirements of work or displaces muscular work. In some fields, mechanization includes the use of hand tools...

 of the traditional fishing boat called dhoni
Dhoni
Dhoni or Doni is a multi-purpose sail boat with a motor or lateen sails that is used in the Maldives. It is handcrafted and its use within the multi-island nation has been very important. A dhoni resembles a dhow, a traditional Arab sailing vessel.The traditional dhoni is one of the oldest known...

in 1974 was a major milestone in the development of the fisheries industry. A fish canning plant was installed on Felivaru
Felivaru
' is owned by the government of Maldives. The company specializes in producing highest quality canned tuna and cooked loins for local and export markets....

 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 began 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
Exclusive Economic Zone
Under the law of the sea, an exclusive economic zone is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including production of energy from water and wind. It stretches from the seaward edge of the state's territorial sea out to 200 nautical...

 (EEZ) of the Maldives for fisheries has further enhanced the growth of the fisheries sector.

As of 2010, fisheries contributed over fifteen percent of the country's GDP and engaged about thirty percent of the country's work force. Fisheries were also the second-largest foreign exchange earner after tourism.

Agriculture and Cottage industries


Agriculture and manufacturing continue to play a lesser role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and the shortage of domestic labor. Most staple foods must be imported. Industry, which consists mainly of garment production, boat building, and handicrafts, accounts for about 7% of GDP.
Tourism gave a major boost to the country's fledgling traditional cottage industries such as mat weaving, lacquer
Lacquer
In a general sense, lacquer is a somewhat imprecise term for a clear or coloured varnish that dries by solvent evaporation and often a curing process as well that produces a hard, durable finish, in any sheen level from ultra matte to high gloss and that can be further polished as required...

 work, handicraft
Handicraft
Handicraft, more precisely expressed as artisanic handicraft, sometimes also called artisanry, is a type of work where useful and decorative devices are made completely by hand or by using only simple tools. It is a traditional main sector of craft. Usually the term is applied to traditional means...

, and coir rope making. New industries that have since emerged include printing, production of PVC
Polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC, is a thermoplastic polymer. It is a vinyl polymer constructed of repeating vinyl groups having one hydrogen replaced by chloride. Polyvinyl chloride is the third most widely produced plastic, after polyethylene and polypropylene. PVC is widely used in...

 pipes
Pipe (material)
A pipe is a tubular section or hollow cylinder, usually but not necessarily of circular cross-section, used mainly to convey substances which can flow — liquids and gases , slurries, powders, masses of small solids...

, brick
Brick
A brick is a block of ceramic material used in masonry construction, usually laid using various kinds of mortar. It has been regarded as one of the longest lasting and strongest building materials used throughout history.-History:...

 making, marine engine
Engine
An engine or motor is a machine designed to convert energy into useful mechanical motion. Heat engines, including internal combustion engines and external combustion engines burn a fuel to create heat which is then used to create motion...

 repairs, bottling of aerated water
Aerated water
Aerated water is, correctly speaking, distilled water to which purified air is added to improve its flavor.The term is, however, frequently applied to carbonated water.-Purpose of aeration:...

, and garment production.

Religion



Islam is the official religion of The Maldives. Maldives is a 99.41% Muslim country although open practice of all other religions is forbidden and such actions are liable to prosecution. Article 2 of the revised constitution says that the republic "is based on the principles of Islam." Article nine says that "a non-Muslim may not become a citizen"; Article ten says that "no law contrary to any principle of Islam can be applied" Article nineteen states that "citizens are free to participate in or carry out any activity that is not expressly prohibited by sharia or by the law."

The requirement to adhere to a particular religion and prohibition of public worship following other religions is contrary to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

 and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and in force from March 23, 1976...

 to which Maldives has recently become party and was addressed in Maldives' reservation in adhering to the Covenant claiming that "The application of the principles set out in Article 18 of the Covenant shall be without prejudice to the Constitution of the Republic of the Maldives."

The Maldives ranks high on the list of governments that restrict religious freedom.

The Indian Ocean Commission



Since 1996, the Maldives has been the official progress monitor of the Indian Ocean Commission
Indian Ocean Commission
The Indian Ocean Commission , known as the Commission de l'Océan Indien in French, is an intergovernmental organization that joins Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, France , and the Seychelles together to encourage cooperation. It was started in January 1984 under the General Victoria Agreement...

. In 2002, the Maldives began to express interest in the Commission but as of 2008 had not applied for membership. Maldive's interest relates to its identity as a small island state, especially economic development and environmental preservation, and its desire for closer relations with France, a main actor in the IOC region. The Maldives is a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is an organisation of South Asian nations, founded in December 1985 by Ziaur Rahman and dedicated to economic, technological, social, and cultural development emphasising collective self-reliance. Its seven founding members are Bangladesh,...

, SAARC, and as former protectorate of Great Britain, joined the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 in 1982, some 17 years after gaining independence from Great Britain. The Maldives enjoys close ties with Commonwealth members Seychelles
Seychelles
Seychelles , officially the Republic of Seychelles , is an island country spanning an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, some east of mainland Africa, northeast of the island of Madagascar....

 and Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

. The Maldives and Comoros
Comoros
The Comoros , officially the Union of the Comoros is an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa, on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar...

 are also both members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. The Maldives has refused to negotiate with Mauritius over the demarcation of the maritime border between the Maldives and the British Indian Ocean Territory
British Indian Ocean Territory
The British Indian Ocean Territory or Chagos Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean, halfway between Africa and Indonesia...

, instead continuing discussions with the United Kingdom, who under international law, retains sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago
Chagos Archipelago
The Chagos Archipelago , is a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 individual tropical islands in the Indian Ocean; situated some due south of the Maldives archipelago. This chain of islands are the southernmost archipelago of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge a long submarine mountain range...

.

Language and culture





Maldivian
Maldivian
Maldivian may refer to:* Maldivian people , the ethnic group inhabiting the historic region of the Maldive Islands comprising what is now officially the Republic of Maldives and the island of Minicoy in Union territory of Lakshadweep, India....

 culture is heavily influenced by geographical proximity to Sri Lanka and southern India.

The official and common language is Dhivehi
Dhivehi language
Maldivian is an Indo-Aryan language predominantly spoken by about 350,000 people in the Maldives where it is the national language. It is also the first language of nearly 10,000 people in the island of Minicoy in the Union territory of Lakshadweep, India where the Mahl dialect of the Maldivian...

, an Indo-European language having some similarities with Elu
Elu
The Elu language is the name given to the ancient form of the Sinhala variant of the Middle Indo-Aryan languages...

, the ancient Sinhalese language. The first known script used to write Dhivehi is Eveyla akuru
Eveyla Akuru
Eveyla Akuru is a script formerly used to write the Divehi language in the Dhivehi Writing Systems....

 script which is found in historical recording of kings (raadhavalhi). Later a script called Dhives akuru
Dhives Akuru
Divehi Akuru or Dhives Akuru is a script formerly used to write the Divehi language. This script was christened "Dives Akuru" by H. C. P...

 was used for a long period. The present-day script is called Thaana
Thaana
Thaana, Taana or Tāna is the modern writing system of the Divehi language spoken in the Maldives. Taana has characteristics of both an abugida and a true alphabet , with consonants derived from indigenous and Arabic numerals, and vowels derived from the vowel diacritics of the Arabic abjad...

 and is written from right to left. Thaana is said to have been introduced by the reign of Mohamed Thakurufaanu. English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 is used widely in commerce
Commerce
While business refers to the value-creating activities of an organization for profit, commerce means the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural, and technological systems that are in operation in any...

 and increasingly in government schools.

The language is of Indic Sanskritic origin, which points at a later influence from the north of the subcontinent. According to the legends, the kingly dynasty that ruled the country in the past had its origin there.

After the long Buddhist period of Maldivian history, Muslim traders introduced Sunni Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. Maldivians converted to Islam by the mid-12th century. The island has a long history of Sufic orders, as can be seen in the history of the country such as the building of tomb
Tomb
A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes...

s. They were used until as recent as the 1980s for seeking the help of buried Saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

s. They can be seen today next to some old mosques and are considered today as cultural heritage
Cultural heritage
Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations...

. Other aspects of tassawuf, such as ritualized dhikr
Dhikr
Dhikr , plural ; ), is an Islamic devotional act, typically involving the repetition of the Names of God, supplications or formulas taken from hadith texts and verses of the Qur'an. Dhikr is usually done individually, but in some Sufi orders it is instituted as a ceremonial activity...

 ceremonies called Maulūdu (Mawlid
Mawlid
Mawlid or sometimes ميلاد , mīlād is a term used to refer to the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad which occurs in Rabi' al-awwal,...

)—the liturgy
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 of which included recitations and certain supplications in a melodical tone—existed until very recent times. These Maulūdu festivals were held in ornate tents specially built for the occasion. At present Sunni Islam is the official religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 of the entire population, as adherence to it is required for citizenship.

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
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 and its location as a crossroads in the central Indian Ocean. This was due to the long trading history between the far east
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

 and the middle east
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

. Somali
Somali people
Somalis are an ethnic group located in the Horn of Africa, also known as the Somali Peninsula. The overwhelming majority of Somalis speak the Somali language, which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family...

 travelers discovered the island for gold in the 13th Century, before the Portuguese. Their brief stay later ended in a bloody conflict known by the Somalis as "Dagaal Diig Badaaney" in 1424.

According to Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta , or simply Ibn Battuta, also known as Shams ad–Din , was a Muslim Moroccan Berber explorer, known for his extensive travels published in the Rihla...

, the person responsible for this conversion was a Sunni Muslim visitor named Abu al Barakat sailing from Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

. However, more reliable Maldivian tradition says that he was a Persian saint from Tabriz
Tabriz
Tabriz is the fourth largest city and one of the historical capitals of Iran and the capital of East Azerbaijan Province. Situated at an altitude of 1,350 meters at the junction of the Quri River and Aji River, it was the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960s, one of its former...

 called Yusuf Shamsuddin. He is also referred to as Tabrizugefaanu. His venerated tomb now stands on the grounds of the Friday Mosque, or Hukuru miskiy, in Malé. Built in 1656, this is the country's oldest mosque.

Maldives' Firsts

  • Set a record in 2006 for the largest number of scuba divers participating in one dive, with a grand total of 958 divers descending into the water at the same time. This record was broken by Indonesia in 2009.
  • Opened the first virtual embassy, in the online world Second Life
    Second Life
    Second Life is an online virtual world developed by Linden Lab. It was launched on June 23, 2003. A number of free client programs, or Viewers, enable Second Life users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars...

    , on 22 May 2007.
  • Held the first cabinet meeting underwater. The meeting was chaired by President Mohamed Nasheed. In the meeting, the President, Vice President, and the cabinet signed a declaration calling for concerted global action on climate change, ahead of the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. The underwater meeting was part of a wider campaign by international environmental NGO 350.org
    350.org
    350.org is an international environmental organization, headed by author Bill McKibben, with the goal of building a global grassroots movement to raise awareness of anthropogenic climate change, to confront climate change denial, and to cut emissions of one of the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide,...

    .

See also


  • Commonwealth of Nations
    Commonwealth of Nations
    The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

  • Ibn Battuta in the Maldives


Further reading

  • Divehiraajjege Jōgrafīge Vanavaru. Muhammadu Ibrahim Lutfee. G.Sōsanī. Malé 1999.
  • H. C. P. Bell, The Maldive Islands, An account of the Physical Features, History, Inhabitants, Productions and Trade. Colombo 1883, ISBN 8120612221
  • H.C.P. Bell, The Maldive Islands; Monograph on the History, Archaeology and Epigraphy. Reprint Colombo 1940. Council for Linguistic and Historical Research. Male' 1989
  • H.C.P. Bell, Excerpta Maldiviana. Reprint Colombo 1922/35 edn. Asian Educational Services. New Delhi 1999
  • Xavier Romero-Frias
    Xavier Romero-Frias
    Xavier Romero-Frias , is a Spanish writer and scholar. He lived in the Maldives over a 13-year period. His present residence is in Bangkok, Thailand.-Works:...

    , The Maldive Islanders, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom. Barcelona 1999, ISBN 8472548015
  • Divehi Tārīkhah Au Alikameh. Divehi Bahāi Tārikhah Khidmaiykurā Qaumī Markazu. Reprint 1958 edn. Malé 1990.
  • Christopher, William 1836–38. Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society, Vol. I. Bombay.
  • Lieut. I.A. Young & W. Christopher, Memoirs on the Inhabitants of the Maldive Islands.
  • Geiger, Wilhelm
    Wilhelm Geiger
    Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger was a German Orientalist, in the fields of Indian and Iranian languages. He was known as a specialist in Pali, Sinhala language and the Dhivehi language of the Maldives.-Life:...

    . Maldivian Linguistic Studies. Reprint 1919 edn. Asian Educational Services. Delhi 1999.
  • Hockly, T.W. The Two Thousand Isles. Reprint 1835 edn. Asian Educational Services. Delhi 2003.
  • Hideyuki Takahashi, Maldivian National Security –And the Threats of Mercenaries, The Round Table(London), No. 351, July 1999, pp. 433–444.
  • Malten, Thomas: Malediven und Lakkadiven. Materialien zur Bibliographie der Atolle im Indischen Ozean. Beiträge zur Südasien-Forschung Südasien-Institut Universität Heidelberg, Nr. 87. Franz Steiner Verlag. Wiesbaden, 1983.
  • Vilgon, Lars: Maldive and Minicoy Islands Bibliography with the Laccadive Islands. Published by the author. Stockholm, 1994.

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