When it comes to the food on offer in Maldives seafood is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind, however the cuisine also includes a wide variety of vegetarian and spice-based dishes with Indian, Sinhalese and Arabic influences. Maldivian tajine and risotto are just two examples of delicious local dishes.

The state religion is Islam and this influences the way people live on the islands – respect for elders and strong bonding with immediate and extended family members are key to island life. Women are given a highly respected role in society and maintain their maiden names after marriage. Polygamy is illegal and pre-marital sex is not encouraged.

In a referendum in 1968 the citizens of Maldives voted to end the monarchy and make the country a republic. The first president was Ibrahim Nasir who was succeeded by Maumoon Gayoom in 1978.

The Maldives are a small and densely populated archipelago that straddles two busy east-west shipping lanes. There are several ways to travel around the country, including domestic flights, passenger boats and seaplanes. The main language is Maldivian, although English is widely spoken. Locally produced handicrafts, jewellery and woven mats are excellent souvenirs and it’s worth seeking out the ‘Made in the Maldives’ label.

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