A tropical island country of pristine white beaches, clear turquoise waters and abundant sea life. Music and dance are woven into the fabric of Maldivian culture, influenced by various cultures from across the globe. Natural tunes carried by ocean breezes and the rhythm of waves create a unique musical experience. The Maldivian people have a strong sense of community with great respect for elders and a close bondage with immediate family members. Women enjoy a respected role in society and maintain their maiden names after marriage. Polygamy is not practised in Maldives and the legal age for marriage is 18.
The Republic of Maldives is a secular state with Islamic law governing its social and political structure. The constitution lays out a democratic system of government with the president elected by direct national vote for five years and head of state, while legislative authority (the Majlis of Maldives) is unicameral with 87 members representing seven provinces and 20 atolls.
Tourism is the main industry in the Maldives and has a huge impact on its economy. The government has an open-door policy on visas and allows tourists with a valid passport, proof of onward travel and sufficient funds to enter the country. This has resulted in claims that the Maldives is a safe haven for fugitives from justice.
The 2008 presidential election brought a change of leadership to the Maldives with Mohamed Nasheed becoming president after decades of rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who refused to hold free elections and repressed political dissidents. The new government has focused on economic and infrastructure development, taking attention away from political wrangling.