The tropical islands of the Maldives were inhabited as early as the 5th century bce, when Buddhist peoples came from Sri Lanka and southern India. In the 12th century, Islamic Arabs conquered the region, introducing Islam and converting locals to Muslims. The Maldives was a sultanate until the 17th century, when it became a British protectorate. It gained independence as a republic in 1968. Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM ruled for 30 years, but political demonstrations in 2004 and a military coup in 2008 ended his rule. Sultan Park and the National Museum (Chaandhanee Magu, Male) offer a snapshot of the country’s rich history.

The development of tourism has transformed the economy and brought many more jobs to the Maldives, but fishing remains a major industry. Agriculture and manufacturing play lesser roles. The official language is Dhivehi, but English is widely spoken. Most Maldivians are Sunni Muslim, and Islam has influenced the culture and society of the islands.

Tipping is not compulsory, but it’s always appreciated if you receive good service. The local currency is the rufiyaa, but all major resorts accept international credit cards. It’s not unusual to see a 10% service charge added to your bill, though this may be reduced or waived with good service. Local handicrafts, jewellery, mats and fabrics are on sale in resorts and inhabited islands. Look for the ‘Made in Maldives’ label to ensure your purchases are genuine. Islam is the state religion, so be respectful of local customs; cover your legs, shoulders and chest when entering mosques.

Share this blog post: