Maldives is a tropical country, situated just one degree south of the equator. The climate is generally warm and sunny all year round with temperatures rarely varying more than between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius.
The Maldives has a rich culture, influenced by India and Sri Lanka. The official language is Dhivehi and English is widely spoken in tourist areas. The main religion is Sunni Islam.
Food is an important part of life in the Maldives and many traditional dishes are based on fish. Tuna is the star ingredient, including frigate (raagondi), little tunny (latti), skipjack (kanneli) and yellowfin tuna (saragi). Other popular fish species include bigeye scad (fiyala), mahi-mahi (rimmas) and wahoo (kurumas). The curry dishes are especially delicious, filled with a combination of spices and flavours.
Maldivians are a friendly and hospitable people. They often come across as shy at the beginning, but once you strike up a conversation they will happily share their beliefs, traditions, cooking styles and favourite foods.
A key figure in the history of the Maldives was Ibrahim Nasir, the first president (1953-1968). He is credited with modernising the country by mechanising the fishing industry and starting the tourism business, both of which are major industries today. Other achievements included introducing an English-based modern curriculum into government schools and granting women the vote. He also built the country’s first international airport in 1966. He was succeeded by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Gayoom’s policies focused on infrastructure and economic growth. He boosted tourism and made many infrastructure improvements, including bringing the capital city Male into the 21st century with a new airport and improved roads.