The Maldives’ climate is tropical and influenced by monsoon weather, making it an all-year-round destination. Tourism is the main source of income, contributing to 28% of GDP and 90% of government tax revenue. Fishing and shipping are also major sources of income.
In the early years of this century, a series of reforms began to modernize the country. They included a multiparty political system, greater governmental checks and balances, and social services improvements. After 30 years of almost unchallenged rule, President Gayoom was overthrown in 2008 and former political prisoner Mohamed Nasheed assumed the presidency.
Local culture has a strong South Asian influence and this is evident in dance, music and food. Spicy curries and fish are served alongside a flatbread called ‘roshi’, but many resort restaurants serve a range of world cuisine.
Education is valued in the Maldives and a traditional teaching practice saw kids visit the houses of educated people to receive home tuition. The letters of the alphabet were written on a thin wooden board kept on the student’s lap. Cowrie shells, made from the husks of coconuts, were once a valuable trade commodity, as was coir fibre, used in ship’s rigging.
Sports are very popular in the Maldives and it is common to see young boys and girls playing football on the beach. Basketball, tennis and baseball are also played. The Maldives is a Muslim country and adherence to religious laws is a core value of the nation. Respect for elders is high and most families are nuclear in structure. Women have a respected role in society and maintain their maiden names after marriage. Polygamy is uncommon and premarital sex is illegal.