Inhabited since the 5th century BC by people coming across from what is today India and Sri Lanka, Maldives has a proud history and culture. While evidence suggests early inhabitants were Buddhist, Islam became the state religion in 1153 CE and is still the dominant faith in the country.

Language: Divehi, which is the local language, is used in administration and education, but many people speak English fluently in tourist regions. Until the 1960s, Dhivehi was the primary subject in schools and is still used to teach young Maldivians their national history and culture.

Food: The staple of the Maldivian diet is rice and fish with a wide range of spices. A lot of Indian influences are seen in their cooking, including the use of coconut milk and curry.

Other dishes include the fried fish Theluli Mas (fish that’s saturated with lime juice and chillies) and Garudhiya, a tuna soup made from salted water, curry leaves, onions and chilies that is served with rice and roshi. Breadfruit is also a popular ingredient in the cuisine and is steamed, then mashed and seasoned with spices like ginger, curry and chilies.

Snacks: Hedhikaa is a word for snacks in Divehi, and a range of traditional foods are enjoyed during the day, from bajiya, a pastry stuffed with fish and coconut, to kulhi boakiba and deep-fried snacks made with rice, tuna, lentils and coconut. Another favourite is raa, a toddy tapped from palm trees and slightly alcoholic.

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