When travellers think of Maldives, they often think of beautiful beaches, clear turquoise water and luxurious overwater villas. However, the island nation is rich in culture, history and traditions. Many of these originate from the first settlers, who were seafarers from various parts of the world and traversed the oceans over centuries. This has led to the Maldivians being a mix of many cultures, and the Maldivian way of life is as colourful and unique as its people.

The Maldivian flag is green with a red border and white crescent, and the national language is Maldivian, although English is widely spoken. Islam is the country’s main religion, and the practice of other religions is not permitted. Men and women are expected to dress modestly in public, with long skirts or tops covering their shoulders and chest. It is also impolite to wear bikinis and topless sunbathing is generally prohibited outside resorts.

Maldivians place great value on their elders and encourage strong bonds with immediate and extended family members. They respect women’s roles as mothers and wives, and women keep their maiden names after marriage. Marriage is usually at an early age, and pre-marital sex is not permitted.

The 2008 Constitution established a multi-party political system and strengthened governmental checks and balances. The President is elected for five years by a direct vote of the people, and the legislature is a unicameral Majlis (single chamber). A major goal of Gayoom’s government was to modernise the country’s economy, politics, social structure and legal system.

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