The Maldives is known as a tropical paradise, but this island nation has an extremely rich and varied culture that goes far beyond vacationing and honeymooning. This is especially true when it comes to food.

The cuisine reflects the islands’ history as a crossroads between India, Africa and Arabia, and is based primarily on local products such as fish and coconuts. Most residents also maintain home gardens where they grow vegetables, sweet potatoes, cassava and breadfruit.

A typical meal consists of fish or seafood such as tuna and mackerel, curry, rice, and spicy vegetable dishes. The most popular snacks include hedhikaa, which is similar to a samosa and made with fish, coconuts and onion, as well as kulhi boakiba, a deep-fried fish cake saturated in chillies.

Maldivian culture is also reflected in music and art. The official language is Divehi, though English is widely spoken. The majority of the population follows Sunni Islam, and strict adherence to Islamic practice is a key element of Maldivian identity. The country follows a nonaligned policy and has friendly relations with most countries, including the United States. It has a UN mission in New York, an embassy in Sri Lanka and trade representatives in London and Singapore. It is also a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was elected to six consecutive terms between 1978 and 2008, but was ousted in 2012 when the opposition candidate won the presidency.

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