Maldives has a multifaceted culture which is influenced by Indian, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Arab, Persian and Indonesian influences. This is evident in the music and dance, particularly when you see a performance of Boduberu. You’ll also notice a South African influence on food in the form of spicy curries, fish and roshi – a thin flatbread.
Although archaeological remains of early island buildings are rare, studies suggest that the Maldives were inhabited as early as 500 BCE by people who practised Buddhism. It would appear that these were mainly Sinhalese people who moved from the Sri Lankan coast. Some features of Maldivian language and customs are believed to have originated from this period.
In 1978 the sultanate of Maldives gained independence from British rule. Maumoon Gayoom became president in 1978 and remained so until 2008, when he was ousted by a popular referendum. A new constitution established greater governmental checks and balances and allowed for the formation of political parties.
As the country is surrounded by water, most of its islands are resorts and tourism is one of the main industries. Taxes from the industry are plowed into infrastructure and social services. The lack of potable water and limited arable land limits development. Most of the population live on the capital island, Male’. The remaining islands are uninhabited or used for fishing and agriculture. There are no roads on most of the islands, so transportation is by boat or seaplane.