The Maldives is a string of paradises with pristine beaches and turquoise waters. The Maldivian people are a proud and rich nation with an extensive culture that has evolved over the years from seafarers who traversed the oceans. The food is influenced by the cuisine of countries surrounding the Indian Ocean as well as those of Africa and Asia. Besides fish, the use of local ingredients such as coconut is prominent in most dishes. Many resorts, including Soneva Jani have special food rooms that include an incredible ice cream room with over 68 different flavors (including dairy free options) and a cheese tasting room among others.
Despite their beauty, these islands have had a turbulent past both physically and politically. Until recently, the nation had a government with a strong dictatorial streak and a regime that was very anti-western.
Islam is the state religion and freedom of religion is limited. Non-Muslims can not vote or hold public positions. Women are given a high status in society and the family is of great importance. Elders are respected and a strong bond is formed with immediate and extended family members. The inheritance laws are fair and equitable for both men and women. The legal age of marriage is 18 and pre-marital sex is not allowed.
The Maldivian language is based on the northern Indian languages which makes an affinity with North Indian music and Bollywood films very natural. Musical instruments like the bulbul tarang are also widely used.