The Maldives is a tropical country that has a rich culture with strong influences from South Asia, including India and Sri Lanka. The state religion is Sunni Islam. The majority of the population is ethnically Maldivian, with a small percentage of Indians and some minorities. The language of the majority is Dhivehi, an Indo-Iranian language related to Sinhalese. English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
Fish is a staple of the local cuisine in the Maldives and many dishes feature tuna species such as little tunny (latti), skipjack tuna (kandumas or goda) and yellowfin tuna (kanneli). Other popular species include bigeye scad (mushimas), mahi-mahi (fiyala) and mackerel scad (rimmas). Locals also enjoy vegetarian food such as fresh sabudana pudding, which is made from sago warmed in coconut milk and laced with condensed milk, flavoured with essences of rose and cardamom.
The women of the Maldives are known for their embroidered kunaa mats, which they weave at home. The intricate designs are traditionally done in black, red and yellow. The woven kunaa mats are then coated with lacquer. Lacquer is usually applied in the form of powder and then brushed onto the kunaa mats using a brush. The lacquer work is generally done by men while the weaving of kunaa mats is often carried out by women.
The Maldives is a Muslim-majority country, and most people dress modestly. Men generally wear a short-sleeved or polo shirt with khaki trousers, while women are usually dressed in flowing tops and skirts. Women also wear the simple customary libaas or burugaa head covering.