The Maldives is the perfect place to get away from it all. Whether it is sipping cocktails on the beach under the stars or swimming in the bioluminescent water, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this idyllic country.

The culture of the Maldives is a rich mix of influences from East Africa, Arabia and India, reflecting its history as a trading port. Traditional music and dance display a strong African influence. Finely woven reed mats and lacquer-work are also a hallmark of Maldivian art.

Although Sunni Islam is the state religion, most Maldivians practice Hinduism and Buddhism. The language is Dhivehi, an Indo-Iranian one with close links to Sinhalese. English is widely used among tourists, and some people speak it fluently. The majority of people live on the islands, where agriculture and fishery were once important industries. Today, tourism plays a far bigger role.

In the capital, Male’, it is possible to see many different types of architecture from its period of colonial rule by Portugal and Britain. The Sultan’s Palace and the former administrative centre of the British Raj still stand.

A tropical climate prevails throughout the Maldives. Two yearly monsoon seasons affect the weather. The northeast monsoon, which generally runs from December to April, brings dry, mild winds. The southwest monsoon, which can run from May to August, brings heavy rains and winds. The annual rainfall averages around 2,000mm (80 in). The islanders use coconuts to build their homes and for cooking, and have a tradition of producing beautiful handicrafts of reed and palm frond. These products are sold in souvenir shops at resorts and in the capital, Male’.

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