While many people think of Maldives as a paradise, this unique string of islands has had a stormy past both physically and politically. However, the current political climate is much more stable and the future looks promising.

Historically, Maldivians depended on fishing and agriculture. Today, tourism is the primary source of income. Food is a large part of the culture, and the cuisine is an intriguing blend of Indian, Sinhalese, and Arabic influences. Seafood is a staple, and vegetarians and spice lovers will have no problem finding dishes they love. It’s important to note that pork is not commonly found in local dishes.

The 2008 constitution provides for a presidential republic with seven provinces and 20 atolls as administrative divisions. The president is elected to a five-year term and heads the government. The legislature, the Majlis of the Maldives, is unicameral with 87 members — most are elected by the atolls and eight are appointed by the president — and is based on Islamic law.

In addition to being a Muslim nation, the Maldives is also a secular state. The judiciary is independent of the executive branch and the media is free to operate. Maldivians have a strong sense of family and are respectful of elders. Women have a prominent role in the community and inherit property according to Islamic law.

Music and dance in the Maldives are influenced by East Africa, Arabia, and the Indian subcontinent. Traditional handicrafts include matt weaving and beautiful lacquer work.

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