The Maldives is a beautiful island paradise that is renowned for its pristine beaches, luxurious resorts and amazing snorkeling. Despite its popularity, it still has an authentic local culture that is worth exploring.
The local people are called Dhivehin and speak the Dhivehi language. They are primarily an Indo-Aryan people with traces of South Asian, Austronesian and East African influences in their genetic makeup. Their music and dancing are influenced by both South Asia and Middle Eastern cultures. There is also a strong tradition of Maldivian crafts; lacquered wooden ornaments, hand-woven reed mats and coral carvings can be seen on sale in the resorts and inhabited islands.
Historians believe that the first settlers of the Maldives were probably from southern India and Sri Lanka, who brought with them the Buddhist faith. By the early 14th century, the region had been converted to Islam. According to travel writer Ibn Battutah, it was an Islamic sultanate by the mid-1340s.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Maldives was ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. In 1953, a short-lived republic was formed and the government became a monarchy again in 1965. Today, the Maldives is a presidential republic and is one of the fastest growing countries in the world.
Tourism is the backbone of the economy, bringing in 28% of GDP and 90% of government tax revenue. The Maldives is a safe and welcoming country for travellers and there is no need to carry a lot of cash on your trip. It is best to use the credit card facilities of your resort and only bring enough cash for a few drinks at a bar.