A dazzling archipelago that reflects the enchanting beauty of its surroundings, Maldives was likely first inhabited by purposeful immigrants and ship-wrecked sailors from southern India and Sri Lanka. Unlike the strict division of society in those countries into Hindu castes, Maldivian culture has a simpler two-tier pattern: nobles and commoners.
The Maldivians are expert artisans, specializing in lacquerwork and woven mats made from dyed reeds. They also create intricately carved wooden ornaments and coral carvings. Music and dance are considered expressions of unity and nationhood with Maldivian songs and rhythms showing strong influences from East Africa, Arabia and the Indian subcontinent.
Most Maldivian families are nuclear in nature and family honor is highly cherished. Women are expected to adhere to Islamic codes of conduct, including maintaining their maiden names after marriage. Marriage at an early age is the norm. Pre-marital sex is not tolerated.
Tourism is the economic mainstay of the Maldives with a visa-free policy allowing visitors from most nationalities to enter as long as they have a passport, proof of funds and a return flight booked. This open door policy has led to some speculation that the Maldives is a haven for fugitives from justice but that is most certainly not the case.
Politically, the country is a republic with the president and the supreme court being the highest levels of government. The constitution grants the president the power to appoint judges and sets out laws that govern the nation. The country is a Sunni Muslim state and the judiciary uses Shari’ah as its legal code.