The Maldives is home to a proud culture that has evolved over the centuries primarily as the result of different influences brought in by seafarers from around the world. Some aspects of Maldivian culture reflect African, Indian and East Asian influences while others are completely distinct.
The islands were originally inhabited by Buddhist peoples, most likely from southern India and Sri Lanka. Around 900 bce they began to adopt Islam, and this became the official religion in 1153 c. The first Islamic dynasty ruled until 1932 when the sultanate became elective. This remained the case until 1965 when full independence as a sultanate outside the Commonwealth was granted, with Maumoon Gayoom becoming the first president of Maldives.
Although Maldivians are predominantly Muslims, they maintain a diverse cultural identity. They have assimilated influences from all over the world and have made them their own, creating a unique culture that is cherished by all. The country’s music and dance reflect African and South Asian influences while the arts are heavily influenced by Eastern and South East Asia.
Sport is hugely popular in the Maldives, especially football and beach sports. The beautiful beaches offer many opportunities for water-based activities, with diving and snorkelling among the most popular. The islands are also a hub for various other leisure activities, with golf and tennis amongst the most popular sports.
The political system of the Maldives is based on a presidential republic. The 87-member legislature is unicameral, with the president of the Maldives acting as head of state and head of government. The president is elected for a five-year term by direct national vote and the judiciary is based on sharia, Islamic law.