The Maldives might seem like a tropical paradise but these islands are not immune from storms. Both physically and politically, the country has had a turbulent history.

The capital city, Male, is a busy port with some of the best restaurants and bars in the Indian Ocean. But the inhabited islands have their own unique local culture, with music and traditions that resemble African influences as well as South Asian and East Asian influences.

Seafood plays a big role in the islanders’ diet and there is also plenty of fruit, coconuts and vegetables. The food is spicy and full of flavour. Home gardens are popular where residents grow vegetables, bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava and breadfruit.

Islam is the state religion and alcohol is not permitted (except in resorts). It is important that tourists respect this and dress modestly. Women must cover their legs and shoulders, and men should avoid shorts and tank tops. Customs will confiscate any alcoholic beverages that are brought into the country.

Tourism is the main industry. But fishing is also a vital part of the economy. The Maldives is one of the world’s largest tuna exporters.

A multiethnic society, the people of the Maldives come from many different ethnic and linguistic groups that have settled in the islands throughout history. The official language is Dhivehi, which has roots in Hindi and Sanskrit. English, Arabic and Hindi are also spoken. Religious festivals, such as Eid al-Fitr and Muharram, are widely celebrated, but there is much more to the Maldivian culture than just that.

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