A melting pot of cultures
The Maldives has a proud and rich culture that has evolved over the centuries from the many traditions brought here by seafarers from different parts of the world. Some of the music and dance reflects African influences while other traditions show a Middle Eastern or South Asian flavour. The islanders are incredibly creative; lacquer work, mat weaving, coir rope making and calligraphy are just some of the art forms that Maldivians excel in. The islanders also have an ancient tradition of folklore which often depicts fearful sea demons and spirits.
Tourism is a big part of the local economy with the majority of people living in villages on small islands. The population of the Maldives is very young and life expectancy is around 74 years for men and 79 years for women.
Most islands have a school and there is an extensive network of health clinics on the larger islands. Most of the population is Muslim with a small percentage of Hindus and Buddhists. Islam was brought to the Maldives by Arab traders and is the official religion of the country.
The political system is a republic with the president and vice president elected by universal suffrage for two five-year terms. The president is supported by a cabinet of ministers. Maldives is a member of the United Nations and the Commonwealth. It does not require a visa for tourists, who are welcomed with open arms.