The beautiful island nation of the Maldives has been described as an earthly paradise. Its exotic marine geography and pristine beaches attracts millions of tourists annually. However, this idyllic region has had a stormy past both physically and politically.
The archipelago was inhabited by peoples of mixed origin, with Buddhism being practised as early as 5th century bce, and Islam adopted in 1153 ce. Its seafaring heritage and close relationship with Sri Lanka and southern India was evident from the time of Ibn Battuta, the famous North African traveller, who resided here in 1343 ce.
Today, tourism is the main industry with the service sector accounting for four-fifths of the country’s economy. The country is also a major producer of fish and coral. Industries are mainly of the cottage or handicraft type with coir fiber from coconut husks, fish canning and boatbuilding a prominent feature. A large number of tourists flock to this tropical destination to enjoy water sports, beach and undersea activities, while the country’s fertile reefs provide world-class diving opportunities.
Football is the national sport and young boys and men can often be seen playing it in their localities. In addition, tennis, basketball, baseball, badminton and a variety of beach sports are popular among locals as well as foreign visitors.
Traditional music and dance are an integral part of the culture. Every year, the Maldivian National Day on November 11th is celebrated with parades and marches.