A tropical paradise, the Maldives has retained a unique identity despite its many different influences and influences from different periods of history. From the very first settlers who brought with them some traditions from East Africa and Arabia, to modern day migrants from India and the South Asian countries – a wide range of factors have contributed to what is now a proud, rich culture.

The cuisine is a mix of both local and international flavours, with fish being the main staple along with the omnipresent coconut and curry dishes. The Maldives also boasts some unique dining experiences including underwater restaurants.

Unlike some of the other exotic islands in the region, the Maldives is fairly centrally located within the tropics. Although it has a mild climate year round, seasonal changes are determined by two yearly monsoons. The northeast monsoon generally extends from December to April and the southwest from May until August.

A small country with a big personality, the Maldives is a member of the United Nations, WHO, SAARC and the Non-Aligned Movement and has been an advocate for the security of small nations and protection of the environment. It gained independence on July 26, 1965 and a republic was proclaimed three years later. The current president is Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who has been in office since 1978. Before the republic was established, the country was a monarchy with the Sultan and his Chief Minister exercising supreme power. The sultanate was eventually ended by the short-lived president Muhammad Amin Didi, who nationalised the fishing industry and became a champion of women’s rights.

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