With the status as the smallest Asian nation in population and area, the Maldives is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean about 435 miles southwest of Sri Lanka. The Maldives consist of a chain of 26 atolls and over 1100 islets stretching across 90,000 square kilometers of territory in the Indian Ocean with a total land mass of about 116 square miles. Yet only about 200 of the islands are inhabited. Its flat elevation makes it the lowest country in the world with its highest point at just over 7 feet.
The Maldives has a 2009 estimated population of around 400,000 based on the CIA World Fact Book. The Maldives date back to 300 BC and was settled by the Dravidian people. The Maldives has been independent through most of its history except for a brief period in the 16th century. It was governed as an independent Islamic sultanate from the mid-1100s until 1968. For the period 1887 to 1965, the Maldives was under the British protectorate until its Independence on July 26, 1965. Buddhism was the dominant religion until about the 12th century when the conversion to Islam took place. Today it is the prominent religion of the Maldives.
For centuries, the Maldives were known as the “Money Isles” by Arab seafarers because of its abundance of cowry shells that were used as currency in ancient times. The cowry is now the symbol of the central bank of the Maldives. Tourism, fishing, and trade now make up the majority of the economy of the Maldives. Boasting one of the strongest economies in the region, a high literacy rate, and undiscovered beauty of its many coral islands, an increase in tourism has continued to strengthen the economy of the country.
Today the Maldives has become a popular tourist destination due to its great climate, white sandy beaches, crystal clear lagoons, coral reefs, and unique island culture. The temperature in the Maldives averages between 75 °F and 91 °F most of the year. There are two dominant seasons, the dry season and the monsoon season. Rainfall in the Maldives averages about 63 inches per year.
As the interest in tourism in the Maldives has increased, many new resorts are beginning to appear. They range from upscale establishments ready to indulge their guests to back-to-nature hotels for those looking for eco-conscience lodging. Several of the small islands have become exclusive resorts. Snorkeling, diving, and other water-related activities are available in the Maldives.
The capital city of Malé is situated on the North Malé Atoll and is surrounded by seawalls. As the largest city in the Maldives with a population of over 100,000, it is also one of the most densely populated cities in the world. An impressive landmark in Malé is the Islamic Center, a gold-domed structure that dominates the skyline. Alcohol-free bars and restaurants are nestled alongside shops in its central marketplace, giving the city a lively and pleasant atmosphere. The colorful buildings of the city surrounded by the blue waters of the ocean make Malé a great destination in the Maldives.
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