THE MALDIVES

Location: Maldives is situated in the Indian Ocean Southwest of the Southern tip of India and Sri Lanka.
Number of Atolls: 26
Number of Islands: 1192 (Approximately)
Number of Resorts: 87
Area: 115,300Km2 (only 1% island)
Capital: Male’
Population: 289,480 (census 2004)
Language: Dhivehi but English is widely spoken
Climate: (Average 1994 – 2003) Max – 31oC, Min – 25oC
Major Income: Tourism & Fishing
Major exports: Apparel and clothing accessories, Skipjack Frozen & Dry, Canned Tuna fish
Hours of sunshine: 10 hours per day
Time Zone: GMT +5
Electricity: 240 Volts & 110 Volts – 3 Pin Square plugs.
Religion: Islamic
Currency: Rufiyaa – Notes and Laree – Coins, Dollars and major credit cards are widely accepted in resorts and in Male. You can also exchange all other major currencies.
Visas: You do not require a visa to enter the Maldives. All nationalities are given an automatic 30 day tourist visa on entry.
Customs: The import of Alcoholic beverages, drugs, narcotics, weapons, pornographic material, and idols of worship are strictly prohibited.

A Touch of Maldives

Maldives Islands makes up one of the smallest and most isolated countries in the world, but because of this it is certainly one of the most unique countries, with a vast history and culture and a beauty like no other. It is no wonder that so many people come from around the globe to see this hidden paradise.

Maldives is the name that the country is commonly known by around the world and some scholars believe that the name “Maldives” derives from the Sanskrit Maladvipa meaning “Garland of Islands”.

Although a lot of us have only recently heard of The “Maldives”, there is proof that there have been inhabitants here for at least 2,500 years. In the Mid-1980’s the Maldivian Government allowed the explorer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl to excavate ancient sites. Heyerdahl’s research indicates that as early as 2000B.C. Maldives lay on the trading routes of the early Egyptian and Indus valley civilizations using an abundant supply of cowrie shells, which were used widely throughout Asia as a form of currency. We have further indications that the language here “Dhivehi” developed from a common Indic language was carried into the Maldives and Sri Lanka around 500B.C.

Maldivians consider the introduction of Islam in A.D. 1153 as the pinnacle of their country’s history. Islam is still the state religion to the present day. Because the country deems themselves as 100% Sunni Muslim and their religion prohibits images portraying gods, local interest in the ancient statues that were uncovered by Thor Heyerdahl was slight and some of the locals were hostile towards the findings and were known to destroy some of the statues that were unearthed. Heyerdahl also uncovered indications that early sun – worshipping seafarers, called the Redin first settled on the islands. This is further substantiated by the fact that a lot of the early Mosques in the Maldives face the Sun and not Mecca.

In the tenth century A.D. the Middle Eastern sea farers had just started to take over the Indian Ocean trade routes. In the 12th Century A.D. the Arabs as traders were extremely important in the Indian Ocean and some say that was partly the reason for the last Buddhist king of Maldives to convert to Islam in the year 1153, others believe that he converted when ‘Abul Barakat Yusuf al Barbari’ came to the Maldives and broke the monthly spell of the evil spirit from among the Jinni who claimed the life of a young Virgin every month. They believe that when Abul Barakat came to the Buddhist temple, he was reciting the Quran and when the demon appeared he continued to recite the Quran, when the Demon Jinni heard the beautiful words of the Quran, it escaped into the Sea never to be seen of or heard of again. After this the King adopted the Muslim title and name of Sultan Muhammad al Adil, his people on the island embraced Islam and he sent messengers to the other islands whose inhabitants also converted. The Tomb of Abul al Barakat now stands on the grounds of Hukuru Mosque, or Miski. Built in 1956, this is the oldest mosque in the Maldives.

In 1558 after many years of threat from the Portuguese they finally established themselves in the Maldives and for 15 years Maldivians lived under foreign power. This era was not a happy one and the Maldives historical chronicle talks of the Sea running red with Muslim Blood and the people in despair. After 15 years a local hero Muhammed Thakurufaan with his 2 brothers and some patriots drove the Portuguese out. This day April 10th is now commemorated as National Day and is a public holiday. In the year 1573 Muhammed Thakurufaan became the new sultan and he ruled over the next 12 years, he is also credited with introducing the Dhivehi script and Money.

In the mid seventeenth century, the Dutch who were the dominant power in Sri Lanka after the Portuguese; started an interest over Maldivian affairs but not directly. However the British forced the Dutch from Sri Lanka in 1796 and included Maldives as a British protected area. During the British era from 1887 to 1965, Maldives continued to be ruled under a succession of Sultans that were Hereditary until 1932. At that time a constitution was introduced for the first time, although the Sultanate was kept for a further 21 years. Maldives remained under British Crown protectorate until 1953 when the first republic was declared.

Throughout the 1950’s Maldives was widely influenced by the British military, in 1956 British obtained permission to re-establish their wartime airfield in Gan, the most southern part of the Addu Atoll. The British were granted a 100 year lease. However in 1957 the then prime minister Ibrahim Nasir called for the agreement to be reviewed and the lease be shortened and the payment be increased, but in 1959 he faced some opposition from some local movement in the southern atolls, who benefited financially from the British presence on Gan. Finally in 1960 Maldives allowed Britain to continue to use Gan for a 30 year period and they should pay £750,000 sterling, from 1960 to 65 for the development of the Maldives.

On July 26 1965 Maldives gained Independence under an agreement signed with Britain. This day is celebrated as the Maldivian Independence day. However the British still retained the use of Gan and Hitaddu. During the 1970’s the economical situation in the Maldives suffered a setback when the Sri Lanka Market for Maldives dried fish collapsed, Further economical decline occurred when the British made the decision to close it’s airfield in 1975. Subsequently the elected president’s popularity suffered at that time, and his ruling ended in 1978 when Ibrahim Nasir – the then elected president fled to Singapore.

In 1978 Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was elected president for a five year term, he was deemed the most suitable for the position due to his extensive education and experience as former University lecturer and Maldivian ambassador to the untied Nations. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is still the current president in the Maldives and has been re – elected for every term where he mostly received over 90% of the votes. Several attempts were made by certain Coups to relieve Gayoom of his presidency but they were not considered serious until November 1988 when 80 Tamil Mercanaries landed in Male alongside a profitable Maldivian businessman Abdullah Luthufi. A similar number had entered Male’ previously disguised as visitors and together they tried to take over the Maldives. Although they took over the airport island easily they were unable to capture President Gayoom who Fled from his house and asked for military intervention from India, the United States and Britain. India dispatched troops by air and after 12 hours they seemed to have most of it under control, some of the mercenaries tried to flee, others were captured and sent back to Sri Lanka. Mr. Abdulla Luthufi still remains in a political prison on one of the Maldives local islands.

Following the incident in the Maldives in 1988 they have been a very peaceful nation and strived towards building the tourism and fishing economy. Economy was again hit badly in Maldives on December 26th 2004 when a Tsunami caused by an earthquake in Sumatra – Indonesia crossed the coast over to the Maldives. Although many of the resort islands 80% were not badly affected, a lot of guests did not come to the region. However now we are happy to report that the tourism industry here is rising, the resorts that were damaged have taken the opportunity to improve their ratings and refurbish their islands and we expect to welcome more tourists in winters to come than we have in the past.

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