35 Interesting Facts About The Maldives: Past and Present

facts about the Maldives

This article explores some fascinating facts about the Maldives, including its stunning beauty, culture, and unique history, making it an enchanting getaway.

The Maldives, a tropical paradise in the heart of the Indian Ocean, is a dream destination for travelers seeking pristine white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life.

Maldives At-a-Glance

Location: Southern Asia, a group of atolls in the Indian Ocean
Population: Approximately 389,000
Capital City: Male
Area: 298 square kilometers
Official Languages: Dhivehi (official), English (spoken by government officials)
Predominant Religion: Sunni Muslim (official)
Climate: Tropical; hot, humid; dry northeast monsoon (Nov-Mar); rainy southwest monsoon (Jun-Aug)
(Source: The World Factbook)

General Maldives Facts

1. The Maldives are located in the north-central Indian Ocean. The country’s closest neighbors are India and Sri Lanka to the north-east. Maldives is made up of 26 natural atolls, 1,200 coral islands, and sandbanks.

2. Despite the large number of islands that make up the Maldives, only approximately 200 are inhabited. Roughly 160 islands are developed purely for tourism. More than 40% of the population lives in the capital city, Male.

3. The official language in the Maldives is Dhivehi. This language is closely related to the Sinhala language of Sri Lanka. English is also widely spoken in the Maldives because of the tourism industry.

4. Islam is the official religion, and the Maldives has a conservative Islamic culture. The constitution in the Maldives requires that citizenship status is based on adherence to the state religion. Therefore, from a legal standpoint, 100% of the Maldivian population is Muslim.

5. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Maldives have been inhabited since approximately 1500 BC. Likely, the island was first settled by Aryan immigrants. It is also believed that they colonized Sri Lanka at the same time.

6. The Maldives is famous for its rich marine life, coral reefs, pristine beaches, and luxurious resorts. Thanks to the countless luxury resorts scattered across the country, the Maldives regularly tops the list of the best luxury destinations in the world.

Maldives marine life
Maldives marine life: a colorful underwater ballet.

7. Despite the nation’s impressive biodiversity, the Maldives isn’t home to any UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is. However, it is home to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve called Baa Atoll. This reserve supports one of the world’s largest groups of coral reefs.

Suggested Read: 40 Interesting Facts About the Great Barrier Reef

Fun Facts About Maldives’ History

8. The earliest form of currency used in the Maldives was the cowrie shell. Evidence suggests it was introduced by Arab Merchants who used the shells to trade in the 13th century. Cowrie shells were used in various countries, including neighboring Sri Lanka.

9. By the 14th century, slaves made up a large proportion of the Maldivian population. Most of the slaves in the Maldives were transported there in Arab boats. African slaves settled peacefully in the central and northern provinces. Slavery was only abolished in the Maldives in 1887.

10. The Maldives is known for its unique coral stone tombs dating back to the Buddhist era. These ancient burial sites are made entirely of coral. The oldest and largest coral cemetery in the Maldives comprises 1,500 tombstones.

11. The Hukuru Miskiiy, also known as the Male Friday Mosque, stands as the country’s most ancient mosque, constructed in 1656. Crafted from coral stones, this mosque is distinguished by its unique coral carvings.

12. The ancient Maldivian peoples relied heavily on coconut trees. Historically, every part of the coconut tree was used in daily life, from building houses and making ropes to crafting tools and extracting oil for cooking and lighting.

Maldives facts: the coconut tree, the lifeline of the Maldivian Isles.

13. In ancient Maldives, women would play a game called Bashi. The sport was traditionally played with a hand-woven Bashi (a ball made from coconut palm leaves). It was a women-only sport and was similar to both tennis and dodgeball.

14. Ancient Maldivians played traditional music on an instrument called boduberu. A boduberu is a large drum made from coconut wood and manta ray skin. It was once an integral part of the nation’s culture.

15. In the 11th century, the Maldivian people created a unique type of boat called Dhoni. Inspired by the Arab dhow, these boats were used to explore the Indian Ocean and to reach the other Maldivian islands.

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16. Maldivians often wore traditional clothing known as “libaas.” This consisted of a colorful dress for women, while men wore a sarong-like garment called a “mundu.” These traditional outfits were usually worn on special occasions.

17. Maldivian folklore includes stories of a mythical sea serpent known as Rannamaari. This creature was believed to demand a virgin sacrifice annually, and it was believed to have raped and murdered thousands of young women.

18. Archaeological findings in the Maldives have included obsidian tools, which were not locally sourced. These artifacts suggest trade connections with distant regions in ancient times.

19. In 1962, Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir ordered the depopulation of Thinadhoo. The island’s population was ordered to stand in neck-deep water while their houses were destroyed. Islanders were assaulted, dispersed, and taken as prisoners. Most of the 300 prisoners were killed.

20. The Maldives flag was only created in 1965. It is red, green, and white and has a few different meanings. The red on the flag represents heroes who gave their blood to the islands, and the green symbolizes prosperity and peace.

Maldives flag
Maldives flag: a symbol of island pride and sovereignty.

Facts About Modern-Day Maldives

21. The Maldives ranks 1st as the flattest country in the world. The average altitude of the island nation is just 1.8 meters (5.9 feet), and its highest point (Villingili Island) is 5.1 meters (16.7 feet) above sea level. There is only a 5-meter (16.4-foot) difference between the highest and lowest points. 

22. Among crucial Maldives facts, it is noted that the nation is experiencing rapid submersion into the ocean, a situation worsened by rising sea levels and intensified land erosion.

Suggested Read: 20 Fun Facts About the Pacific Ocean

23. By total area, the Maldives is the 9th smallest country in the world. The land area of all the islands comprises 298 square kilometers (115 square miles). That makes it the smallest country in Asia too.

24. The Maldives is home to five sea turtle species. That may not sound special, but there are only seven sea turtle species worldwide. The Hawksbill and Green Turtles are the most common.

25. Some beaches in the Maldives, particularly on Vaadhoo Island, are known for their bioluminescent plankton. At night, the waves glow with a surreal blue light, creating a magical atmosphere.

26. Maldivian wedding ceremonies are unique. They involve several rituals, including the groom giving a gift to the bride, the exchange of betel leaves, and traditional drumming and singing.

27. The Maldives may be one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world, but it has only been a tourist destination for roughly 50 years. The first tourist resorts in the Maldives only opened in the 1970s.

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28. The Maldives is home to several underwater restaurants, such as the famous Ithaa Undersea Restaurant. It is also possible to stay in hotel rooms underwater.

29. In 2009, to draw global attention to the issue of climate change, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed held an underwater cabinet meeting. Ministers signed a document calling for global action on climate change.

30. The Maldives is celebrated for its diving experiences, where the majestic whale sharks, particularly near the reefs around Sun Island, are a common sight.

Encounter a giant: diving with a whale shark in the Maldives.

31. Saturday and Sunday aren’t considered the weekend in the Maldives. Instead, Sunday is seen as a working day, and Friday and Saturday make up the weekend.

32. Importing religious materials other than Islamic ones to the Maldives is illegal. All residents are also required to teach their children the Muslim faith.

33. While alcohol is available at many resorts, it is strictly forbidden for the local population. It is also illegal to bring alcohol into the country, and it’s only permitted for tourists on resort islands.

34. In Male and other inhabited islands, there is a strict dress code for both locals and tourists. Modest clothing is required, and swimwear is only allowed on designated beaches and resort islands.

35. Dogs are not allowed in the Maldives. The only exception is for law enforcement dogs. This is due to religious beliefs.

Before You Go…

Discover another captivating island destination: Bali, Indonesia. Dive into 80 Breathtaking Facts about Bali and explore the enchanting allure of another of the world’s most sought-after tourist havens.

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