Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A full moon night on these majestic islands can make it the most romantic of places.

The Maldives is an island nation and is officially known as the Republic of Maldives. It is an archipelago of 1,190 coral islands that lie in the Indian Ocean. Composed of a double chain of 26 coral atolls, the country is located in the Laccadive Sea.

Situated at the intersection of Lakshadweep and Chagos group of islands, the archipelago is actually the summit of mountain ranges located in the Indian Ocean. The featured 1,190 islets of the country are located at a distance of 700 km to the south-west of Sri Lanka and south-west of India.

Spread over an expansive area of 90,000 square kilometres, it is the world's most dispersed country, in terms of geographic area. Malé is the largest city and the capital of the country. It is strategically situated at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll in the Kaafu Atoll.

Maldives is the smallest country in the world in terms of population and land area. It is also the lowest country in the world, with a ground level of 1.5 metres. The uniqueness of the island lies in the fact that it has the lowest highest point in the world, which is 2.3 metres above sea level.

The atolls are made of live coral reefs and sand bars, which do not support vegetation. However, the country has an abundance of marine life, which are important both from the biological and commercial point of view. Reef sharks, moray eels, stingray, eagle ray and whale shark are some of the rich marine life of the waters surrounding the islands.

The historic records of Maldives show that the country has remained independent throughout its known history. The country was inhabited by the Aryans in 1,500 B.C. It was a trade centre and contributed to the trade of pearls, spices, coconuts, dried fish and cowry shells to other parts of the world.

However, records also state that the country was occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century. It was a part of the British Protectorate from the years 1887 to 1965. Thereafter, the country came under the Sultanate reign and was ruled by Mohamed Fareed. The country became a republic in 1932.

The culture of the island country has been influenced by Sri Lanka and southern India.  Dhivehi, an Indo-European language, is the official language of the Maldives. Maldives became a Muslim country in mid-12th century. Sunni Islam is the official religion of the country.

The traditional dress of the Dhivehi is the Libas. The dress is adorned with hand stitched gold and silver neckline, called the Kasabu Bovalhu and matching embroidery on the sleeve cuffs. The Libas is complemented with a head dress called the Rumafalhi.

Tourism in the country began with 2 resorts in the year 1972. These resorts were the Bandos island resort and Kurumba Village. Today, there are 91 resorts. Tourism is the largest economic activity and accounts for 28% of the GDP of the country.

Tourists are drawn to the island to enjoy its beaches and water activities. The archipelago is also a paradise for honeymooners. Couples visiting the island also opt for weddings at the beach resorts. Christmas and February to April are the major tourist seasons of the Maldives.

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