7 Facts You Didn't Know About The Maldives
White sand, turquoise seas, fresh air and year-round sunshine are just some of the things that the beautiful island country of Maldives is known for. This popular tourist destination is becoming popular especially among honeymooners, but there is more to Maldives than we give it credit for.
Here are 7 interesting facts about this country:
1. Maldives is composed of a chain of 26 atolls. Atolls are ring-shaped coral reefs that encircle lagoons partially or completely. The coral of the atoll often sits on top of the rim of an underwater mountain or extinct volcano which has eroded or partially subsided beneath the water. The lagoon forms over the volcanic crater or caldera while the higher rim remains above water or at shallow depths that permit the coral to grow and form the reefs. This unique formation is in some ways similar to the Taal Volcano where Tagaytay, the city sitting on top of its rim, encircles Taal Lake.
2. Maldives is an Islamic country. Islam is the official religion of the Maldives. The Maldivians converted to Islam by the mid-12th century due to visits of Muslim traders from the Middle East. This means eating pork, drinking alcohol and exposing too much skin is restricted in selected areas. Being a Muslim is also a strict requirement to earn citizenship, vote someone to office and earn public positions. Though restrictive, Maldivians regard Islam as one of their society’s most distinctive characteristics and believe that it promotes harmony and national identity.
3. The Maldivian community is slowly becoming more diverse. Tourism is the largest economic industry in the country and has been responsible for diversifying the Maldives’ local culture. In 2016 alone, 1.5 million tourists have visited the Maldives, a country with a population of 417,492 locals. Tourists who come from different countries infuse new ideas, tastes and practices to the local community. A change in regulations in 2009 further encouraged this as tourists were officially allowed to stay among the local population, rather than on privately owned resort islands. Tourists who have chosen to stay in the Maldives to work or put up their own businesses have contributed to the Maldives’ modern practices and ways of thinking despite it being a conservative Islam country. Through tourism, English became a widely spoken language among the Maldivians.
4. Maldivian cuisine is fresh, light, with a hint of spice. Some say food in the Maldives is the most delicious cuisine people have never heard of. Maldivian cuisine is described to be fresh, full of clarity, and best enjoyed in a tropical country like ours. As an island country surrounded by the Indian Ocean, Maldivians source their food from the sea or the beach. Their cuisine is largely composed of fish, coconut and starches. Fish are either served boiled and whole or shaved and mixed with curries. Coconuts are used in grated form, squeezed to obtain coconut milk or coconut oil for deep-fried dishes. Just like in our country, Maldivians enjoy food best with rice, their favorite starch. At times, taro, sweet potato and cassava are used in replacement of rice. Love spice? Maldivian cuisine got you covered since chilli is a common ingredient in its delicacies.
5. The status of women in Maldives is high considering its conservative religion. It has been suggested that the early Maldives was once a matriarchy so it was not uncommon to have a woman as a Sultana ruler. This matriarchy extends until today where women are held in high regard despite conservative Islamic influences. Women in Maldives hold strong positions in government and business. They comprise a large percentage of government employees, many of them serving the Cabinet and the Parliament. The male-female ratio in terms of enrollment and completion of education to secondary school standards are also equivalent. Women in Maldives do not veil, nor are they strictly secluded, but special sections are reserved for women in public places, such as stadiums and mosques. Maldives also has the highest divorce rate in the world, which most attribute to its matriarchal society and liberal Islamic rules.
6. You can do more than just swimming or sunbathing in Maldives. Maldives may be popular for its pristine beaches but it also offers a number of exciting recreational activities. The country is peppered with magnificent coral reefs ideal for underwater activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling. Other water sports such as jet skiing, windsurfing, and water skiing are also popular among first-time visitors. For the sportier ones, there are many sites and events for beach volleyball or adventure sports such as bungee jumping, rock climbing and gliding. If ever you get tired of lounging around the beach, there are many other activities that can be pursued.
7. Maldives’ capital, Male, is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Tourists rarely visit this busy city since they usually go straight to their resorts. Still, this exciting place is worth the stopover if you want to experience the country’s local culture. Male is home to the country’s most popular beach and diving spot, which are the Artificial Beach and the Banana Reef respectively. Male also has the country’s most popular tourist attractions such as the Friday Mosque, the Islamic Centre and the National Museum. The city is also teeming with Indian bazaars, scooters and cars, and the famous Male Market. Over the years, Male has been the center of administration, bureaucracy and commerce, making it a must-see for tourists and an ideal place of residence for foreign workers.
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