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MALDIVES

Referred to as the 'Flower of the Indies' by the famous explorer Marco Polo, the Maldives consist of 1,190 coral islands, forming an archipelago of 26 dazzling atolls in the Indian Ocean. The sparkling white sandy beaches dotting the islands washed by the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, the dazzling reefs and the lagoons (villu) coloured a thousand shades of blue impart an intriguing beauty to this country. The swaying coconut trees that highlight the skylines of most of the islands, the coral stone mosques in their design and grandness that vie for attention in the World Heritage Site make it an captivating country.

With coral reefs bright with tropical wildlife forming the major ecosystem, the Maldives boasts one of the most distinct underwater sceneries on earth and is embellished with one of the most diverse marine flora and fauna found in the entire world. Large colourful crabs are a common sight on the beaches while the seas abound in a large number of bright colourful fishes that include angelfish, unicorn fish, butterfly fish, rock cod, parrot fish and many others. Turtles, sharks, porpoises, sting rays, dolphins are the larger sea creatures. Although terrestrial animals are limited in the Maldives, it is home to a rich collection of over 160 species of birds.

Famous for the cowry trade and as a transit point for seafarers crossing from east and west and vice versa, the Maldives boasts a cultural fusion and an interesting interaction between different religions particularly between Buddhism and Islam. The Maldivians are renowned for their skill and creativity in a wide range of crafts. Wooden lacquer ware delicately carved with flowing flowery patterns, Thundukunaa mats made of fine pattern grass or kunaa with their intricate abstract woven designs, and dhoanis (boats) are fine examples of traditional Maldivian arts. The beautifully penned verses from the Holy Quran displayed in mosques exhibit some of the finest examples of the work of calligraphers in the country.

Not just natural beauty, the Maldives is known for its fabulous dances and music. Bodu Beru is the most popular form of music and dance in the country featuring three or four drums made from hollowed coconut wood and covered on both ends with manta ray skin or goat hide and a variety of percussion instruments. Thaara, a popular form of folk music is played only at national events. The dhandi jehun, bandiyaa jehun, kaadha maali are some other popular folk dance forms.

Very much dependent on the surrounding seas for food, a variety of fishes and seafood constitutes an integral part of the Maldivian cuisine that is a rich assortment of tuna, coconut and rice. It symbolizes a unique culinary blend of its own flavours with foreign influences. The national dish is garidhiya (clear fish broth). Sai (tea) and raa (toddy tapped from palm trees) are the regional drinks.

The Maldivians celebrate some events and festivals like Independence Day, Victory Day, Republic Day, Islam Day and Fishermen’s Day with pomp and glory. Eid and Ramadan are celebrated by the Muslims.


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