The pearls of the Indian Ocean, as it is popularly known, are
situated in the South West of Sri Lanka, on the equator. The numerous
coral reef islands, 1,190 in total , form an archipelago of 26 major
atolls ( groups of neighbouring coral islands). The country stretches
820 km north to south and 120 km east to west. Out of the incredibly
large number of islands only 200 islands are inhabited, with 44 islands
adapted as exclusive resort islands. The climate is generally warm and
humid. Sun shines all year through with average temperature around 29 -
32 degrees Celsius.
The country's 2000 population census shows a total of 270,101 people
living in the country. Almost 2/3 of this figure resides in the capital
Origins of the Maldivians is not very certain. However, it is believed
that the history goes as far back as BC 1000. Early settlers were
travellers on the Silk Route, and from the Indus Valley Civilisation.
The Maldivians are inherently warm, friendly and hospitable by nature,
and anyone can easily establish a casual conversation with the
Dhivehi, a fantastic language not spoken anywhere else on the globe, is
the language spoken in all parts of the Maldives. English is widely
spoken and can be recognised on sign boards, neon lights and even in the
main newspapers and in some radio and TV programmes. In the resorts, a
variety of languages, including English, German, Italian, French and
Japanese, is spoken by the staff.
Dress is generally casual. T-shirts and cotton clothing are most
suitable. In the inhabited islands, it is recommended that women wear
modest clothing without baring too much.
The Maldives economy is growing at an average of over 10 percent since
the past two decades. Tourism is the main industry, contributing almost
20 percent to the GDP. Fisheries and trade follow close behind. The
Maldivian economy is regarded as exemplary in the region, and welcomes
The Maldivian currency is Rufiyas and Laaris (1M Rf = 100 Laaris). The
exchange rate for US Dollars is Rufiya 11.72 for one US Dollar (1997).
The Rufiyaa comes in notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500. The
American Dollar is the most common foreign currency. Payments in the
resorts can be made in most hard currencies in cash, traveller's cheques
or credit cards. The most commonly used credit cards are American
Express, Visa, Master Card, Diners Club, JCB and Euro Card.
The functional literacy rate is 98 percent. Educational standards are
among the highest in the region, and most schools teach via the English
Medium and follow the British education system, while in some schools
Dhivehi (the Maldivian Language) or Arabic is the medium of instruction.
Health care facilities are improving on a daily basis. The Indhira
Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male' is the biggest hospital in the country
providing sophisticated medical care. ADK Hospital is the biggest
private health care facility, and follows high medical standards.
Experienced European doctors work at the AMDC Clinic. Regional hospitals
are distributed throughout the country and Male' , the capital, has
several well-established private general practitioners . Some resorts
have an in-house doctor. Decompression chambers are within reach of most
resorts in case of a diving emergency.
Telecommunication has developed very fast in this decade. Upto-date
technology and international satellite links allow Maldives to have a
sophisticated communications system. IDD facilities are available on all
resorts, and card phone facilities are available on all islands.
Dhiraagu, the Maldives telecommunications company, an affiliate of the
British Cable and Wireless Company, provides mobile telephones for
rental on a daily basis. Dhiraagu is also the Internet service provider.
Being on the Equator, the country enjoys more or less constant day
lengths (6am - 6 pm) throughout the year. People wake up early in the
morning. Business hours are from Sunday to Thursday 7:30 - 14:30 in the
government sector, and generally from 9:00 to 5:00 in the private
sector. Weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. The local time is GMT