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Useful Notes / Maldives

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The Maldives, officially known as the Republic of Maldives (Dhivehi: ދިވެހިރާއްޖޭގެ ޖުމްހޫރިއްޔާ Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyya), is a South Asian country composed of islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean, southwest of India and Sri Lanka. It is the least-populated country in Asia, though considering its total area, it also happens to be one of the most densely-populated countries in the world.

The islands have long shared history with the Indian subcontinent, particularly Sri Lanka. The Maldivian language is closely related to Sinhalese, and the Maldivians became Buddhists around the era of the Mauryans (3rd century BCE). The Maldives mainly traded cowries, a legal tender among peoples of the Indian subcontinent.

In the 12th century, the Maldives was converted to Islam during the reign of Dhovemi, who took the title of sultan. The conversion was attributed to a certain Abu Barakat al Barbari. For some time, it was assumed that this fellow came from North Africa, but today's historians agree that "Barbari" didn't refer to Berbers, but rather to the coast of Barbara in the Horn of Africa, present-day Somalia. The new religion gained traction very quickly and today the Maldivians are devout adherents of Islam; being Muslim is a legal certification for Maldivian citizenship, therefore, freedom of religion is basically nonexistent.

During the colonial era, the Maldives was occupied by three different European states. In the mid-15th century, it was ruled by Portugal (which at the time also controlled Sri Lanka). Then in the 17th century, the Dutch held the islands for four months. By the 19th century, it had fallen, along with most of the rest of the Indian subcontinent, under the control of The British Empire, who turned the islands into a protectorate, administered from Sri Lanka. Throughout these centuries, the Sultan still technically ruled the islands (a situation similar to India's Princely States).

The British started the process of decolonization in the late 1950s, though it signed an agreement to lease the southern atolls for its Royal Air Force base. This was challenged by Ibrahim Nasir, the prime minister elected in 1957, who increased levies so the British would be tempted to leave earlier. Since the southern atolls benefited from the British presence, they declared rebellion and seceded to form the United Suvadive Republic. Unfortunately for them, the British chose to support the central government, and the republic fell in 1963. The islands became an independent Kingdom in 1965, with Muhammad Fareed Didi, the last Sultan, deciding to style himself as "King" upon independence. In 1968, the monarchy was abolished and the islands became a republic. The British left the country for good in 1976. It remains a member of The Commonwealth of Nations, though it briefly left the organization from 2016 to 2020.

From 1968 to 1978, the Maldives was led by Nasir, who instituted a slew of modernization efforts, including a controversial and ultimately failed attempt to change the traditional script to Latin, and the popularization of the country's tourism sector. He was followed by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled unopposed for the next 30 years. His presidency saw the Nasir loyalists attempting to overthrow him three times, including a failed 1988 coup that involved the Tamil insurgents from Sri Lanka. After a series of protests throughout the later years of his tenure, he bowed to the people's wills and introduced proper democracy in 2008.

The president from 2013 to 2018 was Abdulla Yameen, Gayoom's half-brother. He was elected after protests that saw the controversial resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed in 2010. Yameen was a strongman accused of jailing political opponents (including Gayoom) and bringing the country closer to China, which many feared would put it into a debt trap with its Belt and Road initiative. He was surprisingly unseated in the 2018 election by Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who has started to investigate his predecessor for corruption and rights abuses. Solih's accession was a major sigh of relief for India, since it perceives him as friendlier to its interests in the face of neighbors who are increasingly turning their backs against it.

The script for the Maldivian language looks very strange when compared to other scripts used in the Indian subcontinent. Actually, it's because it's not derived from any kind of Brahmi script, at least not those that are used for alphabets. Instead, (modified) Hindu-Arabic numerals, of all things, serve as its inspiration, complemented by Arabic diacritics to indicate sounds.

Maldives has the lowest high-point of any country on earth – eight feet (just over two meters) above sea level. Considering that sea levels are expected to rise a significant amount over the next century, by 2100 there may not be a Maldives. This has led the government to be an active participant in climate change discussions, and to commit to becoming carbon-neutral by 2019.

Formerly a poor country where fishing and subsistence agriculture were the norm, the Maldives has undergone significant growth and development thanks to the advent of tourism in the 1970s, and is now seen as the premier destination for high-end tropical vacations; by the 2010s, practically every famous luxury hotel brand in the world has a property in the country. The islands were badly hurt by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which caused damage totaling over 3/5 of the country's GDP, though this has not deterred tourists in the slightest.

The Maldivian flag
The red field stands the people's courage and readiness for sacrifice. At the foreground is a green rectangle, symbolizing peace, and at its center is the white crescent of Islam.

The Maldivian national anthem
ޤައުމީ މިއެކުވެރިކަން މަތީ ތިބެގެން ކުރީމެ ސަލާމް
ޤައުމީ ބަހުން ގިނަހެޔޮ ދުޢާ ކުރަމުން ކުރީމެ ސަލާމް

ޤައުމީ ނިޝާނަށް ޙުރުމަތާއެކު ބޯލަނބައި ތިބެގެން
އައުދާނަކަން ލިބިގެން އެވާ ދިދައަށް ކުރީމެ ސަލާމް

ޤައުމީ މިއެކުވެރިކަން މަތީ ތިބެގެން ކުރީމެ ސަލާމް
ޤައުމީ ބަހުން ގިނަހެޔޮ ދުޢާ ކުރަމުން ކުރީމެ ސަލާމް

ނަސްރާ ނަސީބާ ކާމިޔާބުގެ ރަމްޒަކަށް ހިމެނޭ
ފެއްސާއި ރަތާއި ހުދާ އެކީ ފެނުމުން ކުރީމެ ސަލާމް

ޤައުމީ މިއެކުވެރިކަން މަތީ ތިބެގެން ކުރީމެ ސަލާމް
ޤައުމީ ބަހުން ގިނަހެޔޮ ދުޢާ ކުރަމުން ކުރީމެ ސަލާމް

We salute you, o Motherland, in unity
With an abundance with well-wishes in our very own tongue

Bowing our heads to your crescent moon and star
With our bright colours streaming in the air, we hail our buoyant flag.

We salute you, o Motherland, in unity
With an abundance with well-wishes in our very own tongue

Victory and good fortune be its alone
We salute the mighty red, white and green;

We salute you, o Motherland, in unity
With an abundance with well-wishes in our very own tongue

  • Unitary presidential republic
    • President: Mohamed Muizzu
    • Vice President: Hussain Mohamed Latheef
    • Speaker of the Majlis: Mohamed Aslam
    • Chief Justice: Ahmed Muthasim Adnan

  • Capital and largest city: Malé (މާލެ)
  • Population: 515,122
  • Area: 300 km² (120 sq mi) (186th)
  • Currency: Maldivian rufiyaa (Rf/.ރ) (MVR)
  • ISO-3166-1 Code: MV
  • Country calling code: 960
  • Highest point: Mount Villingili (5 m/17 ft) (201st)
  • Lowest point: Indian Ocean (3,741 m/12,274 ft) (-)