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A string of pearls scattered over the deep blue Indian Ocean – this is the first glimpse you will see of this fascinating atoll formation. 99% of its 90,000 square metres are covered by sea, and approximately 1,190 islets are spread over 26 atolls, with ring-like coral formations unique to the Maldives. The country stretches out from north to south at a maximum altitude of 2.3 metres above sea level, giving it the distinction of being the smallest country in Asia and the lowest country in the world.

The original settlers of the Maldives may have arrived to the islands as early as 3,500 years ago. The islands lie in the centre of major trading routes and attracted settlers from Arabia, Africa and the Indian subcontinent who helped shape the country's cultural and religious development. The Maldives were known as the "Money Isles" due to the abundance of cowry shells, which were used as a form of currency.

Apart from a brief 15-year occupation by the Portuguese from 1558–1573, the Maldives has always been self-governed. It became a British protectorate in 1887, became an independent country in 1965 and then three years later, a republic was formed.

Today there is a population of around 320,000 people living on approximately 250 inhabited islands with as many as 100,000 people living on the capital island of Malé. The main industry is tourism, with over 130 single-island resorts in operation. Fishing still provides a sizeable proportion of the gross domestic product.

The local language in the Maldives is Dhivehi, a unique mixture of Sanskrit and Arabic. English is also widely spoken. The culture, ethnicity and language of the Maldives stem from a number of different regions bordering the Indian Ocean, yielding a fascinating melting pot of customs and traditions.

The culinary specialities of the Maldives are largely based around the rich selection of fish found in the Indian Ocean, accompanied by boiled rice, breadfruit or tubers along with flavourful coconut milk, a staple of local dishes.

Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC)