6 Facts About Maldivian Culture
A slice of paradise in the Indian ocean, the Maldives is a fascinating destination with rich culture.
Some may believe that the Maldives is only a tropical paradise of pristine beaches, with over 1,192 coral Islands grouped into 26 coral atolls in the Indian Ocean. However, it is actually steeped in culture and tradition, which has been shaped by Indian, Sri Lankan, Malaysia, Arab, Persian, Indonesian and even African influences.
Maldivian’s are incredibly welcoming and friendly people who will go above and beyond to make your holiday truly unforgettable. Read on to discover some interesting facts about the Maldives culture and useful information for your next Maldives holiday.
1) History of the Maldives
The Maldives Islands have been inhabited for more than 3,000 years, with a history of Hinduism and Buddhism before the country embraced Islam in 1153 AD. The first settlers are believed to be from southern India and Sri Lanka, as well as Traders from Arab and African Countries.
Tourism began in 1972, after the opening of the first tourist resort in the Maldives. Thanks to the Travel & Tourism pioneers, the Industry only continued to grow with Kuredu Island Resort & Spa being the first Resort built in the Lhaviyani Atoll in 1988, which paved the way for other Resorts such as Komandoo Island Resort & Spa, Hurawalhi Island Resort and Innahura Maldives Resort within the same Atoll.
2) Maldivian Language
Maldivian language, also known as Dhivehi, has influences from Sanskrit, Sinhalese and Arabic, and has its own script called Thaana. There are three major dialects spoken by local Maldivian’s, including Malikhu or Mahl spoken by the islanders of neighbouring Minicoy Island.
Common Dhivehi phrases:
Hello: “assalaamu alaikum” (formal) | “maruhabaa” (informal)
How are you?: “kihineh?”
Fine, thank you: “ran’galhu, shukuriyyaa”
Thank you: “shukuriyyaa”
You’re welcome: “maruhabaa”
3) Maldivian Food
The natural abundance of coconut palms, Tuna and Reef Fish, and the unique mixture of curries and spices from initial settlers influence main Maldivian Traditional dishes enjoyed to this day. Combinations of these main ingredients are still found in various dishes, such as Tuna Bajiya (Fish-based), Garudhiya (fish soup) and Huni Roshi (Coconut-based Flatbread). Coconut Juice or Kurumba is the most popular refreshing beverage of the Maldives, which is also served to tourists and guests at Resorts and Hotels in traditional Maldivian style. Traditional Maldivian food is hot and spicy and features a lot of curries, soups and dishes served with rice.
Islam is the major religion in the Maldives. This is most evident through the many beautiful mosques located on the main island of Malé as well as the lack of alcohol and pork available on the mainland. But not to worry, resorts have a special license to serve alcohol, so you can still enjoy cocktails and beachside beverages in tropical paradise.
4) Maldivian Clothing
Men traditionally wear sarongs wrapped around the waist with a long sleeved shirt, which is invariably white. Cotton is the preferred fabric due to the island’s tropical weather. Women traditionally wear what is called libaas, which resembles a dress typically worn during special occasions, festivals and during dance performances such as Weddings or Cultural Bodu Beru performances. They are usually adorned with gold or silver coloured threads, and the best ones are hand stitched.
With a predominately Muslim faith, Maldivians are quite conservative and wear traditional dress. Guests must also be fully clothed while swimming at the beaches on the mainland unless swimming at a designated bikini beach. However, this rule does not apply at the resort islands and guests are free to soak up the sunshine in whatever swimming attire they please.
5) Maldivian Music & Dance
Music and dance are an important part of Maldivian heritage and culture, and are perceived as a form of storytelling, celebrating occasions and pure entertainment. Bodu Beru, referring to both the traditional drum used and the cultural dance itself, involves a display of various performances, each unique to the occasion, such as the women’s Bandiya Dance, where they dance with traditional water collecting containers in rhythmic harmony and dance. The Eid Celebration includes traditional parades on the streets of the islands, with giant mythical fish woven out of coconut palm leaves, called Bodumas and Maali.
6) Maldivian Heritage Sites
Because of the various influences, several religious monuments and temple ruins can be found throughout the local Islands, across the atolls. As small as copper plates and scrolls with details of historical livelihoods, to as large and noticeable as the mosques, temples and coral walls. The capital, Male’ City, features tourist attractions and heritage sites such as the Old Friday Mosque.
Other sites include the shipwrecks and sunken boats along the popular trade routes, which are now home to colourful coral gardens and a thousand colourful fish.
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