The Maldives are rings of island perched on top a vast range of underwater volcanoes. Thousand of year of coral growth led to the formation of the coral atolls which protrude from the reefs beneath the sea. With less than 1% of the territory of the Maldives abobe sea level and its highest point being only 2.4m, the Maldives are considered to be the world's flattest country.
The original settlers of the Maldives may have arrived in the island as early as 3500 years ago. The island lie in the centre of major trading routers and attracted aettlers from Arabian, Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Arab traders en route to the Far East redorded visit to the 'Money isles', due to the currency at that time.
In 1153 the country was converted to Islam by a visiting North African Arab named Abu Al Barakat. Legend has it that he defeated a 'sea jinni' by reading from the Quran. The King of the Maldives was so impressed that he decreed the country's conversion to Islam. Even today Islam remains the sole religion of the Maldives. For hunderds of years following the conversion to Islam, the country was ruled by succession of Sultans.
Apart from a brief 15 year occupation by the Portuguese from 1558 - 73 the Maldives has always been self governed. It became a British protectorate in 1887, an arrangement that lasted until 1965 when the Maldives became independent. Three years later a republic was formed.
Today in the Maldives there is a population of around 300,000 people living on approximately 200 island. As many as 80,000 people live on the capital island of Male. The main industry is tourism with 87 island containing resorts. Fishing, the mainstay of the traditional island life, still provides a sizeable proportion of the gross domestic product and job opportunities for the vast majority of the island population. Tradition trades such as boat biulding and handcrafts are also sources of employment as well as commerce and goverment-services.
The local language of Maldives is Dhivehi, a unique mixture of Sanskrit and Arabic. The script is witten from right to the left in common with Arabic. English is also widely spoken and many Maldivian school now teach in english. Maldivians as a whole are a friendly, hospitable and peace loving people. There is a together to provide support for each other.