Maldives

Like a bird defying gravity, the plane graciously glides down towards Male' International Airport. A glance out the window and your heart skips a beat.

The magnificence of nature slowly unfolds before your eyes. Sunshine embracing the green little patches enclosed by pure white and surrounded by glistening blues, viewed from above truly takes your breath away. A vision so unique that you can't help but wonder if it is real. Only nature could have painted a picture so perfect. Only nature in its hurried motion could have created such splendor as the Maldives.

The beauty does not recede with the touching down of the plane. The little green patches transform into graceful palms that gently sway to the cool breeze, endless white beaches with sand so soft that it caresses your feet, waters so clear that you see the fish playing in the depths of the lagoons. The Maldives, a tropical hideaway, home to about 270,000 natives 1,350 different species of coral and fish.

Geography

A chain of 1190 little coral islands scattered across the Indian Ocean that forms the archipelago of the Maldives in 80- 120 km wide, stretching 860 km from latitude 7° 6"N to 0° 41"S and lying between 72° 32" and 73° 45"E. Out of the 1190 islands, only 201 islands are inhabited. Almost 99% of the country being the ocean, it is one of the most unique nations in the world.

CLIMATE
The summer never ends in the Maldives. Although it is warm throughout the year there are slight variations in the temperature during certain periods determined by the monsoon; from November to April is mostly dry with very little wind, while the Southwest monsoon from May to October brings some rain and the temperature varies very little. The annual average daily temperature is between 30.4 and 25.4 degrees Celsius. The average rainfall is below 2mm per annum.

History and Culture

Archaeological and historical discoveries indicate that the islands have been inhabited for over three thousand years. Being on an important trade route, Maldives was visited by people from all over the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. These visitors left a strong influence on the people, their religion and the culture of the Maldives.

RELIGION
Maldives is primarily a Muslim country, and hence Islam is the official religion of the country. The religious background of the country has its own history, which is worth noting.

During the 4th century AD, the Theravada Buddhism was the most important and dominant religion of Maldives. Islam became the religion of the country from 1153 AD onwards. Majority of the people in this country are Sunni Muslims. All the festivals and events held in the country are held according to the Muslim calendar.

Religious education is an important of the school curriculum and is taught along with other subjects also. The people of Maldives are extremely spiritual and religious minded. There are numerous mosques in the country where prayers are offered everyday. Prayers are offered five times in a day, daily. The Grand Friday Mosque is one of the most important mosques of the country. The interiors are grand and spacious and can accommodate large number worshippers at any point of time.

The Maldavians believe in the theory that there is no god other than Allah. The people over here also believe that 'Muhammad' is the messenger of Allah. Maldives religion gives a lot of importance to afterlife and final judgment.

They believe in the concepts of hell and heaven also. As per Islamic religious laws, one can go to heaven only through right conduct. As per the religion of Maldives, this can be achieved by performing five major activities specified by Islam.

These five activities include giving alms to the poor, making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in then lifetime, fasting in the holy month of Ramadan, praying five times a day and finally repeating the credo that there is no God other that Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.

A large number of religious festivals are held in the country, which includes Ramadan, Kuda Id and Eid-Ul Al'H'AA.

PEOPLE & LANGUAGE
The Maldives has a population of about 270,000 people. (2000). The Maldivians have beautiful and harmonious blend of features from a mixture of Arabic to African, and Asian. The people live in simple, laid back, and contented life-style. With ready smiles, and always willing to lend a helping hand, the Maldivians are a friendly race and make visitors feel very welcome.

CLOTHING
Light cotton clothes are recommended to ward off the heat and humidity. Nudism is an offense in the Country, and visitors are requested to respect the traditions and religion of the local people by wearing clothes that cover the thighs and shoulders when visiting inhabited islands.

Accessibility

Despite it's geographical isolation, Maldives is easily accessible. Many airlines offer regular schedule and charter flights from Asia, Europe, Middle East, and South Africa. Male' International Airport is located on an island of its own which is just over a kilometer long. The island is for the exclusive usage of the airport and is only 10 minutes from the capital by boat.

VISA & ENTRY
A tourist visa of thirty days will be granted on arrival to all visitors with valid travel documents, A confirmed hotel reservation is required for immigration clearance, visitors without hotel reservations should seek assistance at the airport tourist information counter right outside the arrival hall.

CUSTOMS
Strict laws prohibit the import of pornographic materials, weapons, and drugs, into the country, and the penalties are severe. Alcohol cannot be imported without a license. It should be declared at the customs and will be returned to you on departure. The export of coral, shells, and other objects removed from their marine habitat is prohibited in the Maldives. Please assist us in preserving the environment by taking only photographs and memories with while leaving only footprints.

Video Underwater Scenes - Flash Version 120MB