History
Formerly a Sultanate under Dutch and English protection, the Maldives are now a republic. Long ruled over with an iron fist by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who did not hesitate to jail dissidents and was re-elected five times in more or less rigged elections, resistance to his rule culminated in violent rioting in 2003 and 2004. Much to everybody's surprise, free and fair elections were finally held in 2008, and Gayoom gracefully conceded defeat to opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, "Anni".
The Tsunami of 26 December 2004 caused extensive damage to the Maldives - of a population of only 290,000, over a third was directly affected by the tsunami and more than 29,000 people were left homeless. The economic damage alone was over 62% of the GDP or US$470 million.
Some islands, including Thaa atoll Vilufushi, felt the brunt of the wave, and residents on the island are now living in temporary shelters on the island of Buruni in the same atoll. More than a year later, there are in excess of 11,000 people in temporary shelters across the country. It was a brutal shock to the small island state which is so vulnerable to environmental disasters and global warming.
Culture
Maldivians are almost entirely Sunni Muslim, and the local culture is a mixture of South Indian, Sinhalese and Arab influences. While alcohol, pork, dogs and public observance of non-Muslim religions are banned on the inhabited islands, the resort islands are allowed to exist in a bubble where anything goes.
Note that the weekend in the Maldives runs from Friday to Saturday, during which banks, government offices and many shops are closed. You won't notice this at the resorts though, except that lunch hours may be shifted for Friday prayers.
Climate  
The Maldives are tropical, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 30°C throughout the year. However, rainfall increases considerably during the April-October southwest monsoon, particularly from June to August.
Cuisine  
A typical Maldivian meal: masroshi pastries, mas riha fish curry, papadhu, grilled fish, rice and sweet black tea. Maldivian food revolves largely around fish (mas), in particular tuna (kandu mas), and draws heavily from the Sri Lankan and south Indian tradition, especially Kerala. Dishes are often hot, spicy and flavored with coconut, but use very few vegetables. A traditional meal consists of rice, a clear fish broth called garudhiya and side dishes of lime, chili and onions. Curries known as riha are also popular and the rice is often supplemented with roshi, unleavened bread akin to Indian roti, and papadhu, the Maldivian version of crispy Indian poppadums. Some other common dishes include:

  • Mas huni — Shredded smoked fish with grated coconuts and onions, the most common Maldivian breakfast
  • Fihunu mas — Barbequed fish basted with chili
  • Bajiya — Pastry stuffed with fish, coconut and onions
  • Bambukeylu hiti — Breadfruit curry
  • Gulha — Pastry balls stuffed with smoked fish
  • Keemia — Deep-fried fish rolls
  • Kulhi borkibaa — Spicy fish cake
  • Masroshi — Mas huni wrapped in roshi bread and baked
  • Theluli mas — Fried fish with chili and garlic
 
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