The Maldives consists of nearly 1,200 coral islands in the Indian Ocean. Around 80 per cent of land area is less than one meter above sea level, which can cause the entire country to disappear if the sea rises.
Key figures and facts
- Capital: Measure
- Ethnic groups: A homogeneous mix of Sinhalese, Dravidian, Arab, South Asian and African peoples
- Language: Maldivian dhiveli (official), English
- Religion: Sunni Muslims
- Population: 444 259 (2018)
- Control Form: Republic
- Area: 300 km2
- Currency: Maldivian rufiyah
- GNP per capita: 15 348 PPP $
- National Day: July 26th
The Maldives population was estimated at 392,709 in 2017. Average annual population growth was −0.06 percent in 2017. Life expectancy is estimated at 78.3 years for women and 73.5 years for men (2017). The residents are of Sinhalese, Malaysian and Arab origin.
Only a few of the many coral islands are inhabited, and only 20 islands have over 1,000 residents. The most populous atoll is Kaafu, where the capital Malé is located.
Islam was introduced in 1153. Almost the entire population is Sunni Muslims and it is forbidden to preach other religions publicly. Archaeological excavations led by Thor Heyerdahl in the 1980s showed that both Hinduism and Buddhism were previously dominant religions in the Maldives.
The residents of the Maldives (and on the island of Minicoy, which belongs to the Indian archipelago Lakshadweep) speak Maldivian, also called mahl and divehi bass (the island language). It is disputed whether Maldivian is a strongly divergent dialect of Sinhalese or a native language closely related to Sinhalese. There has been little use as a written language. Unlike Sinhalese, Maldives has borrowed many loan words from Arabic.