Maldives Culture

Maldives are made up of around 1900 islands grouped into 26 atolls. They are located in the southwest of India, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Most of the islands are small (around 40 hectares) and have a maximum level of a couple of meters above the sea. Less than 20% of the Maldives islands are inhabited, and of these only about 70 by indigenous population. Most of this population (about 300,000 residents) are dedicated to fishing, the rest are dedicated to the main economic engine of this small republic: tourism. Currently around half a million privileged people are lucky enough to know this paradise.


According to Countryaah, the capital Male, is the most densely populated city in the world.

  • Population

396,334 (2009) 385,925 (2008), 369,031 (2007), 349,106 (2005 estimate)

  • Population trend: + 5.566% (2008)
    • Births: 14.55 / 1,000 (2009) 14.84 / 1,000 (2008)
    • Deaths: 3.66 / 1,000 (2008)
    • Children per woman: 1.9 (2009), 1.97 (2008)

According to the Islamic practice of the country, the testimony of two women is necessary for the equality of a man in matters such as adultery, finances, and inheritance. In other cases, the testimony of men and women is the same. Shari’a also governs the inheritance of property, granting male heirs twice the share of female heirs. The Constitution states that a defendant has the right to defend himself “in accordance with Sharia”. Family Law prohibits women from marrying non-Muslim foreigners, but allows men to marry non-Muslim foreigners, as permitted by sharia.

Maldives has the highest divorce rate in the world, with 10.97 cases per 1,000 residents

  • Ethnic groups

Maldivians (Dravidians) 98.5%, Sinhalese 0.7%, Others 0.8% (2000)

  • Languages
    • Official: Dhivehi 98.5%
    • Others: Sinhalese 0.7%


Although traditional dance and music performances are not held on a daily basis, there is a strong contemporary Divehi culture with great adaptability, despite foreign influences, ranging from Indian filmography to martial arts to Michael Jacksonand the Islamic fundamentalism. Western fashions, pop music and videos are common in the capital, but in public celebrations, such as the beginning and end of Ramadan, the festivities always maintain the Maldivian peculiarities. There are three newspapers and several magazines in the only national language, rock groupsdivehi and storey buildings inspired by the architecture of the traditional buildings of the archipelago.


Bodu beru designates a great drum that has given its name to the best-known traditional music and dance. The tourist hotels offer interpretations of this are in the evenings dedicated to the local culture, which can be a refined and interesting show: the dancers begin with a slow swing of arms that accelerates following the cadence, to conclude with a devilish rhythm. A bodu beru ensemble consists of four to six percussionists, and the sound has strong African influences. Local rock groups often perform in tourist establishments where they perform compelling covers of longtime hits. When playing to a local audience, they may incorporate elements of bodu beru into their music, with lots of percussion and long drum solos. The tapes of local ensembles can be purchased at music stores in Male.


The Maldivians, Sunni Muslims, profess Islam. Although any other religion is forbidden, ancient beliefs persist: the islanders fear the jinnis, evil spirits that come from the sea, land and sky, who are blamed for everything that cannot be explained by religion or science.

The fish and rice are the staple foods of Maldivians, while meat and chicken eaten only on special occasions. National dishes are based on fried fish, fish curry and fish soup. The arecanut (oval nut that is chewed together with betel leaves, clovesand lime) can be considered the equivalent of our glass after dinner. The spirit only found in tourist establishments. The local drink, raa, is a delicious and sweet punch that is extracted from the crown of the palm tree. Besides the coconut Few fruits and vegetables grow on the islands, so most of the food served to tourists is imported.


Most celebrations follow the Islamic lunar calendar, so the dates vary annually.

  • The most important religious celebration is in charge of Ramadan (known locally as rorda mas), the Islamic month of fasting.
  • Other notable events are:
    • The Kuda Id, the observation of the new moon, celebrated at the end of Ramadan,
    • The anniversary of the Prophet, which commemorates the birth of Muhammad.
  • Permanent festivals include:
    • The National Holiday, the day that Mohamed Takurufán and his men expelled the Portuguese from Malé in 1573, and which takes place on the first day of the third month of the lunar calendar.
    • Victory Day, which commemorates the triumph over Sri Lankan mercenaries who tried to overthrow the Maldivian government on November 3, 1988.
    • Republic Day, when the current Republic is celebrated, founded on November 11, 1968.


  • As a curious and interesting fact, it can be said that the Maldives is a Muslim country and, therefore, topless and nudism are prohibited. Alcohol outside of hotels is also difficult to acquire.
  • Another curiosity is that except for the islands of Male and Kuramathi there is only one hotel per island.

Maldives Culture