August 28 2019

8 Facts About the Maldives

Maldives
The Maldives is known to many as paradise on earth with its Instagrammable, turquoise beaches, its diverse and colorful marine life, and weather that's always just right. But most famously, the country is probably known for being rumored to disappear within the next 10 years due to climate change. But how much more do you know about the country that holds a population of less than 500,000? Did you know that the country consists 1,192 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, along the north-south direction, spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 sq mi), making this one of the world's most dispersed countries? Or did you know that the official language is Divehi, which is an Indo-Aryan language? We have gathered 8 facts that should be known before visiting the beautiful country just south of India.

1. The Maldives

A quick reminder, fact fans, that The Maldives is a country made up of 26 idyllic atolls sitting in the incredible azure waters of the Indian Ocean. To the north are Sri Lanka and India, countries which greatly shaped The Maldives' culture, Indonesia is to the west while East Africa is a long way to the east. Our home in Raa Atoll, also known as Huruvalhi, sits pretty much in the center of the country, around 370 miles north of the equator, something which helps explain the pretty-much perfect climate.

Cheekily, our farm island’s official name means “between two butt cheeks” and when you look from the sky view it is like a dot between two butt cheeks as there’s a canal current in the middle that separates us!

2. The History

The earliest written history of The Maldives dates back to around 500 BC, when Arab traders from the 12th century onwards led to the eventual conversion of the country to Islam. Waves of colonizers followed, namely the Portuguese, Dutch and British, all of whom left their different cultural marks. The country's national hero, Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al Auzam fought to free The Maldives from Portuguese occupation and originally came from our home of Raa Atoll, no less. The country then celebrated its independence from the UK just over half a century ago in 1965.

3. The Transportation

Within Raa Atoll, our home of Huruvalhi was originally just a sandbank, making us at The Standard its first permanent inhabitants. Huruvalhi is actually a name given to three islands in the Maldives and simply means small island. There are no prizes for guessing that the one form of transport you see here more than any other are boats, notably the beautiful handmade Maldivian boats called dhoni. These things are a work of art and a labor of love, crafted by carpenters known as kissaru vadin. What's most amazing? Traditionally these craftsmen don't use blueprints or plans, but rather just give out instructions and measurements to eventually turn coconut palm timber into sleek vessels.

Ten years ago, one of the Presidents of the Maldives drew attention to the issue by holding a cabinet meeting on the seabed! He and his ministers donned scuba gear and sat at desks underwater to highlight the threats faced.

4. The Name

Once you reach our stunning private paradise, you'll find two islands: our main island and the island of your beautiful villa is called Huruvalhi while the adjacent farm island is called Dheburi Dheytherey Vadhoo. Cheekily, our farm island’s official name means “between two butt cheeks” and when you look from the sky view it is like a dot between two butt cheeks as there’s a canal current in the middle that separates us! Once here, you'll quickly learn that Raa Atoll is a world-renowned diving site, thanks in part to a high density of submerged islands known as thilas located inside our lagoon. Down amongst the caves and drop-offs sits an incredibly diverse world of marine life, especially from May to November which is Manta mating dance season, when these giant winged beauties put on remarkable shows of aquatic courtship.

5. The Marine Life

Sustainability is of course absolutely front and center at Huruvalhi, defining everything we do. Our coral nursery and desalination plant are just two examples of our efforts to protect our stunning and unique ecosystem. Back in 2011, the Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve was designated by UNESCO, thanks to 75 islands whose coral reefs are a hugely important habitat both in terms of size and biodiversity of life. They support more than 250 species of coral and hundreds of other species of ocean life. For example, The Maldives is a place that five of the world's seven species of turtles call home, namely the leatherback, hawksbill, green, olive ridley and loggerhead. Keep an eye out too for parrot fish who play a critical role as the beautiful corralite sand on our beaches comes from the undigested coral that they eat. Less than one in twenty of the world’s beaches feature this sand and one parrot fish can produce up to a ton of sand every year!

6. The Flag

The flag of The Maldives combines important colors and symbols. Green is for peace and also the national emblem of the Coconut Tree. They can grow up to 30 meters tall and the oldest date back more than 100 years and every part of them is used; from their fruit seen across the nation's food to the solid wood used to build everything from homes to furniture to boats and the leaves used to make roofs, fences and even ropes. The white crescent is for Islam as The Maldives is a Muslim country, while the red signifies the bloodshed in the struggles for independence. There's some debate as to the origin of the name Maldives, with some suggesting it derives from the Tamil language and their words for garland and island, while Maldivians are known as Dhivehin and their language is Dhivehi, which also is the name of the country; Dhivehi Rajje meaning Republic of Maldives.

7. The Climate

The Maldives is the lowest and the flattest country on the planet, while its highest natural point registers barely 5 meters, or around 17ft. Given the drastic and irrefutable evidence of climate change, rising ocean levels are also a considerable threat. Indeed, a number of islands have already been cleared as their fresh water sources have been compromised by salt water. Ten years ago, one of the Presidents of the Maldives drew attention to the issue by holding a cabinet meeting on the seabed! He and his ministers donned scuba gear and sat at desks underwater to highlight the threats faced.

8. The Food

It's no surprise that the key food of The Maldives is tuna, given the stunning quality of sustainably caught fish from the Indian Ocean. One of the country's national dishes—not to be missed while at Huruvalhi—is called ‘Mashuni’. Eaten at any time of the day, but especially at breakfast, it's a delicious combination of tuna, coconut flakes or grated coconut and chili, lime, curry leaves, onion which is served with local roti bread (‘roshi’) fresh from the pan or its thicker version with coconut called Huni Roshi. Don't forget a glass of delicious sweet hot black tea to accompany. Versions of Mashuni include various types of vegetables like pumpkin or eggplant and a range of different types of tuna like valhomas (smoked fish) or hikimas (dried fish), usually an extra spicy version not for the faint-hearted that features extra chili!

Writer
Chris Dwyer