The Republic of Maldives is a country consisting territorially of a group of atolls in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of India.
Main article: History of the Maldives
The early history of the Maldives is obscure. According to Maldivian legend, a Sinhalese prince named Koimale was stranded with his bride--daughter of the king of Sri Lanka--in a Maldivian lagoon and stayed on to rule as the first sultan.
Over the centuries, the islands have been visited and their development influenced by sailors from countries on the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean littorals. Mopla pirates from the Malabar Coast--present-day Kerala state in India--harassed the islands. In the 16th century, the Portuguese subjugated and ruled the islands for 15 years (1558-1573) before being driven away by the warrior-patriot and later Sultan, Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al-Azam.
Although governed as an independent Islamic sultanate for most of its history from 1153 to 1968, Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until July 25, 1965. In 1953, there was a brief, abortive attempt at a republican form of government, after which the sultanate was reimposed.
Following independence from Britain in 1965, the sultanate continued to operate for another 3 years. On November 11, 1968, it was abolished and replaced by a republic, and the country assumed its present name. Tourism and fishing are being developed on the archipelago.
On 26 December 2004 the Maldives were devastated by a tsunami following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. The Maldives' shallow coastal waters reduced the destructive impact, preventing the waves from reaching much more than 1.2 - 1.5 meters in height . Despite this, the archipelago's low lying nature (one of the lowest lying countries on Earth) meant that nearly all of the country was swamped. At least 75 people perished, including six foreigners, and all infrastructure was lost on 13 of the inhabited islands and 29 of the resort islands.
Main article: Tourism in Maldives
Main article: Politics of the Maldives
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, first elected president in 1978 and has retained power since. He has ruled in an authoritarian manner. He survived a coup attempt that was foiled with help of Indian troops in 1988.
Since 2003 the country has experienced occasional antigovernment demonstrations that have called for political reforms.
Main article: Atolls of the Maldives
The Maldives hold the record for being the flattest country in the world, with a maximum altitude of only 2.3 metres. Although there have been reports of rising sea levels threatening the islands, the sea level has actually lowered in recent decades.
Caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, a tsunami in the Indian Ocean saw parts of Maldives be covered by sea water and many people homeless. After the disaster, cartographers are planning to redraw the maps of the islands due to alterations by the tsunami. The people and government are worried that Maldives would be wiped out from the map eventually.
Main article: Geography of the Maldives
"Maldives Project." Sea Level Changes in the Maldive Islands. Accessed on February 5, 2005.
Main article: Demographics of the Maldives
Main article: Culture of the Maldives