According to physicscat.com, the first residents probably arrived in the archipelago from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and southern India before 500 BC. It is believed that as early as 2000 BC the islands were located at the crossroads of trade routes of various maritime nations. The Maldives maintain that an ancient people of sun worshipers, the Redin, were the first residents of the islands, and they left behind the beliefs and customs related to evil spirits or Jinnis, still in force today.
The Redin left the territory around 500 BC or were absorbed by Buddhists from Ceylon or Hindus from India. Since construction materials were limited, each group built its most important structures on top of those left by previous settlers. This explains why many Maldivian mosques are oriented towards the sun and not towards Mecca. Arab traders heading to the Far East already made visits to the archipelago in the 2nd century. Known as the Money Islands, they provided huge quantities of cowrie shells that, in ancient times, were used as international currency.
The conversion to Islam in 1153 ne marks a before and after in the history of the Maldives. According to Maldivian tradition, a sea jinni named Rannamaari called for the regular sacrifice of young virgins in Male. Abdul Barakatul Barbari, an Arab visitor from North Africa, took the place of the girl they were going to sacrifice and expelled the demon by reading the Koran. The Maldivian king of the time converted to Islam, and later Barakatul became the first sultan. Six dynasties of sultans followed. When the Portuguese first arrived in the 16th century, there were two dynasties in power, the Malei and the Hilali.
The Portuguese, eager to control a larger portion of the lucrative Indian Ocean trade routes, built a fort and factory in Malé, but immediately sought to make greater profits from the Maldives. In 1558, Captain Andreas Andre led the Portuguese invasion during which Sultan Ali VI was assassinated. Andre ruled Male and much of the country for the next fifteen years. The Portuguese occupation ended with violence in 1573, when an island chief, Mohamed Takurufán, led an attack on the main Portuguese garrison and exterminated all the defenders.
In the 17th century, the Maldives came under the protection of the Dutch and later the British, but neither of them established a colonial government. By 1860, Borah merchants from Bombay established stores and shops in Male and immediately monopolized foreign trade. The Sultan Mohamed Muenudín II, upset by the growing economic power of Borah, signed an agreement with the British in 1867 which guaranteed the full independence of the islands. The archipelago became a British protectorate (1887) and Britain was allowed to build defense facilities.
The sultanate became an elective office (no longer hereditary) when, in 1933, the first Constitution of the islands was established. In 1953, the office was abolished and the republic was proclaimed with Amin Didi as the first president. After less than a year, Didi was overthrown; the sultanate was reestablished, and Mohamed Farid Didi was elected the 94th Sultan of the Maldives. In parallel, the British obtained a permit to re-establish their military airfield on Addu Atoll, in the extreme south of the country. In 1956, the Royal Air Force (British Air Force) began to develop the base as a stopover point, and used hundreds of Maldivians to undertake the repopulation of the island of Gan. Ibrahim Nasir, immediately after being elected prime minister in 1957, requested a review of the agreement and an increase in the annual payment.
An insurrection against the government followed by the residents of Addu and Suvadiva (Huvadu) atolls, who opposed Nasir’s request that the British stop using local labor. Influenced by the British presence, they decided to emancipate themselves and create an independent state. In 1962, Nasir sent warships to the southern atolls, and the rebellion was put down. Soon after, the British recognized the sovereignty of the islands and, in 1965, the Maldives achieved full independence.
In 1968, after a referendum, the sultanate was again abolished; a new republic was created with Nasir as president. His autocratic rule ended a decade later when, fearful for his life, he fled the country to take refuge in Singapore. The progressive Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was elected the new president. Gayoom has remained in power ever since; It has survived the coups of 1980 and 1988. In 1993, he was elected to a fourth five-year term; his presidency was confirmed by a referendum, which he overcame with an overwhelming majority.
The last few years have been characterized by modernization, rapid economic growth and an improvement in many of the social indicators. The main responsible for this growth include the fishing industry, tourism and foreign aid. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was elected president for the sixth time in 2003, the year Amnesty International accused his government of violating human rights.
In 2004, numerous people were detained without charge in pro-democracy demonstrations. For this reason, the EU decided to suspend a multimillion dollar shipment of humanitarian aid to the area.
The 26 of December of 2004, the islands were devastated by a tsunami that followed the earthquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004, produced waves of 1.2 to 1.5 meters high inundating the country almost completely. At least eighty-two people were killed, including six foreigners, and infrastructure was completely destroyed on 13 inhabited islands and 29 of the resort islands.
The Maldives islands are made up of a chain of 26 coral atolls located southwest of Sri Lanka, spanning 754 km in length and 118 km in width. The 1,900 coral islands are so tiny that rainfed land accounts for less than 4% of the country’s total territory. Some islands are mere uninhabited sandbars with a portion of bushes, while others have several kilometers and abundant vegetation.
In general, the lagoons are bright blue, with amazing coral reefs and rich marine life. Although strict legislation on fishing and commercial exploitation has kept the marine environment in a perfect state of conservation, in 1998 the reefs suffered the effects of El Niño: rising sea temperatures for two weeks stripped the reefs of a symbiotic algae which caused the discoloration of the coral polyps. Although this can have disastrous consequences, most of the Maldives’ coral reefs emerged unscathed and no marine species appear to have been affected. The reefs remain the ideal enclave for scuba diving and diving. snorkelling, even if they have temporarily lost some of their multi-colored beauty (a cyclical process that will be overcome, according to marine biologists and reef specialists).
Although many of the larger islands stand as the perfect representation of a tropical fantasy teeming with palm trees, most have poor sandy soil that only allows the growth of a limited variety of plants: bamboo, pandaceae, banana, mangroves, breadfruit, banyans (Ficus bengalensis), tropical vines and numerous coconut trees. The most extensive and humid islands are home to limited jungle areas. The main crops are reduced to sweet potato, taro, millet and watermelon, although some more fertile islands have citrus trees and pineapples.
Wild fauna is scarce; They can be bats giant fruit, lizards colorful and occasional rats. Domestic animals include cats, the occasional chicken, goats, and some rabbits. The most interesting fauna is found underwater. With a diving mask and a tube, you can see butterfly fish, angelfish, parrotfish, scorpion fish , unicorn fish, trumpeters, snappers blue stripes, Moorish idols, plectognatos and many other species. Likewise, divers will be able to search for larger animals, such as sharks, stingrays, mantas, sea turtles and dolphins.
In general, the monsoons divide the year into two climatic seasons: from December to March, the driest months, when the northeast monsoon appears, or ruvai; and from April to November, when the Southwest monsoon, or ulhangu, causes wetter weather, increased numbers of storms, and occasional strong winds. The average daytime temperature remains at around 28ºC throughout the year. Humidity decreases during the dry season, but generally a refreshing sea breeze blows.