Customs of Maldives
The Maldivian culture and customs are an infusion of elements from India, Sri Lanka and even North Africa, owing to the footfall of traders traversing through the Indian Ocean.
Although life in the island resorts is quite relaxed, certain etiquettes demand to be followed. While topless bathing and nudity are strictly prohibited for women, wearing bikinis is acceptable. You need to be a little more adequately dressed for dining.
If you are visiting places inhabited by locals, like Male, bear in mind that Maldives is a devout Islamic nation. Therefore make sure you are sensitive to the local customs and dress conservatively. Lowers should cover the thighs and tops and t-shirts should cover the shoulders and not be very low cut. If you are visiting mosques, women must have their heads covered and neither men or women should wear shorts.
Alcohol is not available and should not be consumed in the inhabited islands. Your resorts will be serving alcoholic beverages.
Tipping is not compulsory here, but will nevertheless be expected. The 10% service charge levied is usually not paid to the staff. Tips ranging from USD 5 - USD 10 will be appreciated by your waiter, boat crew or room attendant.
Language of Maldives
The national language here is Dhivehi, with varying dialects. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family and hence quite different from English.
However, being a popular tourist destination, English is also widely spoken and understood.
Some common phrases in the local language are:
Assalaamu Alaikum - Hello
Aan - Yes
Noon - No
Ran'galhu - Good
Shukuriyaa - Thank You
History of Maldives
The archipelago was inhabited as early as 5th Century BC, by Buddhists believed to be from Sri Lanka and southern India. Located in the prime marine route while crossing the Indian Ocean, Maldives used to be the replenishment centre for food, water, coir and other equipment. Maldivians were followers of Buddhism, as told by the Buddhist ruins excavated from these islands. Ancient relics have also suggested traces of Hinduism and Paganism, since inception. It was in 1153 AD that Maldivians embraced Islam. Ibn Battuta, a North African traveller was known to have resided here.
Maldives was not free from foreign aggressions - invaded by the Portuguese in 1558 who reigned for 15 years, followed by the Dutch of Ceylon in the 17th century and finally became a British Protectorate in 1887 after the British took over Ceylon.
It was only in 1932 that a democratic regime was adopted. In 1953, the first Republic was proclaimed, but Maldives had absolute political independence from the British in 1965.
Ibrahim Nasir was appointed the first President of the Second Republic of Maldives.
Subsequent to this, the island nations have developed tremendously over the year, exploiting various economic opportunities and opening its doors to tourism.
Nightlife in Maldives
Maldivian nightlife tends to be more on the calm side, with most evening entertainment taking place on resort premises. The paradise islands being heralded as primarily a destination for couples, one wouldn't expect much in the way of clubbing - however, some hotels have bars and nightclubs attached to their premises. Standouts include the chic Fifteen Below at W Retreat and Spa, the unique underwater Subsix nightclub at Per Aquum Niyama Resort and the Reethi Beach Resort, which is a socialites' magnet.
Partake in beach parties, with barbeques set up against the relentless sea and limited brands of wine.
Shopping in Maldives
Male is the main shopping site in Maldives, with its lanes lined with boutiques selling international products. Majeedhee Magu is one of the most famous shopping destinations with clothing items, cosmetics, accessories, electronics and groceries on offer. Orchid Magu and Chaandhanee Magu are adorned with rows of souvenir shops selling varieties of local artifacts. The STO Trade Centre is also situated in Orchid Magu.
Shops in the inhabited islands also sell souvenirs in the likes of authentic lacquer works, dhoni crafts (miniatures of traditional boats), wood carvings, mat weavings, coconut shell products, coir ropes and clothes.
Do visit the Male local market and fish market, for more so an experience rather than making purchases. Fresh produce in vivid colours will meet your eyes, as you explore the markets on foot. Fruits, vegetables, dry fish as well as fresh fish, green coconut, spices are few things being sold and as a visitor you will be more than welcomed to stock on local ingredients.
Most resorts will afford the opportunity of shopping in boutiques selling internationally acclaimed brands. Essentials like food, stationery, medicines, cosmetics are also easily available.