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The Maldives, an enchanting tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean, boasts a rich history and diverse culture that has been shaped by various influences over the centuries. As you explore this stunning island nation, immerse yourself in its vibrant traditions, mouth-watering cuisine, and breathtaking natural beauty.
Experience the vibrant Maldivian culture and contribute to local communities and their environment by joining our Maldives Island Volunteer Project.
The Maldives has been inhabited since around the 5th century BC, with early settlers arriving from present-day Sri Lanka and India. Initially, the inhabitants practiced Buddhism, but by 1153 CE, the Maldives converted to Islam under Arab influence. Today, the country is predominantly Islamic, and you can see numerous mosques scattered across Malé. Notable attractions include the Islamic Centre and Sultan’s Park, both showcasing exquisite architecture. The Maldives’ unique past also includes its abundant supply of cowrie shells used as ancient currency and its strategic importance on major Indian Ocean marine routes.
The Maldivian culture derives influences from various sources, with Sri Lanka and South India having a particularly strong impact. African slave ancestry has also left a mark, especially in music and dance. The Boduberu, a traditional Maldivian dance, exemplifies the African rhythm, language, and drum beats that have been woven into the cultural fabric.
Seafood plays a crucial role in Maldivian cuisine, with rice and fish being staple foods. Indian influence is evident in the use of spices, such as curry, which are prevalent in many dishes. Coconut milk and fish are also key ingredients in traditional recipes like Roshi. Betel leaf with areca nut, cloves, and lime, known as foh, is chewed after meals, and older people smoke guduguda (an elongated pipe that goes through a trough of water). Although alcohol is not permitted (except within tourist resorts), locals enjoy a traditional brew called raa.
The Maldives has a rich oral tradition of legends and folklore, often featuring mythical sea demons and spirits that haunt the islands. These legends are evident in local craftsmanship, including lacquer works, mat weaving, coir rope making, and calligraphy. Beautiful local crafts such as braided mats and various jewellery pieces make for perfect souvenirs to take home.
The coral reefs of the Maldives are not only an essential part of the country’s natural beauty but also hold historical and cultural significance. The Maldivian people have relied on the surrounding marine environment for their livelihoods, food, and cultural practices for centuries. As a result, preserving and protecting these delicate ecosystems is of paramount importance.
In recent years, the Maldives has experienced environmental challenges such as coral bleaching, ocean acidification, and overfishing, which threaten the health of these vital ecosystems. By participating in marine conservation efforts, volunteers can help protect and restore the Maldives’ coral reefs for future generations. WorkingAbroad’s Marine Conservation page provides more information on how you can contribute to preserving precious marine resources around the world.
To learn more about this fascinating island nation, explore the following pages on our website:
Maldives Climate and Geography
Maldives Wildlife and Biodiversity
As you delve deeper into the Maldives’ history and culture, you will develop a greater appreciation for this enchanting destination. We invite you to experience the Maldives firsthand and make a lasting impact through our volunteer project.
Volunteer in the Maldives and join marine conservation and medical projects within the tropical island of Naifaru, the capital of the Lhaviyani Atoll. Add on coral reef restoration diving available, as well as student vet and family opportunities available.
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