The Maldives is a group of
low-lying coral islands, forming an archipelago
of 26 major atolls, situated south west of Sri
Lanka. A small percentage of the islands are inhabited
and 87 are exclusively resorts, boasting tropical
landscapes hugged by picture-perfect beaches festooned
with palm trees. The myriad islands are surrounded
by coral reefs enclosing shallow lagoons.
The Dhivehin people
of the Maldives are descended from an ethnic mix
of Aryan, Negroid, Sinhalese, Dravidian and Arab
cultures. The history of the area was dominated
by a succession of bids for control that began
with Muslim rule in the 12th century.
The Arabs were later
supplanted by Portuguese then the British, until
1965 when the Maldives finally achieved full independence
as a sultanate. All Maldivians are Sunni Muslims
and their lifestyle follows the traditions of
Islam. Traces of ancient beliefs have endured
in the form of superstitions centred on evil spirits.
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