Maldives comprises some 1,900 islands in the Indian Ocean. The earliest settlers were probably from southern India. Indo-European speakers followed them from Sri Lanka in the fourth and fifth centuries BC. In the 12th century AD, sailors from East Africa and Arab countries came to the islands. Today, the Maldivian ethnic identity is a blend of these cultures, reinforced by religion and language.
Originally Buddhists, Maldivians were converted to Sunni Islam in the mid-12th century. Islam is the official religion of the entire population. Strict adherence to Islamic precepts and close community relationships have helped keep crime low and under control.
The official and common language is Dhivehi (the written script is called Thaana), an Indo-European language related to Sinhala , the language of Sri Lanka. The writing system is from right to left. English is used widely in commerce and increasingly as the medium of instruction in government schools.
Some social stratification exits on the islands. It is not rigid, since rank is based on varied factors, including occupation, wealth, Islamic virtue, and family ties. Members of the social elite are concentrated in Male.
Population: 301,475 (July 2000 est.)
0-14 years: 46% (male 71,273; female 67,323)
15-64 years: 51% (male 78,598; female 75,331)
65 years and over: 3% (male 4,666; female 4,284) (2000 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.06% (2000 est.)
Birth rate: 38.96 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Death rate: 8.32 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.09 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 65.52 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 62.2 years
male: 61.05 years
female: 63.4 years (2000 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.62 children born/woman (2000 est.)
Ethnic groups: South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs
Religions: Sunni Muslim
Languages: Maldivian Dhivehi (dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic), English spoken by most government officials
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.2%
female: 93% (1995 est.)
- See also : Maldives