The Republic of Maldives is an archipelago consisting of 26 atolls situated in the Indian Ocean. This chain of islands, stretching across in a north-south direction, lies across the equator between 7° 6′ 30″ and 0° 41′ 48″ south and between 72° 32′ 30″ and 73° 45′ 54″ east of Greenwich. The closest neighbours of Maldives are India (595 km) to the north, Sri Lanka (670 km) to the northeast and the Chagos Archipelago (550 km) directly to the south.
Ninety-nine percent of the Maldives is made up of sea. In both land area and size, Maldives is the smallest country in Asia. With an average ground level of 1.5m (4ft 11in), Maldives is the lowest-lying country in the world. Its highest point, which stands 2.3m (7ft 7in) above sea level is the world’s lowest naturally highest point.
The people of the islands are widely dispersed across the atolls. Only 200 islands are inhabited. About 90 islands are developed as tourist resorts and the rest are uninhabited or used for agriculture and other livelihood purposes.
The capital city of Maldives is Male’, which is also the most populous city in the country. The Maldives is a 100% Muslim country, making it the smallest Muslim country in the world.
Maldives consists of a double chain of 1,190 coral islands oriented at a north-south direction in the Laccadives Sea in the Indian Ocean. These islands are grouped into 26 natural atolls, which for organisational purposes have been divided into 20 administrative atolls. The land area of this archipelago is approximately 298 sq km stretched across 118,000 sq km of water, which makes over 99% of the Maldives to be made of water! The equator cuts across the country between the southernmost atolls, laying Addu and Fuamulaku to the south and Huvadhu Atoll to the north.
With the average temperature at about 30 degrees Celsius throughout the year, the sun is a constant on most days, shining through treetops, creating lacy patterns on white sand, healing cold-bones with its warmth. Maldives has two distinct seasons; dry season (northeast monsoon) and wet season (southwest monsoon), with the former extending from January to March and the latter from mid-May to November. The average annual rainfall is 254cm (100in) in the north and 381cm (150in) in the south.
The Maldives is world renowned for its underwater wildlife. Maldivian waters are home to several ecosystems and harbour a variety of underwater flora and fauna
The adverse effects of climate change is an existential threat to low-lying small island developing states such as the Maldives. Over the last twenty years the Maldives has been in the forefront to draw attention to the negative impacts of environmental degradation and sea – level rise. Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report confirmed what the Maldives has been advocating for the last two decades.
The Maldives is amongst the least contributors to greenhouse emissions, amounting to around 0.0003% of the world’s total emissions. Yet, it is one of the most affected! The Maldives is has often criticised the world’s inability to find a political solution to the problem due to the long-standing mistrust between States in climate negotiations and the unwillingness of those who contribute most, to admit their historical responsibility for global warming. The Maldives strongly believes that for the global debate on climate change to move forward, industrialised countries should accept ambitious and binding emission reduction targets consistent with stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations. It is undoubtedly paramount to manage global temperatures to less than 1.5 degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, and any increase of more than 2 degrees would be catastrophic for the entire humanity.
The Maldives has also supported the need to adopt sustainable developmental policies together with smart climate resilient strategies that is moving some societies and economies towards a positive trajectory that will transform them into more resilient ones.
The official language of the Maldives is Dhivehi, a language that is only spoken in the nation. The origin of this unique language is believed by most researched to be in Sanskrit and Elu, the ancient language of the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. It belongs to the Indro-Indian group of languages and depicts strong affinities with the major languages of the region. Following the advent of Islam in the 12th Century, the language has borrowed liberally from the Arabic language, and more recently with the introduction of English medium education, the influence of English on the development of Dhivehi language in modern times is no less significant.
As the islands of the Maldives are widely dispersed, spoken Dhivehi can vary widely in vocabulary and pronunciation between atolls as well as islands, with the southern most islands having the most significantly distinct dialect.
Dhivehi script, known as Thaana, is written from right to left, similar to the Arabic language. This new script was invented in the 16th century, following the liberation of the country from the Portuguese.
There are 24 letters in the Thaana alphabet and 11 separate vowel sounds, which are placed either above or below the alphabet letter designating the sound.