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   Information Center Maldives
Maldives General Information
 
History of Maldives
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Maldives Geography
Maldives Population
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People, Language & Religion
 
 
 

People

The original inhabitants of the Maldives are thought to have been of south Indian and Arab origin. The people of the northern atolls have to some extent intermarried with peoples from western India, Arabia, and North Africa. Inhabitants of the southern islands show stronger physical affinities with the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka. Black African slaves imported from Zanzibar and Arabia have intermarried with the Maldivians, and there are also some Caucasian and Malayan elements.

Language

The Maldivian language, called Divehi, is similar to the old Sinhala (Elu) of Ceylon. It has contributed the word 'atoll' to international terminology. In recent years, the language has been influenced by Arabic and Urdu. Thaana, developed during the 17th century, is the corresponding script, written from right to left. English is spoken by most government officials, but only by a small number of the Maldivian population.

Religion

Though there is evidence that the early Maldivians were Buddhists, their conversion to Islam dates from 1153. With few exceptions, the people are Sunni Muslims, and both land ownership and citizenship are limited to adherents to this faith. Non-Muslim foreigners working in or visiting the country are permitted to practice their own religion privately. There are no non-Muslim places of worship. Proselytising for non-Muslim faiths is prohibited. The government's Department of Religious Affairs regulates matters pertaining to religion.

 

 
 

 



 


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