It is believed that the Maldive islands or rather atolls, were inhabited as early as 2000 years BC and that they had already become an active trade center when Hindus from India and Buddhists from Sri Lanka displaced the original sun-worshiping Redin population sometime around 500 BC. There are traces of the co-existence of both these religions until the 12th century when a Maldivian king adopted Islam and converted his people. The Portuguese, the Dutch and the British has their periods of relative hegemony or influence but now the atolls are governed by a religious, military and political leader chosen by a 48 member Majlis and confirmed by a plebiscite with no alternative candidate. At this time, no other religion but the Sunni variety of Islam is allowed in the country.
|Lonely Planet CIA|
About a fourth of the population of the Maldives live on the island of Male which is the capital, the rest is dispersed over more than a thousand tiny islets which form the two dozen or so atolls of the archipelago.
Marine Drive on the north side of the island leads to this green expanse in front of the great Friday Mosque which is the heart of this Sunni community. Land is scarce on the island and much of the little there is has been reclaimed from the sea.
Majidi Magu is the main avenue crossing the island from west to east. Few tourists stay in Male, Most of them go directly from the airport to one of the very expensive luxury island resorts which have given the Maldives its reputation of being a diver's paradise. I stayed in Male and was lucky to find a room and a dive shop I could afford (17 US$ & 26 US$ respectively).
Diving near Shark Point off Villingili Atoll was great because of the excellent visibility and because the strong current made it possible to observe a considerable stretch of reef face in a single drift dive. The facilities of my dive shop were not luxurious but the service was friendly. I broke my record here by going down to 36.6 meters (119 feet)!
The elevation of Male, like that of all the Maldive islands is very low, a few meters at most. So low that it seems that one great tropical storm could sweep it all out to sea. Yet Male survives as it has for centuries.
Trade, which remained the island's mainstay after the Muslim conversion in the 12th century has now been replaced by tourism based on luxury island resorts catering to well heeled divers. Male now has an international airport a few feet above sea level and, as you can observe, planes seem to land in the sea.