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Maldives Islands, population of Maldives, Maldive Islands, Sunni Muslims, island republic

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Maldives (formerly Maldive Islands), island republic in southern Asia, located in the northern Indian Ocean, southwest of the southern tip of India. Maldives is made up of a chain of 1,190 small coral islands that are grouped into clusters of atolls. It has a total area of 298 sq km (115 sq mi). The capital and largest city of Maldives is Male (population, 2003, 83,000).

Land and Resources

The islands are low-lying and have only small tracts of arable land. Vegetation is dominated by coconut palms and breadfruit trees. The climate is tropical and humid. The average annual temperature is 26.7 C (80 F), with little seasonal variation. The average annual precipitation is 1,500 mm (60 in), most of which falls between May and November. The principal natural resource is the marine life of the surrounding seas.


The population of Maldives (2008 estimate) is 379,174, yielding an average population density of 1,264 persons per sq km (3,273 per sq mi). The most populous atolls are Male, the capital and principal commercial center; Suvadiva; and Tiladummati. The people are ethnically heterogeneous, incorporating Indian, Sinhalese, Arabian, and African elements. Islam is the state religion, and nearly all the people are Sunni Muslims. The language is Divehi, an Indo-European tongue related to Sinhalese.


The islands were settled by Buddhist peoples from southern Asia. Islam was introduced in the 12th century. The Portuguese traded at Male in the latter half of the 15th century. Although the islands were ruled by a local sultan, European influence was established over the area, first by the Dutch in the 17th century and later by the British. In 1887 the Maldives Islands formally became a British protectorate. In 1965 the Maldives achieved independence as a sultanate, and in 1968 the people voted to establish a republic. In 1988, Indian troops were called in to foil a coup attempt by Tamil mercenaries. In 1998 the country adopted a new constitution.


Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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