Maldives culture and nightlife
The Maldives may be in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but the islands are close to historically important trade routes and, as a result, its people have been exposed to a range of different cultural influences.
In looks, language and culture, Maldivians have much in common with both India and Sri Lanka. The population is largely of Indo-Aryan origin and the language of the Maldives, called Dhivehi, is closely related to the Sinhala spoken in Sri Lanka. It also shares many features with languages spoken in North India. Don’t be surprised if you find Maldivians watching Bollywood movies.
African slaves have also left their mark culturally, for example in the “Boduberu” drumming performances of the Maldives, which are thought to have African roots.
Early inhabitants of the Maldives were Buddhist, as evidenced by a number of Buddhist sculptures and archaeological remains.
Since the 12th Century AD, the Maldives has been a Muslim country, and Islam remains a powerful force, shaping people’s traditions, practices and laws.
Thanks to the thriving tourism industry in the Maldives, English is now widely used in both commerce and government.
Muslim practices and laws
As a visitor to the Maldives, it’s important to respect the country’s Muslim traditions and laws. Most travellers stay in resorts, where Muslim rules and norms are relaxed to accommodate foreigners. Elsewhere though, note that you should:
- Dress conservatively, ensuring your shoulders and thighs are covered.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or smoking in public.
- During the month of Ramadan, avoid eating and drinking in public, except in tourist establishments.
- Avoid public displays of affection, like kissing, hugging or holding hands, with anyone of the opposite sex.
- Avoid nudity on beaches, which is prohibited.
- Ask politely before photographing local people.
The Maldivian diet depends heavily on fish and other seafood, coconut and starches such as rice, sweet potato, cassava, breadfruit and the screw pine fruit. The most popular fish, eaten fresh or dried, is skipjack tuna.
Fish and vegetable curries are eaten across the islands. Commonly used vegetables include eggplant, pumpkin, a tropical vine called chichanda and the pods and leaves of the moringa tree. Thanks to Indian influences, flat breads like chapatti and paratha, known locally as farata, are popular. Also try the Maldivian version of the samosa, known as bajiyaa and typically filled with a spiced mixture of onion and fish.
Maldives: Eating out
Resorts in the Maldives cater to all tastes, with food and beverages that are largely imported. There are also a number of restaurants in the Maldives, offering not just Maldivian food but a number of international cuisines.
A few top choices for eating out in the Maldives:
- Thila in Vihamanafushi, for fine dining and professional service in relaxing surroundings; the seafood here is exceptional.
- The Belle Amie Bistro on Malé, for excellent lunch and dinner buffets, as well as a wide range of à la carte Indian and international dishes.
- The Muraka Restaurant, right on the water’s edge and with truly outstanding food; consider splashing out on the lobster.
The Maldives isn’t famous for nightclubs. Instead it’s the perfect location to sip drinks while watching glorious sunsets, or to lie on the sand at night and see what stars really look like in a tropical sky with no light pollution from your surroundings.
However, for those who like to party, several of the larger resorts in the Maldives offer entertainment. For example, Club Med Kani provides live performances every night. Other resorts known for their evening entertainment include Kuredu, Paradise Island and Sun Island. For world-class DJs, also try W Retreat, Niyama and Huvafen fushi.