On Hajj Day in January, many Maldivians join Muslim pilgrims from around the world in travelling to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The three days following Hajj Day are national holidays, and those left at home participate in family gatherings and celebrate with food and games.
The day after Hajj Day is known as Eid-ul-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice. On this day, Muslims commemorate the time when Ibrahim prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac to God.
El am Hejir
El am Hejir, or the Islamic New Year, is celebrated in February. It marks the departure of Mohammed from Mecca and his move to Medina.
On National Day, Maldivians celebrate their independence and national culture. This day commemorates the defeat of the Portuguese by Mohammed Thakurufaanu in 1573, and is held on the first day of Rabee-ul Awwal (the third month of the Islamic calendar), which falls in either February or March. It’s marked by country-wide parades and festivals.
Eid-Milad Nabi (the Prophet’s birthday)
On the 12th day of Rabi al-awwal, Muslims celebrate the birthday of Mohammed. In the Maldives, people celebrate for a period of nine days with feasts, parties and parades. The festivities are especially colourful in Malé.
On Islam Day, which usually falls in April, Maldivians celebrate the introduction of Islam to their country. It’s said that a traveller named Abu al Barakat brought the religion to the Maldives, converting the country’s then Buddhist king, in 1153.
On July 26th, Maldivians celebrate their independence from Britain, achieved in 1965. A military march, followed by a parade with colourful floats and traditional dancing are held in Republic Square on the capital island of Malé. Throughout the other islands of the Maldives, people celebrate with food, music and dance performances and parades.
Annual Whale Shark Festival
On August 29th, the annual Whale Share Festival will enter its third year. The festival is the result of collaboration between conservationists and local communities. It features exhibits by local artists, performances by schools, street decoration, storytelling and a procession, complete with Boduberu drummers, costumes and giant models of marine creatures. The festival is designed to celebrate the incredible marine diversity of the South Ari atoll, with a specific focus on protecting the whale shark and its habitat.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, starting in August or September. During this month, Muslims around the world fast during daylight hours. Maldivians join in the fasting, and offices and government departments tend to close early. Ramadan ends with the first sighting of the new moon, marking the end of the ninth month.
Celebrated over three days, Kuda Eid marks the end of Ramadan. Across the Maldives, families enjoy feasts, visit friends and relatives and make donations to local charities. The period is also marked by live music performances, sports matches and marches.
On November 11th, the Maldives commemorates the day when it became a republic, in 1968. There are colourful marches and parades, especially in Malé, and families everywhere enjoy the holiday.
Each year on December 10th the Maldives celebrates its fishing industry, which is so crucial to the country. This is an excellent opportunity to sample fresh skipjack tuna, mackerel and other local fish.