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Culture & Identity of the Maldives

Introduction

Life in the Maldives is heavily dependent on the lands and waters surrounding the islands. Life is based on the seas in the Maldives and it has been like this for years. However, today with rising water levels this is becoming even more prevalent. Tourism has also dramatically changed the culture and way of life on the islands.

Historically, the islands of the Maldives were quite islands based on living off the seas and adhering to Islam. Today a huge part of the economy is based on tourism and the way of life has dramatically changed for many people in order to cater to this industry.

There is still a small number of people reliant on the seas and lands, about 10% of the population. For these people who live off of agriculture, the focus is fishing and crop growth, particularly coconuts, corn, and sweet potatoes. For these workers life is based on the weather and seasons and little has changed with the introduction of tourism.

However, today about 65% of the people work in the services sector and for many of these people this life is based on tourism. The islands are dotted with resorts along the beautiful white sand beaches that attract tourists and honeymooners year round. This industry employs hotel operators, housekeeping staff, cooks, and many more people. The industry is very attractive to many people due to the higher wages. Many of these people also have more regularly scheduled working hours, although that may mean a regular evening or night shift.

As these tourists ignore many of the rules of Islam, particularly in terms of dress and diet, the culture is slowly changing and the people working in the tourism industry are becoming more accepting of differences. This industry is truly changing the culture and way of life, but for most of the country's population there is little personal interaction with the tourists so little has changed.

Although changes are underway, the greatest impact of the tourist industry for many people is simply higher wages. Although this money primarily falls into the hands of a small percentage of the people, the money has helped the entire economy as wages and prices have increased as the tourist industry has risen.

Despite the economic improvements and the ever changing way of life in the country, the culture is still rooted in the seas, the lands, and to a lesser degree in Islam. Islam remains an important part of the people's lives, but in many ways it is more important in name than it is in practice. However, the seas and lands give the people food and jobs, both in agriculture as well as in tourism.

Identity

The people of the Maldives tend to identify as Maldivians, which is a term that is based on politics, ethnicity, language, and culture. As a very homogenous country, the people tend to have similarities in the realms of citizenship, religion (Islam), ethnicity, language, and foods as all of these things define what it means to be a Maldivian. On a secondary level, the people tend to identify by the region or island that they are from when talking amongst themselves.

This page was last updated: November, 2013