Maldives 1: In search of the sinking islands

In preparation for a trip to the Maldives that I will be taking in November, I’ve decided to exercise my considerable powers of curiosity and bulk up on random factoids pertaining to this fascinating string of islands.  Judging from the reactions I’ve received from many of my friends and colleagues, it appears that a rather large number of people have never actually heard of the Maldives.  So, given that much of this country will likely be under water as a result of sea level rise due to climate change within the next 30 or 40 years, I thought it my duty to share little tidbits that I pick up along the way prior to my trip.

 Here goes:

1.  The Maldives are located just southwest of Sri Lanka, in the Indian Ocean, and consist of nearly 1200 islets arranged in 26 rather cool looking atolls.

2.  Approximately 300,000 people live there, and all are officially Sunni Muslim.  All other religions are illegal, as are alcohol and symbols of Islamic extremism (the only Muslim country that I’ve found where wearing a burqa is actually illegal – this could be blinding ignorance on my part, so someone correct me on this if you know of another example).

3.  Most of the country is less than 1 meter above sea level… hence the legendary vulnerability to climate change.  Each atoll and islet are encircled by spectacular coral reefs, which aren’t taking well to rising ocean temperatures and acidification.

4.  Despite being one of the most orderly and peaceful nations in South Asia, a bomb packed with nails was set off day before yesterday in the capital of the Maldives (Male’).  12 foreign tourists were injured, and 10 people were arrested.  This is disturbing news.  I’m told that this is the first event of its kind in the history of the Maldives.

There is a long story to be told regarding human rights in the Maldives, which will follow as I learn more. 

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A wildly interdisciplinary path has led Sarah to pursue her PhD through UBC's Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. She gets riled about climate change, development, and equity issues, and any reference to P_ris Hi_ton. In her spare time, she cares for her rabbit (Stew) and composes self-congratulatory bios. (Sarah's intro post can be found here)

10 Responses to “Maldives 1: In search of the sinking islands”

  1. davidp

    “the only Muslim country that I’ve found where wearing a burqa is actually illegal ” I believe headscarves and burqa’s are illegal in Tunisia and they recently had a crackdown.

    It is also not allowed for Turkish public servants.

  2. musthos

    “the only Muslim country that I’ve found where wearing a burqa is actually illegal” .. its not illegal. If during your trip you get to visit the capital, you will notice that a lot of women wear burga. Its not compulsory either, it’s up to the person to decide if she want to or not..

  3. Sarah

    Thanks for these comments – I was curious about the burqa issue in the Maldives. I learned this (apparently incorrect) fact from a piece written by Aishath Velenizee, a Maldivian writer for the Lonely Planet group. She says that “the government has banned face coverings to limit the appearance of radical religious ideas.” If this is correct, then perhaps the face coverings are not technically illegal but not advised.

    I have since had a couple of interesting conversations about the backlash against fundamentalism in countries such as Turkey and Tunisia mentioned above. Continue educating me!

  4. Shagufta Pasta

    Turkey is an interesting case because the state is secular to the point of oppression. No headscarves in any public space..which includes not only public servants, but people at university, school and any other ‘public space’. argh.

  5. Shauna

    Your website came up when I searched Maldives sinking on google so thought I’d say a few words. I have to say, this is a very interesting time to visit the Maldives. I am not sure if you will be visiting as a tourist or for research purposes. But, things have changed dramatically over the past 7-8 years. There is a lot of “democracy fever” in the country…and to your surprise you will find people are not very eco-friendly either. There is lack of general concern and knowledge about the vulnerability of our country to global climate change. To a great extent it comes from the religious beliefs of end of the world is coming. Secondly, people do not see that because they want to catch up and live the “American Dream” life; earn, consume…Young people are a very large portion of the population and there is much to be done to raise a healthy generation. Recent report that was released by Unicef said about 20% of youth in Maldives are addicticted to heroin. Our government has done a very poor job of addressing the pressing socio-economic issues. Corruption is one of the main reasons why people have lost faith in the government. People are apathetic to work to make a difference as well..there is wide gap between the rich and poor…..Usually visiting tourists do not see many of these. Maldives is one of the most beautiful places, but there is a very dark side to it. The income we recieve from one of the msot successful economies in South Asia unfortunately has not reached to help the people of Maldives…..

  6. ken hood

    getting ready 4 town i found $100 strangely in my wallet i drove in , was picked up speeding & fined…$100?!!! this was after i accepted that all humans will experience endless joy thanx only 2 ‘Jesus’ so i take it as angelic endorsement god bless yer

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