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.
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.