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Leeway Maldives Pvt Limited is a 100% Maldivian owned company incorporated on May 9th, 2003 with its head office at" Ma-Machangolhi Villa, Chandhany Magu, Male' 20173, Republic of Maldives.
Q1. Where is the Maldives? What about the Maldives geography?

Maldives is referred to as a string of pearls scattered over the deep blue Indian Ocean, formed from amazing white and coloured coral structures which are separated by crystal clear lagoons. The atolls stretch over 2100 kilometers and the islands are low lying with the highest point at over eight feet above sea level.

The multicolored reefs provide natural defense against wind and wave action, on these delicate islands and are known as 'Faru' or ring-shaped reef structures.

The first glimpse you get of this fascinating atoll- formation confirms two unique aspects of the Republic of Maldives. Not only does it consist of the most beautiful tropical islands, but 99% of its 90.000 km² is covered by the sea. 1190 islands are spread over 26 atolls, ring like coral formations enclosing a lagoon, which gives the Maldives its unique paradise-like appearance. They stretch for about 820 km from North to South, 130 km at the widest point and do not exceed a length of 4.5 miles or an altitude of 6 feet above sea level. No more than 200 islands are inhabited; the rest includes the 87 tourist resorts and uninhabited islands, some of which are used for drying fish or other agricultural activities. The capital Malé, the seat of government and the centre of trade, commerce, business, health and education, is located in the middle of the atoll chain, a small island buzzing with the sounds and activities of about 75.000 people which is about one third of the population.

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Q2. What is the Maldives climate like?

In a nation with less than one percent land and over 99 percent sea, the weather obviously plays a significant role in day-to-day life. For a long time Maldivians have organized their lives based on a system on nakaiy. Each nakaiy is 13 or 14 days long and is divided into two seasons; iruvai northest monsoon and hulhangu south west monsoon. The nakaiy calendar is still used to determine such things as the best time for fishing, travel or planting crops.

The Maldives has a tropical climate with warm temperatures year round and a great deal of sunshine. The warm tropical climate results in relatively minor variations in daily temperature throughout the year. The hottest month on average is April and the coolest, December. The weather is determined largely by the monsoons.

There is a significant variation in the monthly rainfall levels. February is the driest with January to April being relatively dry, May and October records the highest average monthly rainfall. The southwest monsoon or hulhangu from May to September is the wet season. Rough seas and strong winds are common during this period. The northeast monsoon iruvai falls between December to April. This is a period of clear skies, lower humidity and very little rain. The Maldives is in the equatorial belt and therefore severe storms and cyclones are extremely rare events. However the country is affected whenever cyclones form in the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea. The spiraling clouds of the weather systems appear over the Maldives causing spells of rain.

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Q3. Who were the first settlers in the Maldives?

Much of the Maldives history reached our age as folk tales and legends. It is believed that the Islanders of Giraavaru were those who first settled in Maldives. They were those who had authority over Male Atoll. Male’ (presently the Capital of Maldives) was used for cutting and processing the fish that the Giraavaru people caught.The legend goes to state that a Srilankan family after obtaining permission from the Giraavaru Village settled in Male. Afterwards when descendants from India and Sri Lanka settled in the Maldives, out numbering the Giraavaru Islanders, the father of the family Koimala became King of Maldives.

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Q4. From where did the first settlers of Maldives come from?

The origins of the Maldivian people are shrouded in mystery. The First settlers may well have been from Sri Lanka and Southern India. Some say Aryans, who sailed in their reed boats from the Indus Valley about 4,000 years ago, probably followed them. Archeological evidence suggests the existence Hinduism and Buddhism before the country embraced Islam in 1153 A.D.Not surprisingly, the faces of today’s Maldivian display the features of various faces that inhabit the lands around the Indian Ocean shipping and maritime routes, the Maldives has long been a melting pot for African, Arab and South East Asian mariners.

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Q5. What languages do the Maldivians speak?

The language of the Maldivians is Dhivehi, a language which is placed in the Indro-Indian group of languages. Dhivehi with its roots in Sanskrit and according to some researchers Elu, an ancient form of Sinhala, (spoken in Sri Lanka), is strongly influenced by the major lanuguages of the region. The language has been influenced heavily from Arabic since the advent of the Islam in 1153 and English in more recent times, especially since the introduction of English as a medium of education in the early 1960s.

Given the wide dispersion of islands it is not surprising that the vocabulary and pronunciation vary from atoll to atoll, with the difference being more significant in the dialects spoken in the southernmost atolls.

The Maldivian script known as thaana was invented during the 16th century soon after the country was liberated from Portuguese rule. Unlike former scripts thaana is written from right to left. This was devised to accommodate Arabic words that are frequently used in Dhivehi. There are 24 letters in the thaana alphabet.

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Q6. What is the population in the Maldives?

The population of Maldives has increased rapidly during the last few decades. However with a population of 300,000 the country still remains one of the smallest nations in Asia.

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Q7. Do all Maldivians live on one island?

About a quarter of the population is resident in Male’ the capital. Outside Male’ the largest population are in Hithadhoo in Addu Atoll, Fuamulah and Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaalu Atoll with 9,640, 7243 and 6,354 respectively. The rest is dispersed sparsely in the rest of the 200 inhabited islands.

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Q8. Tell me about the family life of the Maldivians!

The close-knit island communities practice mutual aid to survive difficult circumstances. Systems of extended families provide a safety net for members of a family going through a difficult period. In addition to the parents other members of the family also contribute in the care of children. Traditionally men go out fishing during the day and women are responsible to look after the affairs of the family and vary often the community. This remains so even today in smaller island communities.

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Q9. What religion do the Maldivians follow?

Since Maldives embraced Islam in 1153, Islam has been central to the life of Maldivians. The main events and festivals of Maldivian life follow the Muslim Calendar. From infancy children are taught the Arabic alphabet. Religious education is provided both at home and at school. Islam is part of the school curriculum and is taught concurrently with other subjects.

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Q10. What is the favourite food of the Maldivians?

The favourite food of the Maldivians are rice and fish soup. Fish soup is better known to the Maldivians as "Garudhiya". Maldivians eat all kinds of western food as well provided that it is prepared with ingredients that is 'Halal' or permitted for Muslims to eat or drink.

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Q11. Was the Maldives invaded by any country at any time?

The Portuguese had a keen interest in the Maldives due to the availability of cowry shells, and ambergris, an important ingredient in perfumes, and had been approached by the formerly expelled Sultan, Hassan IX to help him regain his throne. Three attempts were repelled mainly due to Ali Rasgefaanu, who proved to be a brave and tough fighter. He became Sultan Ali VI but only for a few months as he was killed during another Portuguese attack, dying a martyr's death. His tomb, built at the very spot where he died in the sea is now on dry land due to the reclamation of land in Male';. Martyr's day, a public holiday, has been devoted to him. The next 15 years saw the darkest period in Maldivian history, when the Portuguese tried to enforce Christianity upon the islanders. Mohamed Thakurufaanu and his two brothers from the island of Utheemu, used a form of guerilla warfare for eight long years, during which one of the brothers was caught and beheaded. Their strategy was to land on an island at night, kill the Portuguese in a surprise attack and sail off before dawn. Thakurufaanu sought the help of the Malabari, killed the Portuguese leader Andreas Andre, locally known as Andiri Andirin, and recaptured Male';. He was made Sultan and reined for 12 years forming a trained standing army, introducing coins, improving trade and religious observance and founding a dynasty that lasted for 132 years.

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Q12. Was Maldives a British Protectorate in World War 2?

On December 16, 1887 the Sultan of the Maldives signed a contract with the British Governor of Ceylon turning the Maldives into a British protectorate. The British government promised the Maldives military protection and non-interference in local administration in exchange for an annual tribute paid by the Maldives. In 1957 the British established a RAF base in the strategic southernmost atoll of Addu for £2000 a year, where hundreds of locals were employed. 19 years later the British government decided to give up the base, as it was too expensive to maintain.

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Q13. When did the Maldives gain independence?

The Maldives gained independence on July 26, 1965.Three years later a republic was declared with Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir as the first president.

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Q14. Do the Maldivians have any interest in Arts and Craft?

The beautifully carved tombstones in some of the old cemeteries and the fine stone carving of the Hukuru Miskiiy in Male’ bear witness to the intricate skills of Maldivian stone carvers of the past. Maldivians are deft craftsman producing beautifully crafted pieces mostly out of what is available locally. Although many of the skills have been passed on from generation to generation and lives on even today.The art calligraphy has strong connections with the Islam. Old and new mosques display beautifully penned versus from the Holy Quran. The Islamic Center exhibits some of the finest samples of the work of modern calligraphers in the country.While many crafts have become obsolete; others have found new life with the advent of tourism. The production of ornaments from tortoise shells and black coral once valued by visitors has now ceased completely because of the growing careness among the public on the need to preserve the environment.

Wooden Lacquer Ware- Perhaps the most distinctive of the Maldivian handicrafts, these are almost exlclusively produced in Thulhaadhoo in Baa Atoll. Liye Laajehun as it is called in Dhivehi involves the process of shaping and hollowing out pieces of wood to form beautifully crafted boxes, containers and ornamental objects. Made from the local funa, (Alexandrian laurel) which grows abundantly throughout the country, they come in various shapes and sizes; small pillboxes, vases of various sizes to round and oval plates with lids. These elegant pieces are lacquered in strands of red, black and yellow resin and delicately carved with flowing flowery patterns.

Mats- Beautiful red mats are woven throughout the country, the most famous of which are those that are woven by the women of Gadhdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll. Thundu Kunaa as they are known in Dhivehi ranges in size from that of a place mat to a full size single mattress. The women of Gadhdhoo collect the reeds called haa from the nearby island of Fioari. They are dried in the sun and stained with natural dyes, the colour varying from fawn to black. These mats with their intricate abstract designs are woven on a handloom according to the imagination and skill of the weaver.

Boat Building- Although the tools used in the building of dhonis have changed, little has changed of its basic design. As in the past, the boats are still being built without a documented plan. The design and symmetry of the boat emerges as the boat is being built.

Imported hardwoods are used in the place of coconut wood, which was used in place of coconut wood, which was used in the past to make the hull. Copper rivets are used to hold the planks together instead of coir, which was used for the purpose even half a century ago. The square sail made of coconut fronds gave way to a triangular lateen sail. Even though this is still considered essential and is carried on board, it is used only during emergencies or to ease the strain of the engines. Almost all Dhonis are driven by diesel power.Dhonis are mainly used for fishing and provide the livehood for a large proportion of the population. Others are modified to be used for transportation of passengers.

A dhoni may be as small as 10ft. (3 m) used mostly to travel across short distances or to traverse the shallow waters of the lagoon. Islanders often use these ferry across to nearby islands for firewood. The average fishing dhoni used to be around 10 metres (33 feett), however the new generation fishing vessels can be twice the size or even larger. The basic design of dhonis has proven to be seaworthy as it has been tested and tuned for centuries. Even luxury cruise vessels that are built in the country uses the same basic hull design and can be as long as 30 meters (100 feet) or more.

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Q15. Are there any interesting places in the Maldives worth seeing?

Yes here they are:-

Male' fish market:The main commercial area of Male' is located on the northern waterfront of Male'. This area is the main hub of trade and is a hive of activity through out the day. The waterfront and the by-lanes in the area are crowded with shops stocked with a variety of goods. Also in the area are the Male' Fish Market and the Local Market selling a range of local produce. While some ‘dhonis’ from all corners of the country unload dried fish, fresh fruits and vegetables from the atolls others are seen loading everything from foodstuffs to construction materials. The pace increases in mid-afternoon as fishing ‘dhonis’ start returning with their day’s catch. The catch, mainly tuna are carried across the road into the open-sided market and laid out on the tiled floors. As fast as the fish are brought in they are bought and taken away by men from all walks of life. The market is kept scrupulously clean, washed down each day and disinfected.

The Islamic Centre: The Islamic Centre is the most vivid architectural landmark of Male’. You would see the spectacular golden dome in all its majesty dominating the skyline, as you approach Male’, from any direction. The building symbolizes the importance of Islamic religion, which had ruled all aspects of life in the country for centuries. Completed in 1984, the Centre consists of a mosque big enough for 5000 people, an Islamic library, conference hall, classrooms and offices.

The Local Market:The Local Market, just a block away from the Male’ Fish Market on the northern waterfront, is divided into small stalls. Here the pace is slower and the atmosphere peaceful, compared to the hectic activity in the rest of this neighborhood. Each stall is filled with a variety of local produce mainly from the atolls. Here you will find different kinds of local vegetables, fruits and yams, packets of sweetmeat, nuts and breadfruit chips, bottles of home made sweets and pickles and bunches of bananas hanging on coir ropes from ceiling beams. Another building just next door sells smoked and dried fish.

Huskuru Miskiiy:Built in the 17th century the Huskuru Miskiiy or Friday Mosque served the population of Male’ as their main mosque for almost four centuries, until the Islamic Centre and Grand Friday Mosque took over the function in 1984. Built by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar in 1656 the mosque is a masterpiece of coral curving and traditional workmanship - probably the best display of coral curving anywhere in the world. The walls of the mosque are shewn together with blocks of filigree-curved coral blocks. Heavy wooden doors slide open to the inner sanctums with lamp hangings of wood and panels intricately curved with Arabic writings. The area surrounding the mosque is a cemetery with a legion of intricately curved coral headstones. The Munnaaru or minaret in front of the mosque, used to call the faithful to prayer was built in 1675 by the same Sultan.

Mulee-aage: Right in front of the Hukuru Miskiiy is Mulee-aage, a palace built in 1906 by Sultan Mohamed Shamsuddeen III, replacing a house dating back to the mid-17th century. The palace with its wrought iron gates and fretwork friezes on its roof edges and well-kept garden was intended for his son, but the Sultan was deposed. During World War II vegetables were grown in its garden to help relieve food shortages. It became the President's Official Residence when Maldives became a republic in 1953 and remained so until 1994, when the new Presidential Palace was built. Mulee-aage housed the President’s Office during this time. After the 30 year old rule of the Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was fell by the first party system election, the newly elected Government decided that the president reside in Muleeaage.

The National Museum:The National Museum is housed in the only remaining building of the former Sultan’s Palace, which is now the Sultan’s Park. It is an Edwardian colonial-style building of three storey, fairly low key from the outside compared to the amazing collection inside. The articles on display range from thrones and palanquins used by former sultans to the first printing press used in the country, the rifle used by Mohamed Thakurufaanu in his fight against the Portuguese in the 16th century, ceremonial robes, headgear and umbrellas used by Sultans to statues and other figures dating from 11th century, excavated from former temples. A variety of artifacts from times past would give an idea of the unique and rich culture and history of this island nation. A visit to the museum gives an instant insight to the wealth of history most visitors never suspect existed. No longer will you think of the Maldives solely in terms of a tourist destination. The museum is open daily except Friday and public holidays from 9.00 to 11.40 and 3.00 to 5.40. A small fee is charges for admission.

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