The MaldivesThe Maldives is a country made up of islands in the India Ocean south of India.

Maldives, or Republic of Maldives, an island country in the Indian Ocean southwest of India. It consists of a chain of nearly 1,200 tiny coral islands in 19 atolls, extending north-south for about 550 miles (885 km). The total land area is 115 square miles (298 km 2). The climate is hot and humid, the vegetation tropical.

The Maldives' economy is based mainly on tourism, the catching and processing of fish, small-scale farming, and coconut cultivation. The production of handicrafts is also important.

Only about a sixth of the Maldives are inhabited. Divehi, a Sinhalese dialect, is the official language. Virtually all the Maldivians are Muslims. The literacy rate is 98 per cent.

Portugal occupied the islands in the 1500's. They came under Dutch protection in the 1600's and British protection in 1887. The islands gained independence in 1965, and a republic was established in 1968. The country founded the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in 1985. In 1998 a new constitution incorporating some democratic reforms came into effect.

Facts in brief about the Maldives
Capital: Male.
Official language: Dhivehi.
Total land area: 115 mi2 (298 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 550 mi (885 km); east-west, 100 mi (161 km).
Elevation: Highest—8 ft (2.4 m) above sea level, on Wilingili Island. Lowest—sea level.
Population: Current estimate—313,000; density, 2,722 per mi2 (1,050 per km2); distribution, 70 percent rural, 30 percent urban. 2006 census—298,842.
Chief products: Agriculture—chili peppers, coconuts, millet, sweet potatoes. Fishing—bonito, tuna. Handicrafts—coir yarn, cowrie shells, shirts and sweaters, woven mats.
Flag: Maldives' flag, adopted in 1965, has a white crescent on a dark green rectangle with a red border. The colors and the crescent on the flag stand for Islam.
Money: Basic unit—rufiyaa. One hundred laari equal one rufiyaa.