History & Language
The origins of the Maldives may be lost in ancient history, but archaeological records indicate the islands have been inhabited for over 5000 years. Though there is evidence that the Maldives was an important trade route, settled and visited by people from all over the world, the main stock of the Maldivian people are predominantly Aryan or Dravidian.
Evidence show that the prominent religion of the country from the 3rd or 4th century AD was Buddhism. According to legend, the Maldives was converted to Islam in the year 1153 AD by a North African Muslim by the name of Abul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary. The Maldives remained independent for most part of history except for a 15-year occupation by the Portuguese in the 16th century. In 1887, the Maldives signed an agreement with the British, becoming a protectorate of the British Empire.
The language spoken throughout the Maldives is Dhivehi, a language with Indo-Iranian roots. It shows a strong Arabic influence and is written from right to left. As a second language, English is widely used in schools, the government and the private sector as well.
An interesting fact – Dhivehi contributed one word to the English Language. The word ‘atoll’ has been derived from the Dhivehi word ‘atholhu’!