Cultures and Traditions in Maldives

The Maldives, an archipelago consisting of 26 coral atolls, is located in the northern part of the Indian Ocean. The population lives on 198 of the over 1,000 tiny islands. The climate is tropical and warm with the seasons controlled by two annual monsoons.

The Maldivians are Sunni Muslim. The culture results from a mix of Arab, Sinhalese and South Indian influences.

The Maldivian weekend occurs from Friday to Saturday, and the government offices and banks are closed and many stores are closed on the first half of the Fridays. This does not hold true in the resorts, except that Friday lunch hours are changed for Friday prayers.

The Arabian language and culture has influenced the Maldives since the 12th century AD when the islands were a junction in the central Indian Ocean. This resulted in a lengthy trading process between the Middle East and the Far East. The travellers from Somalia found gold on the island in the 13th century, before the Portuguese explored the area. The Somalis ended their occupation after a bloody struggle called the Dagaai Diig Badaaney, occurring in 1424.

The European and African influence is noticeable in what are called borrow-words and the material culture.

The Maldivians have some links to Northern India because their language is connected to the northern Indian languages. Many older Maldivians enjoy Hindi movies and songs which influence the popular songs of the Maldives. Bollywood songs are particularly popular, and many local dances and songs are influenced on North Indian songs and Kathnak dances.

The typical Maldivian music instrument is the bulbul, which is like a horizontal accordion. It is used to be played with devotional songs such as Maulud and Maadhaha. The Bodu Beru, or big drum, has its origins in Africa.

The traditional food of the Maldives is centred on coconuts, fish and starch. Coconut is grated, or squeezed to gain coconut milk deep fried in coconut oil. Grated coconut is cooked in mas huni, while coconut milk is a main ingredient in curries. Skipjack tuna is a favourite either fresh or dried. Other kinds of fish that are popular are yellow fin and frigate tuna, bigeye scad, Mahi-mahi, Mackerel and wahoo, all of which are processed or boiled. Processed tuna is used in short eats. Rihaakuru, a stiff brown paste made of tuna, is important in Maldivian cooking. The starches are either rice, which is ground into flour or boiled, or tubers, like sweet potato, taro and cassava, along with fruits such as screw pine and bread fruit. The breadfruit and tubers are boiled and eaten. The screw pine is eaten raw. The most popular curry in Maldivian cuisine is mas riha, which is cooked with tuna freshly diced. Chicken curry is prepared with different kind of spices. Vegetable curries include use of eggplant, pumpkin and green bananas as well as leaves. Some Maldivian fish are included in the vegetable curries.

Satria Permadi

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