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Fishing has historically been the dominant economic activity, and remains the largest sector by far, followed by the rapidly growing tourism industry.
Along with Sri Lanka, it is one of only two South Asian countries rated "high" on the Human Development Index, with its per capita income the highest among SAARC nations.
Buddhist (and Hindu) temples were Mandala shaped, they are oriented according to the four cardinal points, the main gate being towards the east.
Comprising a territory spanning roughly 298 square kilometres (115 sq mi), the Maldives is one of the world's most geographically dispersed countries, as well as the smallest Asian country by both land area and population, with around 427,756 inhabitants.
Isdhoo Lōmāfānu is the oldest copper-plate book to have been discovered in the Maldives to date.
The book was written in AD 1194 (590 AH) in the Evēla form of the Divehi akuru, during the reign of Siri Fennaadheettha Mahaa Radun (Dhinei Kalaminja).
Independence from the United Kingdom was achieved in 1965 and a presidential republic was established in 1968 with an elected People's Majlis.
The ensuing decades have been characterised by political instability, efforts at democratic reform, The Maldives is a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Malé is the capital and most populated city, traditionally called the "King's Island" for its central location.