Maldives

Maldives, officially the Republic of Maldives, is an island nation consisting of a group of atolls in the Indian Ocean. The Maldives are located south of India's Lakshadweep islands, and about seven hundred kilometers south-west of Sri Lanka. The twenty-six atolls encompass a territory featuring 1,192 islets, roughly two hundred of which are inhabited by people. The country's name may stand for 'Mountain Islands' (malai in Tamil, meaning 'mountain' and teevu in Tamil meaning 'island') or it may mean 'a thousand islands'. Some scholars believe that the name 'Maldives' derives from the Sanskrit maladvipa, meaning 'garland of islands', or from 'mahila dvipa', meaning 'island of women'. Others believe the name means 'palace' (from Mahal in Arabic).

Following the introduction of Islam in 1153, the islands later became a Portuguese (1558), Dutch (1654), and British (1887) colonial possession. In 1965, Maldives obtained independence from Britain (originally under the name 'Maldive Islands'), and in 1968 the Sultanate was replaced by a Republic. However, in 38 years, the Maldives have had only two Presidents, though political restrictions have loosened somewhat recently.

Maldives is the smallest Asian country in terms of population. It is also the smallest predominantly Muslim nation in the world.