Maldives, officially the Republic of Maldives, is a small archipelagic state in South Asia situated in the Indian Ocean. It lies southwest of Sri Lanka and India, about 700 kilometres (430 mi) from the Asian continent’s mainland. The chain of 26 atolls stretches from Ihavandhippolhu Atoll in the north to Addu Atoll in the south (across the Equator). Comprising a territory spanning roughly 298 square kilometres (115 sq mi), Maldives is one of the world’s most geographically dispersed sovereign states as well as the smallest Asian country by land area and, with around 557,426 inhabitants, the 2nd least populous country in Asia. Malé is the capital and the most populated city, traditionally called the “King’s Island” where the ancient royal dynasties ruled for its central location.The Maldivian Archipelago is located on the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean; this also forms a terrestrial ecoregion, together with the Chagos Archipelago and Lakshadweep.[With an average ground-level elevation of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level, and a highest natural point of only 5.1 metres (17 ft), it is the world’s lowest-lying country.
In the 12th century Islam reached the Maldivian Archipelago, which was consolidated as a sultanate, developing strong commercial and cultural ties with Asia and Africa. From the mid-16th-century the region came under the increasing influence of European colonial powers, with Maldives becoming a British protectorate in 1887. Independence from the United Kingdom came in 1965, and a presidential republic was established in 1968 with an elected People’s Majlis. The ensuing decades have seen political instability, efforts at democratic reform,and environmental challenges posed by climate change.Maldives became a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It is also a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Non-Aligned Movement. The World Bank classifies the Maldives as having an upper-middle income economy.Fishing has historically been the dominant economic activity, and remains the largest sector by far, followed by the rapidly growing tourism industry. Maldives rate “high” on the Human Development Index,with per-capita income significantly higher than other SAARC nations.
The Maldives has a tropical monsoon climate (Am) under the Köppen climate classification, which is affected by the large landmass of South Asia to the north. Because the Maldives has the lowest elevation of any country in the world, the temperature is constantly hot and often humid. The presence of this landmass causes differential heating of land and water. These factors set off a rush of moisture-rich air from the Indian Ocean over South Asia, resulting in the southwest monsoon. Two seasons dominate Maldives’ weather: the dry season associated with the winter northeastern monsoon and the rainy season associated with the southwest monsoon which brings strong winds and storms.The shift from the dry northeast monsoon to the moist southwest monsoon occurs during April and May. During this period, the southwest winds contribute to the formation of the southwest monsoon, which reaches Maldives at the beginning of June and lasts until the end of November. However, the weather patterns of Maldives do not always conform to the monsoon patterns of South Asia. The annual rainfall averages 254 centimetres (100 in) in the north and 381 centimetres (150 in) in the south.