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Maldives

The Maldives are a small, densely populated island chain in the Indian Ocean. Its people speak the Indo-European language Maldivian, which they call Dhivehi, and use the Thaana script. This is the lowest country on the planet, and fears of rising waters are not paranoia. Over 80% of the country is coral islands less than a meter over sea level. The Maldives have promised to become carbon-neutral by 2019. They hope swearing off use of fossil fuels will keep them above water. On the bright side, their many types of coral reefs are home to thousands of species of fish along with turtles, whales, dolphins, and a wide variety of mollusks.

Tourism and fishing are important industries, along with agriculture and manufacturing to a lesser extent. It is now possible to travel independently and travel from one island to another by ferry. The beaches and diving are incredible. Addu Atoll in the South of the country has some of the brightest-colored corals in the Maldives. Mal├®, the capital, has a number of excellent mosques, including Hukuru Miskiiy which dates to the 1600s. The National Museum has a comprehensive, excellent collection of historical artifacts.

Starches are a very important part of the Maldivian diet. They include rice (sometimes ground into flour), ala or taro, and dandialuvi or cassava. Screwpine fruit and boiled breadfruit are also popular carbohydrate sources. Coconut is also a key fruit, and its milk is widely used. Vegetables consumed in curries and other ways include eggplant, pumpkin, gourd, and moringa. Fish is very common, and is usually eaten cooked or dried, but not raw. Skipjack tuna is wildly popular. Try bajiya savory pastries, similar to Indian samosas but containing tuna. Rihaakuru is a thick fish paste which can be served plain or cooked with curry leaves, chili peppers, and onions. Overall, when it comes to food on the Maldives, simplicity can be a good thing. Indian-influenced dishes add some variety, and when you want something different you can get a nice Thai meal in the capital.

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