The Maldives is a chain of islands located southwest of the Indian peninsula, in the Indian Ocean. The archipelago is the world’s lowest-lying country, with even its highest natural point being one of the lowest in the world, at 5.1 meters. Its history includes colonization by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British, from whom the people gained independence in 1965.
With over 1,000 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, the Maldives comprises coral reefs and sandbars, situated atop a submarine ridge 960 kilometers long that rises abruptly from the depths of the Indian Ocean and runs north to south, with a tropical monsoon climate. Although tourism arrived to the islands only in the 1970s, its arrival greatly transformed the national economy moving it rapidly from its historical dependence on the fishing industry.
The largest ethnic group is the Dhivehin, who are native to the historic region of the Maldive Islands. They are an Indo-Aryan people, having traces of Middle Eastern, South Asian, Austronesian and African genes in the population.