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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.
The Maldivian archipelago took to Islam in the 12th century and 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 the Maldives becoming a British protectorate in 1887.
In the Malabar language nale means four and diva island.
So that in that language the word signifies "four islands," while we, corrupting the name, call it Maldiva." The first Maldivians did not leave any archaeological artifacts.
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).
Their buildings were probably built of wood, palm fronds and other perishable materials, which would have quickly decayed in the salt and wind of the tropical climate.
Moreover, chiefs or headmen did not reside in elaborate stone palaces, nor did their religion require the construction of large temples or compounds.
The ancient Maldivian Kings promoted Buddhism, and the first Maldive writings and artistic achievements, in the form of highly developed sculpture and architecture, are from that period.
Nearly all archaeological remains in the Maldives are from Buddhist stupas and monasteries, and all artifacts found to date display characteristic Buddhist iconography.